Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Chico likes his fashion doggy-style. Chico, a cheeky chihuahua cross, likes to mix it up – a little J-Lo jacket mixed with Snoop Dogg gangsta eyewear. Chico will not wear anything that is, like, so last season. And he is not alone.

Pet owners New Zealand-wide are embracing the growing range of doggy clothes and accessories.

Monique Somner, owner of Chico and manager of pet store Animates, said the rise in the popularity of small dogs as pets had pet lovers filling up wardrobes with the latest in summer essentials.

"And clothing is just the start. There's jewellery, bedding, whole bedrooms. Some have their own trainers, specific doctors, groomers and doggy daycare," she said.

Small dogs, popularised by celebrity dog owners such as Paris Hilton, can be dressed in fashionista flamboyance or rugged in classic Kiwiana – wet-weather gear or bush shirts.

Who says fashion has gone to the dogs?

"In my opinion, people dress their dogs because they are a child substitute. There are a lot of people out there with disposable income, and if they want to spend it on their pets, why not?" Somner said. She said Chico was "quite the man-about-town", but her other dog, a french bulldog called Betty Sparkle, occasionally wore a jacket, glasses and even fairy wings.

"People look at them with amusement, but there's more to it than being cool. They actually started making these things for a reason," she said. Protective goggles, or "doggles", can stop cataracts and eye ulcers, while dog shoes prevent paw pads wearing out.

Japanese student Towa Jose graduated from Massey University last year with a Diploma in Fashion and Technology. Since returning to Osaka, she has produced a range of designer dog T-shirts.

Jose said she believed dogs were at their happiest when being given attention.

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