Smile for Santa now, you old dog

Santa sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake.

He also knows when you've been a bad dog, bad dog!

Christmas may be all about the kids, but our furry friends are now muscling in on the festive action.

Dogs, cats and even a few of the more exotic animal species are joining the queue to get their photos taken with Santa.

A number of Illawarra shopping malls, and at least one dog training school, are this year offering Santa pet photos to animal owners.

Albion Park Shopping Village, Dapto Mall and Westfield Warrawong have all set aside special sessions for pets, and they are proving a big hit.

Dapto Mall operations manager Ray Manns didn't think the idea would work when it was pitched last year.

But since then the quirky concept has taken off and the three scheduled pet sessions for this season are just about booked out.

While dogs and cats are the most popular customers, guinea pigs, and even a snake, have booked in for a snap with Santa.

"We check with Santa before we book the more unusual animals in," Mr Manns said.

To avoid any brawls in the queue, animals are corralled separately.

Naughty Dog School's owner, Sandra Mullaly, has invited Santa along to the grand opening of her indoor training and recreation centre today.

Between 10am and 2pm Santa, a known dog lover, will be on hand at the site on Orangegrove Ave, Unanderra, to collect doggy present wishlists.

Ms Mullaly said she was unsurprised by the concept's growing popularity.

"Dogs are now part of the family, so people treat them as their fur babies; they are human substitutes," she said.

"You get the older couples whose kids have left home and they have a lot of time for the dog and they do get spoilt."

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