OK, so apparently taking our dogs for a springtime freshen-up at the local dog wash isn’t the done thing anymore. Today’s trendy and fashion conscious canine wants – or even demands – much more from their salon treatment, than a boring clip, shave and nail cut. And where many dog grooming salons previously considered pedicures, facials and deep conditioning fur treatments to be the latest and best services available, they too have faded into nothingness in the face of the newest trend, dog tattooing. This is nothing to do with dog identification tattooing, of course, which is a practice that allows lost pets to be identified by the authorities. No, fur tattooing refers to a temporary dying of the dog’s hair, to display colourful patterns, pictures or even company logos.
How does dog tattooing work?
Ever seen a pink poodle? Then you get the idea. Coloured dyes used on dogs – usually best on ones with light-coloured fur – are used to airbrush intricate patterns onto dogs using a stencil and dye. Many dog owners are of course not aware of the trend yet, and where some salons have begun to offer to spray a heart or a flower onto Bella the Golden Retriever, these not-yet-in-the-know owners tend to treat their groomers with scepticism at best. But in major cities where trends often get started, dog tattooing is all the craze. Walking your poodle with zig-zagging neon green patters in an area where tattooing is common place, becomes simply a another fun way to show off your canine companion.
Is it like creative grooming?
Yes and no. Many salons that offer tattooing say that it is quickly becoming more and more popular and is perhaps seen as an extension of creative grooming – another trend that popped up some years ago. But where creative grooming transforms animals into other species – a labrador into a tiger or a persian cat into a panda – pet tattoos do not try to imitate other animals’ patterns or stripes. They can be colours that would not naturally be found on animals, and in any man-made shape or form, even abstract.
Is it safe?
Anybody who is trained properly in dog tattooing will use correct dyes that are completely non-toxic and harmless to dogs. In the USA, the NAPCG offered certified training and states that only special, safe dyes must be used. Dogs have far more sensitive skin that us humans do, and therefore any chemical must be totally non-toxic. As groomers offer treatments that encourage a healthy skin and coat, it only makes sense if appropriate dyes are used. The dyes wear off gradually on their own and need no further chemicals to remove them.
Is it ethical?
There is some disagreement on the subject. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says that dying a dog’s fur causes it stress. They also state that skin complaints, allergic reactions and other physical repercussions can put a dog’s life in danger. The dog’s dignity is also threatened, PETA says, stating that where animals love us the way we are, we should extend the same courtesy to them. Dog salons and owners in favour of dog tattooing disagree, however. Many say that the dogs love the attention, both in the salon when the treatment is being given, as well as when they get show off to family and friends.
Is it expensive?
Surprisingly, no. A basic tattoo can range between 10 and 20 dollars and an online store called Pet Ink even sells stencil and dye kits that you can use at home – these can be bought for under 7 dollars.
Thinking of tattooing your dog?
Well, it looks like pet tattooing is here to stay. Many people seem to do it just because it is fun, but some companies and brands are catching onto the trend as an advertising tactic. Whilst onlookers might disagree and animal rights organisations downright disapprove, dog owners are not shying away. Some even request the kind of tattoos that we might see on people, like hearts with an arrow, a sailor style anchor or an ‘I love Mama’ sprayed across their poodle’s back. It is perhaps just another way for us humans to put a personalised mark on something we own – a way of pet customisation, if you like. And if all other arguments for pet tattooing fail, then perhaps this will convince you: in the USA, an impressive $50 billion will be spent on pets this year. It is not a figure to be scoffed at, especially in these flat economic times. And some of it will undoubtedly go on pet tattooing, whether we like it or not!