There have always been those dogs that exude a certain air of vanity. Poodles are most famous for their coiffed 'dos, bows and manicured nails. The silky locks of a Maltese or Shih Tzu practically just beg for silky ribbons. And let's not forget the spiky collars adorning many a scary dog named, well, "Spike".
Yet lately, one is hard-pressed to see any breed of dog without some kind of ornamental accessory -- be it a glittering bejewelled collar, sporty goggles (called "doggles") or a spiffy designer carrier to perch in. It seems the boundary between "family pet" and "furry child" has grown steadily more blurred with pet owners more than happy to lap up the latest in pet trends.
Kristy Carruthers, owner of Poshpup.ca an online pet accessories store based in B.C., says the pet boutique market has grown increasingly over the last five years as fashion trends and designer labels now come in pet-friendly versions. "A person's pet is a reflection of themselves," she explains. "When people buy something they like for themselves, they'll buy it for their pet too."
Indeed, any make, size, colour or brand in today's fashion is available in doggy-form: hoodies, Hawaiian shorts (that even absorb pee -- sorry fellas, dogs only), crystal necklaces, charm bracelets…the list is endless.
Practical and cool accessories
Carruthers does points out that many pet accessory items have a practical element as well. She admits she thought "doggles" were silly at first, but then found out albino breeds or dogs with cataracts benefit greatly from them. Dog booties also help breeds with sensitive feet and are great for dogs taking long treks through icy snow.
Carruthers' most popular items are what she terms "practical, but cool", such as stylish carriers for smaller dogs or large collars with crystal lettering. "Even big dogs need bling," she says.
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Pamper your pooch at the spa
Speaking of luxury, the dog spa industry is another growing market trend. Christina Tsui, director of Pawfect Spa in Toronto says her business doubles every year. In fact, she says a huge jump has occurred from January to July of this year. "New customers are bringing puppies in -- not dogs," she said, adding this increase in puppies means increasing numbers of people have become new dog owners. "More people just want dogs," she said.
Tsui's clients range from newlyweds to housewives to retirees -- all looking to give their beloved doggies a taste of spa luxury. She says her clientele are very particular about what they want for their dogs. "Our customers are looking for more than just a cleaning," she said. "They want their dogs to look like the ones on TV commercials." Wouldn't we all love to look as well-groomed as celebrities?
Many of her clients bring in their dogs every month, and Tsui predicts the next big trend in her industry will be a luxurious spa centre for pets, including the holistic foods and services she already sells, plus interactive daycare and doggy-gyms. She already has clients asking when she'll open up a major pet-sitting service. "Our customers treat their dogs like their kids. They're willing to pay a little extra to have luxury service for them, just like they would for their kids."
The celebrity influence
Carruthers says pet accessories trends translate quickly from people to dogs, so whatever is currently in vogue will soon be available for your dog. "And if a celebrity thinks something is hot, it translates very quickly," she adds, noting Paris Hilton's effect on the small-dog accessory industry.
Well, so much for just buying Rover's flea collar and vaccination tag. Run! Fetch that glittery collar you know he's been drooling over, and then treat him to a spa afternoon for being so neglectful.
Online shopping sites
Posh Pup (Hip fashion, hot toys and gourmet treats for your dog)
Pooch Canada Pet Supplies (Resource for pet supplies and accessories)