Dog grooming used to be a purely functional activity – something to keep your dog’s coat clean and in good condition, to prevent tangles and matting and for those with continuously growing hair, to trim and maintain a certain shape and form. However, in recent years, groomers and pet owners have become more and more creative and imaginative in the ways they are presenting their pets. Not only do they now do elaborate cuts and trims but many have also started dying dog coats certain colours or in specific designs. Admittedly, this is a practice that is more common in the United States and parts of Asia but dying your dog for ‘fun’ has also caught on in the UK.
Should I Dye my Dog?
Many owners may have seen pictures of dogs in a rainbow of hues or variety of colourful designs and thought that they would love to try something similar with their own pets. Perhaps they are celebrating a special occasion, such as a wedding, or taking part in cultural holidays and want their dogs to share in the fun of “dressing up” in costumes. Some would argue that this is all harmless fun and that many dogs enjoy the extra attention from their owners, whilst others denounce it as cruel and selfish, causing distress to the animal and possible irritation to their skin.
Ultimately, you will need to decide for yourself if you want to dye your dog. A lot may depend on the kind of personality your dog has and how much he is used to being handled, groomed and “dressed up”. If your dog is used to a lot of grooming and dressing in various outfits and seems to enjoy the attention, then you could consider this simply as an extension of those activities – however, if your dog us obviously distressed at being groomed and handled and shows signs of trying to avoid you or the activity, then it would certainly seem cruel to force the issue. In addition, if your dog has very sensitive skin, then experimenting with dyes on its coat might not be such a good idea.
Remember also that harmless or not, dying your dog’s fur is fundamentally an unnatural act therefore you may want to find other less drastic ways for your dog to “dress up” and take part in celebrations, if you don’t feel too strongly about doing it. However, if you do want to do it, then the priority is to make sure that you are doing it safely, with minimal distress to your dog both physically and emotionally.
Choosing a Safe Dye for Your Dog
Regardless of what others may tell you about the successes they have had, it is generally a bad idea to use human products on pets. Therefore steer well clear of any human hair dyes. Firstly, they can irritate the dog’s skin, which has quite a different pH from ours. For example, human shampoo is formulated for human skin which has a pH of around 5.5 but this would be too acidic for dog skin which has a much of neutral pH of around 6.2 to 7.4, thereby upsetting the balance. Thus dyes formulated for human hair may have a similar effect. Secondly, dogs will often lick and groom themselves which means that they can easily ingest any dye on their fur – and many such products are toxic.
Therefore if you are considering dying your dog, make sure that you only use ‘safe’ dyes on its fur. This means food colouring which can be safely ingested – or specific dyes formulated for pets. Even in the latter case, still read the label and make sure there are no harmful ingredients if swallowed.
Safe Steps to Dying your Dog Yourself
If you decide to use a professional pet dye, then make sure that you follow all instructions and precautions on the package carefully.
If you decide to use food colouring, then there are some things to keep in mind. First, make sure your dog’s coat is clean so perhaps consider giving our dog a bath first and towelling him dry. Mix the dye with water at room temperature – do not use excessively cold or hot water on your dog’s skin. The solution then must be saturated into your dog’s fur and gently combed through. For a small dog, this can mean immersion in a small tub and for a large dog, spraying from a squirt bottle. In both cases, be very careful not to get any of the coloured solution into your dog’s eye, ears or mouth.
Once your dog is saturated through and the colour evenly distributed, place him on some newspaper or old towels to allow the excess dye to drip off. Then send him outside to dry if it is a warm, sunny day or alternatively, gently blow his coat dry using a hairdryer on a LOW setting. Remember that wet dye will transfer easily so do not let your dog into any other parts of your house unsupervised until his fur dries – unless you would like to let him redecorate your living room in a new palette of colours!
If you are thinking of doing this as a one-off, it might be worth seeking out a professional groomer who is experienced at this sort of dye jobs. As long as your dog is used to groomers or doesn’t mind being handled by strangers, you may find that this is a better way to ensure safety and success so that you can just enjoy the fun result.