JAPANESE DOGS are becoming trendsetters as their doting owners pamper them with ever-increasing zeal. The latest in-thing appears to be jewellery – and the owners, if not the dogs, can’t get enough of it.
Writing in The Times last week, Richard Lloyd Parry writes of the dog owners in Tokyo: "Having pushed conspicuous consumption about as far as it could go during the "bubble" years of the 1980s, in leaner times Japanese are spoiling not themselves, but their pets. The pets may be small, but the amount of money, care and ingenuity lavished upon them is spectacular.
"Tokyo has a plethora of dog hotels (the term "kennels" scarcely does justice to the standards of service dispensed there) and a good number of dog cafés and dog beauticians (the trendiest is DogMan in the Claska, one of the city’s grooviest human hotels). Dog cemeteries, of course, have been around since Evelyn Waugh wrote The Loved One, but in Japan the pressure of overcrowding has driven animal burial on to the internet. At one such digital Elysium, grieving owners enshrine their departed pet in online graves to which they make "offerings", with the twiddle of a mouse, of virtual flowers, incense and bones."
But it is the fashion stakes which seem to be the in-thing with which to spoil one’s dogs. Parry adds: "The sight of dogs in T-shirts, rugby shirts or, during the winter, tailored duffel coats, has become routine, and even poodles in booties, bobble hats and belts are passé. Smart casual has given way to canine bling — Chihuahuas in big jeans and reversed baseball caps. The other day I passed a cluster of people oohing, cooing and flashing off their digital cameras at five young cuties. They were miniature dachshunds, each of them wearing a pair of costly looking sunglasses, each of them preening and pouting like wet-nosed, fluffy-tailed Paris Hiltons."
It’s clearly a funny old world, when dogs are festooned with jewellery to make them look fashionable. Equally, however, the Japanese dog lovers could be in severe danger of turning their pets into chavs rather than fashion icons. Whatever happened to keeping a dog as a good old pet, plain and simple?