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Dogs take a lead over children

By  Harmony Haveman

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Charlotte and her dog, Elizabeth Taylor (left).

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- "Mommy loves you," cooed Charlotte (Kristin Davis) in a recent episode of "Sex and the City." She was not referring to her child, but to her dog, Elizabeth Taylor.

Charlotte, who is unable to have children, finds comfort mothering her dog. And similar scenarios appear to be playing out in real life. Statistics from insurers Norwich Union reveal people are substituting dogs for children: Kids are out; dogs are in.

Spokeswoman Isabel Baumber said: "While the UK birth rate has been falling over the past decade, nearly half the population now owns a pet."

However, owning a pet does not simply mean providing it with food, water and exercise. Owners spend £3.5 billion ($6.4 billion) a year spoiling pets with birthday and Christmas gifts, including doggie perfume, embroidered cushions and designer collars.

In America, there are now more dogs per household than children. And with the quantity of dog lovers increasing, more people are attending or entering their pets in dog shows.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show took place in New York in February, and was extended from 3 days to 4 because of the number of people attending.

But Britain's Crufts dog show is perhaps the most well known. With over 21,000 dogs entered into this year's competition, the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Crufts as the largest dog show in the world.

This year, the show is expecting 130,000 spectators. Since last years show, the number of dogs entered has risen by 591.

More than 500 exhibitors from over 20 countries will show their pets at the show, which is taking place in Birmingham, England.

Dogs will compete in various titles including "Best of Breed," and the most coveted "Best in Show" title.

Hollywood caught on in 2000 with the release of the critically-acclaimed movie "Best in Show."

In America, there are now more dogs per household than children. The spoof documentary followed a group of people and their dogs taking part in the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show.

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In America, there are now more dogs per household than children.

In "Sex and the City," Charlotte makes it appear easy to prepare Elizabeth Taylor for a dog show.

In reality, such an endeavor takes time, work, and money. Michael Gadsby has been entering his dogs into Crufts for over 20 years. "It takes six to seven hours to make a standard poodle presentable on the day of show," Gadsby says.

With special shampoos, conditioners, hair products and high-tech blow dryers for each dog, the costs involved are high. How much does Gadsby spend in total preparing for a show? "I would be afraid of the number," he says.

Gadsby says he does it because he loves his dogs and he enjoys the competition that Crufts brings.

Despite the cost, studies have pointed to benefits for those who own a pet, with dogs apparently lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and helping ease feelings of loneliness.

Gadsby can vouch for that. "The best part about having dogs is they will make you smile at least once a day, and that is priceless."


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