Chinese owners try a doggie dye job
Walking into Ruowen Pet Spa is like entering a doggie Halloween costume contest. There's turtle-dog, zebra-dog, spiderman-dog, tiger-dog and even panda-dog.
Raphael the toy poodle runs around in his playpen like any other dog - except his snow white coat has been dyed neon green and is partially shaved with a protruding shell on top to resemble a turtle. He seems oblivious to his unique look but enjoys the attention of onlookers.
Raphael, named after a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character, is one of half a dozen dyed dogs on display at the spa in central Beijing, which caters to wealthy Chinese who are fuelling a booming pet craze in China.
"If you can dream it, we can make it come true," said Sun Ruowen, who owns the spa and has worked in the pet industry for 10 years.
Sun charges anywhere from £5 to dye one ear to £200 for permanent dyeing and trimming of larger dogs - with most dye jobs lasting six months before the hair grows out.
Once banned by the Communist Party as bourgeois, pet ownership is booming in China, spawning a slew of cat and dog pampering businesses - where pets are treated to pedicures, rose petal bubble baths and massages.
This year, the Year of the Tiger in China, has brought an interest in the dyeing trend - with tigers being the most-sought-after look. From golden retrievers to Pekingese, pets are not just being dyed basic colours but are being transformed to look like other animals, says Sun.
"Dyeing pets is popular in many developed countries like Japan and Korea, but China is quickly catching on," said Sun, who recently took part in the first national pet dyeing competition in Beijing. She attributes the phenomenon to a "head-turning effect".
"People already love to show off their pets and draw attention, so a panda-dog walking down the street is bound to turn heads."
While some critics say the new trend is inhumane as the dogs are sometimes forced to undergo hours of unnecessary dyeing, Sun says her products are all natural and it's nothing more than an innocent dress-up session.