Why Subaru Loves Pets

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Unless you haven’t watched live TV or YouTube in the past 10 years, chances are you know that Subaru loves pets, especially dogs.

I say this, not only as a dog lover and Subaru owner but also because of all of the Subaru commercials with dogs in them. Those dogs, by the way, are called The Barkleys.

For example, one called “In the Dog House” goes like this: a “dad” dog is stopped at a stop sign in his Subaru. 

While dreamy music plays, he watches a perfectly coiffed standard poodle cross in front of the car. Meanwhile, his “wife” dog in the passenger seat growls at him. 

Even if you’re not a dog lover, you’ve got to love that commercial.

“Love” is a word you hear a lot with regards to Subaru. It was almost 10 years ago that the carmaker launched its “Love” campaign, be it love of the car, love of dogs, love of safety, etc. And it all came about quite organically.

subaru loves pets

Subaru Loves Dogs

So, where did this whole Subaru loves pets theme come from?

“Back in 2007 we were looking to redefine the Subaru brand and what makes it special, different and unique,” says Alan Bethke, senior vice president of marketing at Subaru. “We knew from the product side, with all wheel drive, safety and reliability, we had the uniqueness.” 

But what was unique about the Subaru customer? Sure, brand loyalty had something to do with it.

Our family’s loyalty to Subaru

Take our family. We bought our first Subaru, an Impreza, in 2014.

My husband had just secured a new job that required him to commute over an hour, in all kinds of weather. He researched all cars with great gas mileage and all wheel drive, and the Subaru Impreza came out on top.

Eight years later we’re still driving that little blue Subaru Impreza. In fact, it survived four years in college with my daughter, who was attending school in a snowy, hilly environment. Her friend dubbed the car the Blue-baru.

Now the Blue-baru is back with us, almost to 100,000 miles and as zippy as ever.

Since then, every new car we’ve purchased has been a Subaru. Currently, our newest Subaru is the 2021 Forester.

But back to why Subaru decided to focus on pets

subaru loves pets bandana on sadie

Research on Subaru customers

But something interesting emerged. Regardless of age, gender, income level or geography, Subaru owners had one thing in common–they loved their cars. 

“We identified it as the common truth that made these owners the same,” Bethke adds.

There was another common truth among these Subaru owners–they loved animals. Subaru research showed that 67 percent of car owners had a pet, and half of them had a dog.

“We took that little piece of insight, just a piece of data in Subaru research, and started making dog tested, dog approved advertising spots,” he continues. 

The first commercial to show a dog driving a Subaru hit the airwaves in 2008. The stars of the commercials were just the rescues of employees at the Minneapolis ad agency that was responsible for the spots. 

Subaru Gives Back

Fast forward more than a decade and Subaru has continued to use dogs in its advertising campaign. In addition, the company has contributed significantly to animal causes through its “Share the Love” philanthropic endeavors. 

In fact, when we bought a Subaru in 2018, the dealership made a donation to the local animal humane association in our name.

“Subaru has always been a company that has liked to give back. It’s part of our DNA,” says Bethke. “Historically, we would donate quietly, but when we came up with the ‘Love’ campaign and put the focus back on the owner, we wanted to find the causes and passions [owners] care about and the types of charities they support. And when we were diving into that, because of their love of pets, they liked to support charities that are in that pet space. We wanted to create a meaningful impact in the space, so we started a relationship with ASPCA.”

Subaru and Rescue Rides

One of the ways that Subaru has supported the ASPCA is through grants for Rescue Rides, which transport animals for adoption. 

“We’ve transported over 21,000 dogs in just four years,” explains Bethke. Through its total efforts working with the ASPCA, Subaru has donated $14 million and helped to rescue and adopt out nearly 40,000 animals.

There are other ways that Subaru gives back to animals.

Artist Dean Russo focuses on painting rescue dogs among other breeds.

The Center for Pet Safety

Subaru sponsored two studies conducted by the Center for Pet Safety around pet travel. It looked at dog harnesses and animal crates that performed well in crash tests. This blog post on traveling with pets shares some of the research outcomes, including recommended products.

Southeastern Guide Dogs

Subaru works with the Southeastern Guide Dogs, by sponsoring a number of events that fund the training and development of guide dogs. These dogs are eventually paired with individuals that need a service animal.

Subaru National Make a Dog’s Day

Subaru created its own national dog holiday. Called National Make a Dog’s Day, it’s held annually on October 22.

subaru national make a dogs day

On National Make a Dog’s Day Subaru holds events across the country to encourage pet adoption. This includes special focus on the older dogs as well as physically challenged and “different” dogs Subaru lovingly calls “Underdogs,” often the last to be adopted.

In October 2023, the annual adoption campaign helped over 52,000 shelter pets find loving homes with the support of over 600 Subaru retailers and partner shelters nationwide. That was a record. All together, since starting in 2008, Subaru and its retailers have supported the adoption of more than 157,000 shelter pets.

Dog-friendly dealerships

Subaru dealerships walk the Subaru loves pets walk. That is, every Subaru dealership I’ve ever dealt with–in New Jersey, Maine and Pennsylvania–was dog friendly.

In fact, during one trip to the Subaru dealerships for an oil change, I brought my dogs Oscar and Sadie. And the dealership gave them Subaru Loves Pets bandanas to wear and plush dog toy cars to play with.

better picture of sadie with subaru toy and bandana

A New Subaru Debuts

Those dog-driving commercials started a trend that is still as strong nearly all these years later.

In fact, when Subaru debuted the three-row SUV called The Ascent at the 2019 Los Angeles Car Show, dogs introduced it. 

Actually, the golden retriever family called The Barkleys, that are the stars of those dog commercials, “drove” the car onto the stage. 

And then seven dogs exited the Ascent to show how many this new, three-row model vehicle can seat. With captains chairs it seats seven. With a second row bench, it can seat eight.

The Subaru Ascent we bought in 2018 had the second row bench. So we could fit dogs and people in all three rows. It also had a great towing capacity.

Clearly, the “Dog Tested. Dog Approved” advertising campaign has had an effect on dog-loving consumers. Subaru says that dog ownership among Subaru drivers has grown by 49 percent between 2008 and 2013.

Subaru designs with families in mind

Subaru also keeps these dog-owning drivers in mind as it designs cars. For example, the company makes sure that its doors are wide enough for people to get in and out of.

The back doors open to 90 degrees so you have an easier time getting in a dog crate or baby car seat.

Speaking of the back seat, Subaru also makes back seat covers for dogs. We invested in one of these when we got our 2021 Forester. 

subaru back seat car cover for dogs

The car seat is made of waterproof material. Also, it features Velcro on the bottom so it attaches to the carpet near the floor and keeps the seat in place.

My only complaint is that the material is a little bit too slippery. My dogs tend to slide around on it, even though they’re strapped into the backseat.

So, we ended up buying another back seat cover to go over it.

You can shop for all pet-friendly Subaru car accessories on the Subaru website. Products are listed by car model type.

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