You’re walking down a busy Singapore street and a crowd of people catches your eye. The woman at the center of attention must be a movie star or local celebrity, so you wander over to have a look. You don’t recognize her, but she sure does have some cute pandas. Wait… what?
“Creative grooming” is a growing trend in the dog-owner community. “Painted poodles” are a prime example of this, with pink and blue being the preferred shades. But a unique trio of pooches has been drawing attention on the streets of Singapore.
In recent years, dyeing dogs has got big in China and now the phenomenon has spread to Singapore. Some people have really picked up the idea and run with it – hence the crowds gathering to marvel at these three artificially colored canines.
The trio of purebred Chow Chows were originally bought from London, but moved to Singapore with their humans in 2015. Meng Jiang and her husband Anton Kreil gave the puppies Mandarin names: TouDou, Yumi and DouDou, which translate as Potato, Sweetcorn and Bean, respectively.
The couple decided to dye the chow chows because their resemblance to pandas became more striking the more the puppies grew. At first it was just Yumi who received the beauty treatment, but Jiang claimed the other dogs were getting envious of her new look.
Apparently, the dogs enjoyed the experience. “Yumi loved it and TouDou and DouDou were really jealous of her,” Jiang recounted in an interview with Channel News Asia. “So we tried it with them and they all had a new level of energy after it was done,” she said.
When she took her babies for a walk with their new look, it’s unlikely that even Jiang could have predicted the amount of attention they got. The pretend pandas drew crowds of people eager to get a look at and a photo with the uniquely-dyed dogs, who seemed to enjoy being the center of attention.
“Out on the streets people go crazy for them,” Jiang said. “Last week, I think about 500 people must have taken photos of them or together with them in the space of three hours. Scores of people always kept coming over, wanting to take pictures with them.”
The popularity of the panda pooches speaks for itself: their Facebook page has more than 2,500 likes and the Jiang’s Instagram dedicated to pictures of the dogs has around 6,000 followers. With the growing number of fans her babies were attracting, Jiang saw an opportunity.
Jiang decided that she could give people the chance to play with and take pictures of her dogs in more controlled situations than out on the streets. She had a business idea that could benefit the life of both herself and the canines, as well as giving the public what they want.
“I thought, why don’t we let people come over to our home and do shoots with the dogs? Why don’t we go to people’s homes and do shoots with the dogs?” Jiang said. Before too long, she had created PandaChowChows.com.
Since the video of Jiang’s painted pups went viral, both Jiang’s story and the PandaChowChows.com site has received “global press coverage,” according to the business, with numerous interviews and features telling the dogs’ story. It seems people can’t get enough of the panda dogs.
The pampered pooches are definitely no worse off for their new-found fame if their diet is anything to go by. They are served premium food and probably eat better than a lot of people do, with their breakfast alone consisting of egg, sweetcorn and cheese.
Despite the dogs’ privileged lives, Jiang has come under fire from those who claim that the panda chow chows’ dye regime and their exposure to the public is cruel and unnecessary. The internet seems divided on whether it’s harmless cuteness or animal cruelty.
Both the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Singapore’s Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) have argued the case that animals should be appreciated for their natural beauty, adding that the dye used on the canines may be unsafe in the long-term. The SPCA even launched an investigation into the issue.
“There are also potential side effects with no benefits to the animals – it can be physically harmful and subject the animal to stress in the process. Animals have natural coats and should be appreciated for what they are, rather than trying to alter them artificially,” the SPCA said in a statement.
Jiang thinks the claims are ridiculous and has stated that she takes the utmost care when dyeing her animals. “I want to tell everyone that the dye used is professional dog-hair dye and is 100 percent organic, non-toxic and safe for dogs,” she said. She has also claimed that two professional dog groomers are present for the process.
Jiang has accused naysayers of hypocrisy, saying the dogs are “walked and exercised more than any of these people complaining actually walk and exercise their dogs.” She struck back by saying anyone who has ever paid money to see animals in a zoo could be accused of cruelty, if using the same logic.
A representative from pet supply store Pet Loft concurred with Jiang and her sentiments on the subject of the dye. “As long as the coloring is safe, and everything is organic, and the dye is not in contact with the skin or sensitive areas, I don’t see a problem,” he said.
“My pets are my babies and I make sure to keep them comfortable,” added Jiang. “They go for grooming every ten days where they get a proper wash and hair trimming. They also get eye check-ups, nails trimmed, ears and teeth cleaning,” she said. According to her, the dogs seem happy and healthy – and surely that’s the most important thing.