Designer dogs living in the lap of luxury

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 2008, 12:00am

Single women seem to be treating their pets as surrogate children, while others use posh dogs as fashion accessories

When you see a tea-cup sized poodle wearing a Burberry sweater and gold-plated Gucci chain, sitting comfortably in a Louis Vuitton monogrammed, canvas dog bag, you may wonder if the idiom 'it's a dog's life' still holds true.

With designer dogs all the rage, exclusive brand names have released collections for pets that make you gasp at the price tags.

A Gucci dog bag, for example, costs GBP910 (HK$13,985). An LV leash is more affordable at only GBP220. There is a Burberry Dog collection that sells a series of super-high quality plush bedding, stylish caps and other doggie accessories.

So being a dog isn't bad at all, it seems. If you happen to be owned by a celebrity, you might even become a superstar like Paris Hilton's chihuahua Tinkerbell, wearing stylish outfits.

Be it a 1,500 rouble (HK$439) hair cut in a fancy dog salon in Moscow, or a US$50 night in a private suite equipped with a TV and comfy cushions at a five star doggie hotel in the US, affluent pet owners all over the world are far from stingy when it comes to indulging their pets. Given that a 1.3kg chihuahua can cost as much as HK15,000, holding a well-bred pet in your arms can be as much a fashion statement as your limited edition handbag.

In Japan, pets mean more than that. On the island, which has recorded one of the lowest birth rates in the world, pets seem to be a good replacement for children.

The reason is simple. Raising a child costs a lot of money and effort. Career-minded single women in their 30's, who lead independent and carefree lives, are unwilling to sacrifice their freedom for a life-long commitment. A house without children may be lonely sometimes - pets fill the void perfectly.

Small dogs are especially popular. They are obedient, easy to take care for and cute - an essential factor in the nation in which cute is almost a law.

In fact, dogs are more popular than children - in 2006 there were 13.1 million dogs and less than 10 million children under the age of 10 in Japan. And the love is growing.

Dogs in Japan are treated with great care. You often see a dog sitting in a pram, or groups of young women stretching out their pets' limbs during a 'doga' class. Doga originated in Japan and is said to foster communication between pet and owner. And there's more. Dog parities, pet cafes and dog marriage services are available for those who want them.

Some owners refuse to go anywhere without their dogs. It seems some people believe dogs' lives are more important than human lives.

Whatever need they feed you can be sure the industry is growing to fill it.