Americans Sleep (And Do More) With Dogs

— Don't be embarrassed. If you're a typical American, you've probably slept with a few dogs … and had a tail-waggin' good time.

Pull back the covers and you'll find that 41 percent of dog owners share their bed with their shaggy pals, according to a marketing survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association.

The dog-as-bed-partner phenomenon is especially surprising when you consider that it jumped up from 34 percent only four years ago.

Even more troubling, 27 percent of dog owners admit they've had their pups de-wormed in the last year.

You might imagine that toy poodles and other micro mutts share their master's pillow about 50 percent of the time. That's about the same for cats, according to the APPMA. But that trend is growing, in more ways than one.

Now, one in every three owners of German shepherds and other large breeds say they, too, enjoy a little paw play when they're in the sack.

No wonder about 15 percent say they've purchased newfangled canine colognes and doggie toothpastes. Who wants to be greeted each morning by a life companion with dog breath?

Stocks and Bones

Indeed, these are still good times for Fido and Fluffy, even though their masters weathered a tight economy.

Pet owners are expected to lavish $31.5 billion on their animals this year. That's 5 percent more than last year, and nearly double the amount spent in 1994, as the population of 65 million Canine-Americans and 77.7 million Feline-Americans continues to swell.

A recent installment of The Wolf Files looked into the lifestyles of upper-crust critters who sport $17,000 diamond collars and vacation at the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, Calif., where animals and their owners both receive special "Reiki" pressure-point massages.

But even if you and your dog lack pedigrees, you can still enjoy a life together, and the pet industry is supplying not-so-expensive creature comforts for the working dog owner.

This week, The Wolf Files looks at products that will help you sleep with, dress like, and even communicate with your dog.

Creature Comforts

Bringing Up Baby: Just like any proud parent, you can now push your dog around in a specially designed stroller. Just beware when confused passers-by greet you with the old pleasantry, "My, that baby looks just like you."

Since the first Pet Strollers were introduced nine months ago, they've been a sensation, selling more than 5,000 units. Now, manufacturer is about to unveil the new SUV Pet Stroller that will allow proud pet owners with larger dogs to take their animals on the ultimate walk.

These strollers, retailing from $129 to $189, are more than just vanity. Manufacturer Brad White says they help in the transportation of older animals.

Cats, who never really take to the leash, are able to travel with their human companions like never before. And for dogs, the stroller combines their two ultimate joys — they can sleep and be taken for a walk at the same time.

Beautyrest for the Dog Tired: Maybe your spouse gave you an ultimatum, "It's me or the dog." After all, not everyone wants to sleep with a panting, howling beast that drinks from the toilet.

Fear not. Even if you and your pet can't share the same bed, you can still share the same mattress.

The Simmons Beautyrest mattress — with its patented individual pocketed coils — is now available in three doggie sizes, and can be dressed up in specially fitted sheets to match your breed's coloring, from chocolate Lab to black-and-white Dalmatian.

Simmons has teamed up with Pet Goods Manufacturing & Imports to bring your furry friend a good night's sleep — and soften the blow that comes to any creature that's asked to leave the bedroom.

The mattress, with iron bed frame, is an exact replica of the human variety. And vinyl liners of all sizes are available — if either your kid, your spouse or your dog still has accidents.

Canine-Coordinated Fashion: Remember when it was cute to tie a bandana around a pooch? Then came the novelty outfits — doggie reindeer antlers for the holidays, bow ties for the Chippendale in your Airedale.

Then celebrities got into the picture. Society columnist Cindy Adams is among the most famous for dressing her Yorkies, Jazzy and Juicy, in matching mink coats.

In no time, Gucci began offering $250 black leather collars with the brand name featured in silver block letters, and Chanel offers silver and gold canine accessories so that on Oscar night, you and your Pomeranian wouldn't clash.

Now, everyday clothing for everyday dogs is becoming an everyday reality. According to Pet Business Magazine, pet outfitting is a $15 million business.

"It's just practical," says Sue Shaw, who operates Waggin' Wear boutiques in New York and New Jersey. She says doggie "microsuede" rainwear lined with pima cotton constitutes 75 percent of her sales.

"If you live in a small apartment or you go to the store, you don't want to arrive and have your dog shake out and get everyone wet," Shaw says. "Kiss that damp dog smell goodbye."

If it's really important for you and your dog to wear matching attire, Land's End may have the answer. The retailer now offers several lines of sweaters in in adult, child and infant/toddler sizes, as well as five canine sizes

Imagine an idyllic Christmas with every member of the family — Fido included — sporting a festive reindeer sweater. Now that's a holiday photo.

Snout-to-the-Wind Comfort: You're one lucky dog if you can hang your furry head out of the car window and enjoy the big open road. Now your rolling Rover can cruise in extra comfort with the Raffariginal Doggie Headrest.

This patented, $20 clip-on cushion fastens to any car door, offers protection against minor snout injuries, and — as an added bonus — acts as a blotter, to help keep your car upholstery dog drool free.

Barking Translation Services: What would your dog say if he could speak? "Don't knock drinking from the toilet. You don't know what you're missing."

Time magazine named Bowlingual, from the Takara manufacturing company, on its list of "The Coolest Inventions of 2002." It's a radio microphone that attaches to your dog's collar and supposedly translates his yelps, snarls and growls into phrases like "I'm lonely" and "How boring." The gizmo, developed with animal behaviorists, is already a big seller in Japan, where it retails for about $100. Later this summer, an English edition will be available.

Bowlingual matches your dogs "woofs," "arfs" and "arooos" to a handheld database that offers different interpretations for different breeds, because everyone knows how snooty French poodles get when their caviar bowl is empty. The Bowlingual's "Home Alone" mode records what your dog is thinking while you're at work, as if it's anything other than, "What fools these humans must be."

Eating From the Same Bowl: It's getting harder to tell the difference between dog food and people food. Wyler's — the company that brings you fruit drinks and a variety of snack treats — now offers freezer pops to reward your four-legged friend on a hot summer day.

Pooch Pops aren't like the other Wyler's frozen sorbets and ices. It's more of a dog's summertime fantasy — frozen meat and cheese on a stick. But with no sugar or food coloring, Pooch Pops might be better for you than the typical frozen treat for humans.

Frozen dairy treats for dogs are already a hit, with products like Frosty Paws ice cream available in many supermarkets.

But the future of dog and human snacking was unveiled earlier this year in a pet products show in Atlanta, when Dogmatic Products introduced Woofy Pop, a microwavable popcorn for dogs and dog owners. Woofy Pop will be available in bacon- and chicken liver-flavor, so you and your dog might have to flip a coin to see who gets to pick dessert.

Restoring and Recovering a Neutered Friend: If you otherwise treat your pet as an equal, you may have mixed feelings when it comes to neutering. But dog lovers — like so many others people these days — have been turning to plastic surgery for relief.

Since 1995, more than 100,000 dogs in 32 countries have received Neuticles — prosthetic testicular implants that give dogs — or perhaps just their owners — the feeling that nothing's changed.

But soon, Neuticles will serve more than a superficial, cosmetic purpose.

Next month, a dog will receive the first set of Neuticles with a pea-sized microchip that can be used to identify a lost pet. If the dog is lost, the microchip in its scrotum will allow for fast identification and retreaval. It's not quite a doggie LoJack, but it's one step closer.

"It's a great way to say 'I love you' to your pet," says Neuticle inventor Gregg Miller, who is scheduling his 2-year-old boxer, Winston, for the first Neuticle Microchip.

"I've been saving him for this event," Miller says.

Perhaps it won't make up for all that's lost, but it might go a long way.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.