We’d all like to think of our children as geniuses, as trendsetters, as leaders. It’s only natural to want the best for them, and to see the best in them. That goes for those of us whose children aren’t necessarily … human. Ask any pet parent, then stand back. It’s astonishing how many dogs can be the “smartest in the world” and how many cats can be “the world’s cutest.”

So forgive me when I remind loyal readers of this magazine that my late dog Dakota Star (Koti for short) wrote occasionally, and in April 1996 – her very first editorial – she wrote a column titled “Dogscaping for fun and profit.”

Why do I bring this up now? Because the trend-watching and trend-setting Garden Media Group recently issued its much-anticipated 2016 Garden Trends Report, and among the coming year’s hottest trends is … you guessed it! Dogscaping.

Was Koti ahead of her time? Perhaps. The figures she stated in her column may be a little outdated, considering that the column was written 19 years ago. But just for grins, let’s revisit it here:

“What’s all this nonsense I’ve been hearing about landscaping for wildlife? You read articles about how to select plants that will attract butterflies; when was the last time a butterfly fetched your morning paper? You dedicate a section of the yard for birdhouses, baths and feeders; can you take a bird for a walk? You even set up a bat house to lure the insect-eating critters to your garden; okay, they eat a few insects, but do they chase those pesky rabbits out of the perennial patch? And do you really want to scratch a bat behind the ears?

If you’re designing a landscape project that makes life comfortable for animals, why not consider the animals you – and your clients – spend the most time with? Now, I like to watch birds and squirrels as much as the other guy, but I think it’s about time backyard environments were made just as dog-friendly as they are wildlife-friendly. After all, there are an awful lot of people who have dogs, and they spend an awful lot of money on them.

[Here Miss Dakota Star quotes 1996 statistics illustrating the number of dogs in the US, as well as the number of dollars spent on those dogs.]

That’s a lot of puppy toes scrambling around the back yard; that’s a lot of family members spending time in the landscape you’re designing and installing. … That’s a lot of bucks – but it could be even more, if you get in on the action. Take a close look at the next project you bid. I’ll bet you a whole box of Milk Bones that the potential client has a dog. And I’ll bet that dog is a member of the family.

Just for grins, talk a little about the family dog when you make your presentation. Ask the homeowners how much their dog uses the yard – it’s probably more than they do. Do they have a dog run? Does the dog have the run of the yard? Ask how you can make it a better environment for both them and their furry kid.

Suggest appropriate plants that are safe for, and from, canine occupants. Perhaps a secure but attractive fence is in order. Show them how you can provide shade and shelter for their friend. Incorporate a canine exercise area into their two-legged children’s play space. Build a protected spot for the “humans-only” garden – both the dog and the people will thank you. Design a landscape worthy of your best friend – worthy of their best friend – and I’ll bet you’ve made a sale.” – Dakota Star Benson

Check out the GMG’s Trends Report at http://grow.gardenmediagroup.com/2016-garden-trends-report .