Getting your dog a salon wash and haircut, pedicure, or even a fruit facial isn't considered pampering anymore, at least according to the National Association of Professional Creative Groomers (NAPCG), a group that advocates brightly colored dye jobs for the discriminating poodle, lab, or golden retriever — or even a dog tattoo. Not a real tattoo — imagine getting a dog to sit still through a long session of ink-dipped needling. These intricate canine designs are airbrushed on your pooch (ideally one with pale fur) using a stencil and special pet-friendly dye. Here's a brief guide:
Why on earth would you tattoo your pet?
Some dog owners use their tattooed pups for advertising purposes, getting the logo or name of their company airbrushed on Fido, but most owners just do it for fun. "People love it — it's hilarious," Heather Holland, owner of Lucky's Yellow Rubber Ducky Dog Wash in Shreveport, La., tells USA Today. "People can't wait for their friends and family to see it." The tattoo also "gives you a way to customize your dog," dog groomer and owner Heather Himes tells Fox WCCB-TV Charlotte.
Where did the idea come from?
It's a natural progression from the extreme-grooming trend that hit a few years ago, when it first became popular to use color and clippers to transform dogs into exotic animals like pandas and tigers, NAPCG president Amy Brown tells USA Today.
Are the tattoos safe?
The NAPCG says yes, because groomers only use special dyes that won't harm dogs' sensitive skin and will wash out over time. In fact, the organization introduced a certification system for creative groomers last year, including instruction on which dyes to use. Perhaps not surprisingly, animal rights group PETA isn't convinced, saying that any type of color job can confuse and stress out man's best friend, or even lead to a deadly allergic reaction.
How much do the tattoos cost?
You can buy do-it-yourself kits online for about $7 — options include the John Deere logo, and Hello Kitty — but getting your dog professionally tattooed in a pet salon will typically cost anywhere from $10 to $20 and up. It's not surprising people pay up, given the estimated $52.9 billion Americans will shell out for their pets this year, according to the American Pet Products Association.
How do the dogs feel about being airbrushed?
They love it, Heather Himes tells WCCB-TV. Her dog Techno, happily "poses for cameras, flips her ears, she loves the attention." Jessica Law of The Dog Salon in Charlotte, N.C., agrees: "These animals get so much attention and love; they eat it up, from what I've seen." Hogwash, says PETA spokeswoman Jane Dollinger, who argues that the poor dogs find the tattoos humiliating. "Our dogs and cats love us regardless of how we look," she tells USA Today. "We should extend the same kindness to them."