There's absolutely no doubt that Australians love their four-legged friends. In fact, Roy Morgan Research revealed that 50% of us live in a household with at least one dog and/or cat, whereas only 35% share the household with at least one child under 16.
Dogs are more popular than cats and, interestingly, Tasmania is the state with the highest incidence of pet ownership. And according to the Animal Health Alliance, Aussies spend $8 billion a year on their furry friends.
But there's something you can do for your dog that won't cost the earth, and will bring hours of pleasure to you both. And that's a dog-friendly garden.
Whatever size space you have to play with, if you own a dog, there are things to consider.
First and foremost is fencing, of course. Keeping your pets secure. We've all heard heartbreaking stories of dogs escaping from yards during storms or fireworks.
If your dog is a jumper, you'll need to go for the highest legal fencing, or even fencing with trellis on top. But if your dog is a digger - or little - you'll need to spend more time securing the bottom of the fence, ensuring there are no gaps where your little darling can tunnel out.
Suitable fencing methods include wood, recycled plastic pickets, brick, or even dog wire, depending on your budget.
It's crucially important that the garden includes plenty of shady spots for your dog to play and relax. This can be achieved by planting trees, or you could erect a shade sail, or find a space on an undercover deck. Remember, even in the shade, concrete and pavers can stay very hot so may not be ideal.
Equally as important as shade is water - to drink, and to cool down in. Try and place two or three different water bowls around the yard, so if one gets knocked over while you're out, your dog will still be able to find refreshment.
Many people buy those plastic clam shell paddling pools - for their dog! These are ideal as they are cheap to buy, easy to move around and clean and, filled with just a few inches of cool water, are just perfect for cooling Fido down.
Safe and sheltered
What type of shelter you provide for your dog - as opposed to shade - depends on your pet's sleeping arrangements. If your dog sleeps indoors, it's all taken care of. But if he or she is an outside pet, make sure there's a safe haven for bedtime.
The 'kennel' needs to be somewhere cool in summer, and warm and sheltered in winter - and preferably a couple of inches off the ground, to avoid moisture and damp seeping in, and to allow air to circulate.
Have a close look at what's in your garden. Is it dog-friendly? For example, are your paths made of smooth pavers or rounded pebbles? Anything else might not be good for little feet and soft pads.
Do you have wood chips or mulch down? Because some mulch - especially that made from cocoa shells - is extremely toxic to your pet. Always ask your vet or garden centre for advice.
Watch out for poisons
The same goes for some types of fertiliser. Some products are caustic, and most contain a mix of ingredients - including insecticides - that can severely upset your dogs digestive system if eaten.
Fertilisers such as blood and bone are particularly attractive to dogs and again, if eaten in large quantities, can cause severe symptoms. If you can use a natural alternative, please do. Or keep the dog away from freshly spread fertiliser.
It goes without saying that pest poisons could kill your beloved pet. Rat or mouse bait, snail and slug poison, and insecticides are potentially lethal to animals and should be avoided altogether in a pet-friendly garden.
But there are also some plants that shouldn't be there, either. And some that should.
Most garden centres know which plants to avoid, or you can ask your vet. But to make things easier, here's a link to a very helpful list which features on Burke's Backyard.
However, there are many plants you can safely grow, and several that are actually good for your dog to eat, such as pet grass, oregano, rosemary, peppermint, basil, parsley and even lemongrass.
The idea that dogs only eat grass to make themselves vomit is actually a myth. Dogs will choose to eat young, tender grass to add certain vitamins and minerals to their diet, that they might be missing. But always ensure that the grass your dog is munching on hasn't been sprayed with poison.