Two generations ago dogs lived outside and were fed on scraps, but in a fast adaptation they’ve taken over the couch and now have their own cuisine and couture.

By Sarah Harris

If you don’t think pets have aspirations to the good life, you haven’t met Frank the Boston terrier.
Frank likes nothing better than to get kitted out in his tuxedo and head out to a party with his peeps.
“I started dressing him up, I’m not entirely sure why,” owner Gabi Rowland laughs.
“I would take him along to parties and stuff and people just loved it, and he really liked it because he was the centre of attention so it kind of worked out for everyone. Then I started with more and more elaborate costumes, little security T-shirts at bigger parties, and he’s such a character he’d pose and work it like a model.
“Then people started asking me to source costumes and to make costumes and I started making lots of bandannas and onesies.”
The next thing you know Gabi and her partner Gus Read-Hill found themselves starting a business dedicated to four-legged fashionistas and the people who adore them.
Admittedly Wagging Tailors – with its extensive range of pet costumes, accessories and cushions – is at the niche end of the burgeoning pet industry.
But pet clothes, pet furniture and expensive gourmet foods containing supplements like omega-3 that have migrated across from our own diets are all manifestations of the trend to humanise companion animals.
Australia boasts one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world with 63 per cent of us owning a companion animal.
Increasingly pets are on par with people – in their numbers estimated at 25 million by the Australian Veterinary Association – also in their status within households.
And, the more we treat pets like people the more we spend money on them, making the pet industry one of the fastest-growing business sectors estimated to be worth
$8 billion a year.
Two groups in particular are driving this trend. The babyboomers whose children have left home and have replaced them with fur-kids that they love to spoil and indulge. The other group is millennials, the first generation who have grown up thinking of pets as being like people and regarding pets as their first babies before starting their own families.
“I guess I do think of him as my son,” Gabi laughs of Frank. “I actually think of him maternally, I think.”
But this is in no way barking mad as Gabi, who studied psychology, knows. Study after study has shown that owning a pet provides significant health benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure and reducing risk of stroke.
“Pets make people feel good and I love to make people feel good. This is a light-hearted way to do it and that is why I tied the Black Dog Institute into it by donating a percentage of all sales,” Gabi explains.