Whanganui is barking mad for its dogs. At the start of February there were 7696 of them registered within the district.
We're also a fairly busy bunch, so what happens when we need to part with our pet for the day?
That's where the city's doggy daycare operators get into action. Mike Tweed reports.
Comfy Creatures offer services like dog walking, minding, visiting, and even vet appointments.
Owner Michelle Hoek said she began her business 10 years ago after working as a vet nurse, with race horses, and at another doggy daycare centre.
"Initially I just advertised in the paper for dog walking and pet minding, and it's grown quite a bit since then," Hoek said.
"It's been amazing to see, from when I first started to now, how much people care for their pets and want them to have a good time when they are not around."
Hoek's first four legged clients were Maisey and Poppy, two schnauzers who she looked after three times a week.
They are still with her, nine years later.
"I do have quite a lot of responsibility in my job, because these dogs are people's family members," Hoek said.
"The 15 dogs I look after regularly all know each other. I know their behaviours and how well they will all get on."
Like most training, getting dogs familiar with being on their own had to start when they were puppies, Hoek said.
"Giving them mental and physical stimulation early in the day will mean they're happy to relax when you're not there.
"Sometimes it's better to have dogs in the house, and crate training is a good thing to get into when the dogs are young.
"There can be barking and worry when dogs have free range of the property. They hear all the noises and want to investigate, and are worried about where their owners are."
Up until recently Hoek was the doggy taxi driver for the Pet Dog School in Springvale, a facility that offers training, daycare, home stays, and support for dog owners.
The school's owner, Sarah Hesketh, has 37 years of experience working with dogs.
She said on any given day there could be up to 60 animals on site.
"People ask what's in it for them to bring their dog to a daycare," Hesketh said.
"You get an exhausted dog, you get a dog that's happy to come home and just chill out, you get a more social dog, and you don't have to walk them in the cold and dark.
"Now, what's in it for the dogs themselves?
"It stops worrying about the dogs barking up the road, it stops worrying about bigger dogs, and it stops trying to chase small dogs
"Everybody gets something out of it."
Like Hoek, Hesketh said simply leaving your dog in the garden all day while you're at work wasn't the way to go.
"Just recently someone said 'the garden's been trashed but that's ok'.
"If you look at how messy the garden is, that's how messed up the dog's head is.
"Dogs don't do anything by accident. They do something because it makes them feel better or because they need someone to change what's going on."
Dogs were introduced to each other gradually, Hesketh said.
"If you go to a party, you don't just walk into the middle of it and start dancing.
"You find the important person and say 'happy birthday', then you get introduced to someone at the bar, then you start to look around.
"It's the same with dogs. If we make them fly into the middle of a party it's pretty stressful for them."
Owners loved the idea of "dogs socialising", Hesketh said.
"If a dog is at home and hears a bark it can be easy for them to think 'bark back, bark back', but here it's like 'oh, he's just barking because there's a ball.
"The dog can take that mindset back home as well, so there's a bit of training that just happens naturally."
Hesketh said her job meant standing "in the firing line" from dog owners from time to time.
"We like to think that we know about dogs, but at the end of the day we aren't them.
"The dog is already saying that it doesn't want to be there or it doesn't want to do that, and people see the dog as being the problem.
"In actual fact it's the other way around."
For the most part, the sound of excessive barking at the Pet Dog School is a rarity - despite the fact the dogs are of different ages, breeds and sizes.
"Dogs come in pre-wired to look for someone who is in charge," Hesketh said.
"Our big thing is taking young dogs and teaching them that it's ok to be growled at, it's ok that some dogs aren't friendly, and it's ok to be looked after by different humans.
"Dogs are allowed to be dogs, and they are refereed at all times by some brilliant people."
People had told her that a doggy daycare wouldn't work in Whanganui, Hesketh said, but the Pet Dog School had "proved them wrong".
"Once someone has a good idea and it's seen to work, other people realise that they can do it too.
"Now we have Duke's opening up, which is really wonderful.
"Competition is empowering for the client, but it also means that we'll have to up our game and they'll have to come in all guns blazing to make sure they are equal to us."
Duke's Doggy Daycare is located at the old pound on Ridgway Street, and will be open for booking on July 12.
Owners Jade and Ross Mansell had wanted to open a doggy daycare for the past few years, and when they saw a for lease sign on the old pound complex their dream became a reality.
The business is named after their eldest dog, who is now seven years old, and Duke's own experiences in various daycares has helped the couple plan what their new venture will look like.
"We've been overwhelmed by the interest already, its blown our minds," Jade Mansell said
"Our focus is on enrichment, and making sure the dogs are mentally and physically stimulated.
"A lot of that comes down to play, and encouraging them to play with each other and with the staff."
Dogs, like humans, needed routine, Jade Mansell said.
"A lot of our clients are already booking in on a regular basis, so the dogs know that once or twice a week they'll be coming to play.
"Our day will be quite structured as well. It's about making it as normal as possible for them, while making sure they are stimulated.
"We want to reinforce the good behaviours that their owners are installing in them, so there'll some tricks and treats and all that kind of thing."
She said each dog that entered Duke's would undergo a pre-play assessment, before being put into groups based on temperament and size.
"We don't have names for all the groups yet, but one is called the RSA - 'Relaxing Senior Area'.
"Dogs are individuals, and we need to make sure they are getting the most out of it (daycare). They have personalities, just like us. Sometimes we don't like some of the people we're around, and the same goes for them.
"We would have hated it if someone had just thrown Duke in with a bunch of other dogs with no thought behind it, so that's a big thing for us."