Proof Aussie pooches more spoiled than kids
From blueberry facials to weekly hair appointments and doggie daycare costs on par with childcare, Aussie pooches may be more spoiled than kids.
As dogs are making the leap from outside animal to treasured family member, research shows couples are delaying parenthood and demanding flexible work arrangements to care for their pooches.
Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with dogs residing in 38 per cent of households.
The RSPCA estimates there are 4.8 million pet dogs in Australia - or 20 dogs for every 100 people.
Summer Butler from Mosman Paws Doggy Daycare caters for up to 30 dogs a day, some of which come in five days a week, from 8am to 6pm.
"And they're paying some heavy prices, almost as much as childcare," she said.
"Others come in, will get their hair done or a facial and their grooming and go home new dogs."
Ms Butler said many young couples were delaying having children in favour of caring for their dogs.
"They've got Facebook and Instagram accounts with thousands of followers, they've got personalised collars and bowls and all the paraphernalia that goes with owning a dog," she said.
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"I see a huge trend with people not having kids at such an early age and just getting a dog and having them pampered.
"And we are doing anything for them - my dog recently had a liver tumour and they did a CT and MRI and kept him in hospital - it cost me $9,500 for that week.
"Another client had two sausage dogs, they both had $20,000 surgeries on their spines."
For those who work full time, Ms Butler said separation anxiety meant more people were medicating their dogs.
"Separation anxiety is a big thing - some dogs can have a lot of behavioural issues and some are medicated with Prozac because they are so highly strung," she said.
"Owners are also paying huge costs for dog trainers and puppy preschool classes."
North Shore woman Susie Rose spends up to $400 a month spoiling two-year-old Australian Shepherd Little Miss Sunshine. She throws extravagant birthday parties, boasts an enviable collection of matching collars and leads and attending doggie daycare for the socialisation.
"They say there is no life like that of a dog in Mosman right, so she certainly doesn't go without," Ms Rose said.
"She is very much loved and is lots of fun - but it's also the fabric that comes with owning a dog.
"You meet so many people and people always stop and chat and cuddle her - even on Instagram there is a really lovely online community, she's met some of her best friends through Instagram."
Little Miss Sunshine goes to doggie daycare and loves being pampered - but Ms Rose said as her owner, she reaped the rewards.
"I work pretty long hours so having her is a great excuse to not always be working and make sure I am getting that mental break," she said.
"A dog is something that really makes the stress of work and every day better - she is called Little Miss Sunshine for a reason.
"She also gets very fancy dog collars - she is always accessorised - but she brings so much joy and they want nothing in return."
Fellow Sydneysider Katina Rantzos said her one-year-old Siberian husky, Bentley, enjoyed freshly made meals every night, and happily admitted she would do anything for her animals.
"As an absolute crazy animal lover I could not bare to see my dogs outside without comfort and not being a part of life - if you had an animal and it chained outside, what's the point of having it?" she said.
"My boy is spoiled by having great meals made for him fresh every night - a different fresh protein like fish, duck, chicken, kangaroo, or red meat with veggies, as well as lots of raw bones and homemade treats.
"He has a walker twice a week loves to swim in the pool and has every toy you can imagine to play with. To be honest, I would do anything for animals.
"He is everything because no matter how my day was, he is always there. He understands my moods, my feelings and honestly makes everything better.
"When I had hard times in my life they understand and pull you through moments of depression and anxiety.
"There is no judgment or criticism in their moods as humans can have - I know it sounds weird, but you see more and more compassion and anxiety dogs around these days."