There are two kinds of dog people: those who dress up their dogs and those who most definitely won’t. Now you can add a new dividing line–those who dye their dogs and those who wouldn’t be caught dead doing it.
Dyeing a dog’s coat has a long history as a specialty trick that some professional groomers pull out at grooming competitions, for that extra edge of novelty and surprise. But now it’s becoming a larger trend among everyday (or not-so-everyday?) dog owners. Anderson Cooper recently interviewed a couple of doting “dog moms” on his daytime talk show, whose tail-wagging little fur babies were tinged shades of dramatic purple and green.
Anderson admitted to being perplexed by the concept. “You lost me when you said ‘I wanted my beagle painted like a zebra before he got married,'” he told one dyed doggie’s owner.
“But do the dogs like it?” he asked. The women claimed their dogs love the attention provoked by their multi-hued coats and feed off the enthusiastic energy that their unusual colors attract. An audience member wasn’t so sure. “I think it’s more about attracting attention to the owners,” she sniffed. “It’s not about how the dogs feel.”
Is that a killjoy comment? Or do our dogs deserve to look like dogs, not fashion accessories? Is it all just good fun or cause to contact PETA about canine humiliation?
I’m keeping an open mind on the colour controversy. Maybe it’s because I’ve dyed my hair for decades and love the opportunity for a fresh look. (“If you can’t change your life, change your hair!” has always been my philosophy.) Or maybe it’s because I have French bulldogs, an adorably cute breed who seem designed for dress-up. Honestly, they really don’t mind. They’re so used to wearing coats and occasionally boots in the winter that they think donning a dress is fun. You can see them strut a bit more in a frilly frock or take on a more macho ‘tude in a manly T-shirt that shows off their muscles.
Sometimes there are practical reasons to dress your dog. Short-haired breeds (and no-haired dogs like the Chinese Crested) often need the extra warmth. If your dog has a skin condition that’s causes constant scratching, sporting a shirt for a while gives your dog’s skin a chance to heal. Tight “thunder-shirts” seem to calm dogs who become stressed by thunderstorms. And when my sweet Tia was going through a cancer treatment, it was far more pleasant to put her in a pretty dress than have the general public look at her tumor site in horror. It just made both of us feel better.
So what’s the harm? Obviously you need to do it right, with non-toxic dyes. Food colouring and unsweetened drink mixes are recommended and now there are even dyes that have gone to the dogs with special formulae. If your dog is the outgoing sort who thrives on attention, he’ll probably enjoy an occasional dye job. If your dog’s the more dignified, reserved type, maybe not so much. It all depends on your dog’s personality.
The dyeing trend has really caught on in China and Japan, nations that have always honoured the exotic while pushing fashion envelopes. The latest fad? Dyeing your dog to resemble a wild animal. Chows as panda bears anyone?
I first encountered a dyed dog just after Halloween at Edmonton’s Doggy Style Deli. My Frenchies started playing with a large white dog that looked like it could successfully compete in rare breed dog show as a Dogo Argentino. Except it had large, very symmetrical black spots on it and looked like a Dalmatian on steroids. When I cautiously asked the owners about their dog’s origins, they told me it was indeed a Dogo–but that they’d added spots for a Halloween party.
Doggy Style Deli used to offer dye jobs for dogs before the fire closed their shop (reopening soon in its original Stoney Plain Rd. location–hooray!). They were often asked to create coloured Mohawks; painted toenails were popular too.
And the dyeing-for-fashion impulse is thoroughly indulged at Fantastic Furballs, where your dog can also enjoy (?) a pampering “Decadent Pawdicure” for $25 or a “Fabulous Fur Facial” (also $25). Or, try the latest in bling looks–a crystal earring application that attaches the “finest crystallized elements by Swarovski” to the back of pets’ ears with non-toxic, easily removed glue.
OK, I’ve kept you waiting long enough. I know you’re dying to watch the Anderson clip, so here it is. But if you’re an owner or groomer who’d like to fess up about dog-dyeing we’d love to hear from you. Better yet–send photos! Myself, I’m sticking to dressing up my dogs. Coz it’s a lot easier to take off a dress than grow out a botched dye job.