Are you an inside, or outside, person when it comes to dogs?

Sep 18, 2023
Our blogger explores how Aussies are redefining doggy lifestyles, spending up big to pamper their furry friends. Source: Getty Images.

Almost 50 percent of Australians share their homes with at least one dog. It’s estimated that in 2022 we spent almost $17 billion on dogs. That covered feeding them, insuring them, buying them treats, pampering them, and taking them to the vet. The dog industry is well and truly booming.

Stores like PetBarn are almost as big, and as busy, as BCF and Kmart. Probably much busier than Myer and David Jones these days. I grew up with a dog around the house. Bella, my brother’s dog, was a black and white Corgi who was the queen of our backyard. Bella never made it into the house when mum was home. Mum was a farm girl who believed that dogs were kept for work, not pleasure.

My first dog was a red cattle dog aptly named Potato. A work colleague gifted me the puppy after her son had given it a spin in the clothes dryer. Potato moved with us from Farmborough Heights in Wollongong to Kiama, and then Brisbane. She too was an outside dog. Shep, a border collie, was the next to join the family.

By this stage, my wife was arguing that as a family member, Shep had to have access to the house. We compromised and Shep got to sleep in the garage, although I’m pretty sure he slept inside whenever I was away for work. The garage was his bedroom until 2008 when I took our three daughters to see Marley And Me, the comedy movie starring Jennifer Anniston, Owen Wilson, and a gorgeous yellow Labrador Retriever. Spoiler Alert in case you haven’t seen this movie. It’s sad. Very, very sad. I don’t normally cry in the movies. But for some reason, Marley and Me rocked me to my foundations. I remember sobbing uncontrollably as the film’s credits rolled, with all three of my girls looking at me as if I’d gone mad.

That night Shep slept on our bed for the first time, in between Ali and me. The next day we went out and bought a king-sized bed so we all had a little bit of extra room. Shep, who lived with us for 14 years, was very appreciative. About 18 months after Shep died of cancer, we introduced Bobby to the household. Bobby was a rescue dog from the Animal Welfare League on the Gold Coast. We think he was about a year old. It was hard to tell. His previous owner had treated him poorly and then dumped him, and he was only 13 kilos when we adopted him. That’s way underweight for a Border Collie. We even got him at a discount price because he needed to be on medication for the rest of his life. Bobby clings to us.

He came with us when we moved to Scotland to live for a couple of years. And he flew home with us when we returned. He’s gone blind now and copes well most of the time getting up and down the stairs in the house. He only has issues when someone moves something and forgets to put it back in the right place.

The question is, why did dogs make the move inside? Why do dogs need knitted coats (in Queensland) to keep them warm? And why do dogs need treadmills to keep them fit? Before you say that there’s no such thing as a dog treadmill, I suggest you Google it. I was particularly enamoured by the Revolution Pro Treadmill for Dogs that you can pick up in the UK for just 1590 pounds (about $3000). If you can’t afford that, you might just need to adopt the old-fashioned ways and take your dog for a walk.

The humanisation of dogs has infiltrated Instagram. Jiffpom is leading the social media charge. This pampered pooch has 9.3 million followers and at last count, more than 16,000 people had liked a picture of Jiffpom with a cup of coffee.

I think dogs got the upper hand when we started to give our puppies human names. Years ago dogs used to hunt and guard things. They used to be called Spot, Buttons, Skipper, Rover and Patch. They used to be tough and resilient. Now my golf buddies call their dogs Archie, Frankie and Eddie. When Eddie gets left (very rarely) home alone his 74-year-old owner puts the television on for him. Apparently, Eddie, a red-headed Cocker Spaniel, likes watching the Today Show while sitting on the new leather lounge. I’m not sure how he let Ron know this, but Ron’s adamant that that’s what Eddie wants.

Frankie’s dad (owner seems such a harsh term) lives near the 14th tee at Hope Island Golf Club. When we go past that hole Frankie, an Australian Shepherd, is waiting by the gate ready to join us the the final five holes. He sits up high in the golf buggy and joins us in the clubhouse for a post-game drink. Another mate has two dogs. His hunting dog is not allowed in the house but his wife’s fluffy white pooch has the run of the place, except it is so small it can’t get down the stairs by itself. So it whimpers, and they carry it down the stairs.

Another set of friends – Roger and Mary – put in a lift so their dog Poppy can easily get from downstairs to upstairs. The lift cost $35,000. Mary is still angry that Roger didn’t put the lift in when she had both her knees replaced, but he acted awfully quickly as soon as Poppy needed some assistance.

My next-door neighbour has a pram for when her dog gets tired on its afternoon walk. Not that long ago working out a dog’s breed was a simple thing. Now it seems like there is an endless list of new designer breeds. It doesn’t matter what pooch you have though – a pound puppy or a designer doggy – once you start to refer to them as part of the “family”, then they have the keys to the house and a life full of comfort.

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