Believe it or not, the latest craze to hit the Chinese market is nothing new. Rather, it is a common Chow dog. What makes them different, however, is the cosmetic makeover they underwent to make them look like panda bears.
Panda Dogs, as the fluffy black and white dogs are called, are selling out at an alarming rate. Indeed, one shop in Sichuan has completely sold out and found that the demand of the new middle class in the country is so high, they are unable to meet it.
Hsin Ch-en, pet shop owner, stated that the natural response for a Chinese person just ten years ago would be to eat a dog. Now, however, westernisation of society has set in and people want to own them as pets. For a long time, Chinese people wanted Labradors or French bulldogs, which were classed as cute dogs. The Tibetan Mastiff was the previous high fashion dog. Now, however, it is all about the panda dog.
Hsin Ch’en is the original brain behind the technique that makes these Chows look like pandas. He carefully colours and grooms them, which means the Chow will look like a panda in less than two hours. The cosmetics last for about six weeks, after which dog owners must return for a touch up.
One of the best things about it, however, is that this is a completely cruelty-free method. Indeed, no harmful chemicals are used in the dies. However, the price of these designer dogs is exorbitant regardless, which is because of the amount of work required to groom them to perfection. It seems, however, that the Chinese don’t mind paying this fee. They want to be able to say that they own a panda dog and make heads turn when they walk the streets.
In look, the dogs have beautiful black and white coat, enhanced by the natural fluffiness of the Chow. Hsin Ch’en then dies black eye patches on the dogs, which make them look exactly like the panda. As awareness of the plight of the panda, which is endangered to extinction, increases, this dog really is a statement for people.
Interestingly, the craze seems to be taking the world by storm. The technique is now also being applied to other breeds, in particular the Bichon Frise. However, the Bichon doesn’t look as much like a bear as what the Chow does, which is why this is still the breed that is in highest demand. Of course, the pet store owners in China are keeping tight lips about the exact technique they use to make these dogs resemble pandas as much as they do.
According to Cesar Millan, internationally renowned dog trainer better known as the “Dog Whisperer”, the claim that no chemicals are used is false. He says that in order to colour the fur of the Chow, and particularly the ears and eye patches, some chemical dyes must be used. This could present a health and safety issue for the dog itself. It is well known amongst animal rights activists that dying a dog is wrong for many reasons. Hair dye has been designed for humans and not a single product to date has been approved to be used on animals.
Dogs can have similar allergic reactions as what humans do, although the chance of these occurring is far greater. This is because dogs spend a lot of their time grooming and licking their fur. Another worrying factor is that a dog cannot describe their symptoms, so they may be suffering without the owner even realising that anything is wrong.
It is for this reason that veterinarians have stated that dyes should never be used on dogs. They believe the process to be damaging not just on a physiological level, but also on a psychological level. Unfortunately, however, those who love the panda dog seem to not care about this. The Chinese simply want to be able to be part of the middle class and show off their designer dog. Some say this is at least an improvement on the previous practice of eating dogs, but using a living animal as a status symbol is never acceptable.