18/08/2015 11:32 BST | Updated 18/08/2016 06:59 BST

Dogs Vs Kids: Why I Chose a Dog Over a Child

It's the end of the day and I flop on the sofa with my little one. She's cute, affectionate and always looks at me with adoring eyes - but she's not a baby, she's my dog.

My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Tilly came into my life nine-years ago. I was 36-years-old and my partner John, then 42, and I had decided that we didn't want children, but I wanted something to love so I opted for a canine companion.


Three in 10 couples choose to raise a dog rather than a child

I may sound batty, choosing a dog over a child, but I'm not alone in my lifestyle choice.

New research shows that three in 10 British couples are putting off parenthood and choosing to get a pet instead and the most popular "furkid" is a dog, which is no surprise to me.

The study of 2,000 Brits was commissioned by animal charity the Blue Cross to highlight the part that pets play in our lives. The charity has even coined the term "generation pet" to describe the trend for choosing pets over children.

The research also reveals that 61% of Brits believe that getting a dog before having children puts you into the right mindset for becoming a parent.

When Tilly came into my life I already knew that I didn't want the patter of tiny feet in my home - I wanted the patter of paws.

Why? The list is endless. At eight-weeks-old I could throw Tilly a chew toy and leave her in the kitchen for a few hours, you can't do that with a baby.

Then there was the potty training, which Tilly had cracked at three-months-old. Yes she needed some help - I let her out every 45-minutes during the day and got up once in the night, but the whole process involved a lot less mum-hours than training a toddler.

Tilly gives me unconditional love

Tilly will always be my little furball, and what's more she never answers me back, and she doesn't ask for money or taxi rides at 2am. And while your teenagers are telling you you're a rubbish parent Tilly is showering me with unconditional love.


Dogs and the Oxytocin rush

I've heard people say that you can't love a dog as much as a child, which may be true. Although I do know that looking at a dog can give you the same rush of emotion as looking at a baby thanks to Oxytocin.

Oxytocin is known as the "love hormone" and released during breast-feeding and loving physical contact. Scientists at Azabu University in Japan have recently discovered that dog owners experience a rush of this feel-good hormone when they interact with their dogs - just like the mothers of babies.

Let's be honest, babies grow up into teenagers who don't trigger feelings of adoration in their parents. Only two weeks ago I went to a nice restaurant for lunch with a friend and her teenage children were arguing, loudly. I was mortified and thought: "My dog would behave better than this."

I'm not being mean, my 42-year-old friend later confessed that if she could go back in time she wouldn't have children. "I would stick with my Border Terrier," she said.

Dog gives me more freedom than a child

I thought long and hard about kids and realised a dog would give me more freedom. There are other upsides to dog-ownership, too, like exercise. Tilly is always keen for a walk unlike all the kids I've met who need to be bribed to turn off their technology.

Dogs are also cheaper and fit in with your lifestyle. They make you a better person because you develop patience and take into account the needs of another living, sentient being - just like a parent.

Yes, there are some downsides to being childfree. I won't experience the joys of parenthood and I risk being old and lonely. But I have three siblings, lots of nieces and nephews and a partner so loneliness doesn't worry me.

Besides, having a child isn't a guarantee that you will have somewhere to go at Christmas. But a dog is always loyal and loving, and when I'm aged and grey I plan to get an old rescue dog from somewhere like the Blue Cross and we can live out our twilight years together.