Extreme Pet Grooming: Cute or Cruel?

Is dyeing your dog's fur to look like a hyperbolic cartoon character harmless good fun? Or taking it too far? We delve into the crazy and polarising world of extreme grooming to find out.

It wasn’t too long ago that grooming your animal meant a shampoo, comb and maybe a trim. But now, extreme grooming, or 'intergrooming', has exploded in popularity with the internet awash with pictures of pets preened into innovative shapes and creations. Imagine glitter, temporary tattoos, glued on jewels, painted nails and elaborate dye jobs that can take months to sculpt!

Not surprisingly, it’s sparked fierce debate – and the question remains; is the practice harmless fun or can it seriously compromise the pet’s wellbeing and health?

Credit: Animalphotography.com

Harmless fun?

Eve Adamson of Iowa City, Iowa, who is the co-author of Animal Planet's 'Complete Guide to Dog Grooming' and grooming columnist for the American Kennel Club's Family Dog magazine is one industry insider that insists that intergrooming is harmless fun that helps owner and pooch bond.

'It cheers the family up to see the pet dressed up, and you get a lot for your money,' she told the Daily Mail.

“The doggie decor likely makes some people think, 'that poor pooch, he must be so embarrassed.

“But 'that's human psyche, not canine psyche,' adds Amy Bullet Brown, founder and president of the National Association of Professional Creative Groomer LLC. “Dogs are not embarrassed by their appearance. They don't care what color they are. If they crave attention, they will love it,” she added to The Daily Mail. 

And he’s not alone. “There’s nothing ‘creative’ about subjecting dogs to the potential harm of being restrained and then chemically dyed,” Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of cruelty investigations at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) told Ozy.com who insists fur dying constitutes a “frivolous” ordeal for the animal.

Credit: Channel 4 Doggy Styling

Celebrity vet Cesar Millan from the hit TV show Cesar’s Way has also spoken out about the controversial treatment.

“Psychologically, a dog cannot process what has been done because it is an extreme and unnatural process that is out of their control,” he wrote on his website www.cesarsway.com. All dogs already have beautiful coats of hair with colours ranging from white, auburn, tan, black, and everything else in between. Why not enjoy their natural beauty. Truthfully, most people do not like to see dogs covered in hair dye either.”

Credit: Ren Netherland BarcroftMedia.com

Public wrath

Daniela Forshaw from the UK is one extreme dog groomer that has felt the wrath of the public thanks to her penchant for spending $4000 per month on glamming her pet poodles with dye jobs, painted nails and outlandish clothes. But she insists her makeovers are completely safe and humane.

“What the public don't realise is that groomers' dogs are the best kept in country. It's not cruel. My dog is the best kept in country, just pink," she said on UK television show This Morning.

Credit: Animalphotography.com

Big business

Extreme grooming is big business. The American Pet Products Association reported that people in the United States spent about $58.5 billion on pet products in 2014 and $US4.73 billion on grooming/board services alone, up 7.26 per cent from 2013.

About 3,000 groomers visit dog shows such as Intergroom each year, vieing for top titles and attending seminars titled 'Making Masterpieces Out of Nightmares in Record Time' (how to fix a matted dog) and 'Quick Bling and Colour' (how to use dye and glitter on dogs).

Groomers say their competitions are just about showcasing skills and that contestants care deeply for their dogs, and use the wide range of non-toxic pet dyes on the market.

New Zealand born, NYC based photographer Paul Nathan visited some of these professional shows to photograph perfectly primed pooches for his book Groomed. In a recent interview, he points out that as long as the dogs’ personality lends itself to grooming, and non-toxic, pet safe dyes are used, to label the practice cruel is unjust.

“As with child stars, some are just born with patience and the will to please that help them deal with the long process involved in creating a creative grooming piece,” he told Feature Shoot.

“In most cases the colours are done in stages on different days, usually in sessions of no more than three hours with plenty of breaks for the animal. Every dog is different, and only the groomer knows how long to work with a dog. Keeping the dog happy and comfortable is key.”

Credit: facebook.com/CreativeIdeass

What do you think about extreme dog grooming? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below or post on Facebook.

Header Images: Animalphotography.com and Facebook.com/CreativeIdeass

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