SINGAPORE - As the Year of the Dog approaches, pet owners in Singapore have started to prep their pooches for the festive period.
Most of the 15 pet groomers The Straits Times spoke to said they typically see a surge in the number of customers getting their dogs groomed in the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 16 this year. The surge can be from about 20 per cent more to triple that of what they normally encounter.
Dog owner Melody Yap, 28, had her one-year-old toy poodle groomed for $75 at The Pawlour, followed by a "Herb Spa" session costing $35.
"This is Pudding's first Chinese New Year with us so we have to make sure she is groomed for visiting," says Ms Yap, who is self-employed.
She will be dressing her dog in a cheongsam she bought from Chinese online marketplace Taobao for about $10.
"She, like most dogs, dislikes wearing clothes, but we do not let her wear it for more than an hour," says Ms Yap, who admits that she does this "for the sake of photos".
The Pawlour will also have a Chinese New Year photo booth for dogs this year.
Online retailers selling Chinese New Year-themed outfits for pets have reported good sales this year - some have already sold all their goods.
Ms Apple Poh, 31, the owner of five-year-old online pet store Lolly pup.com.sg, says: "There is growing demand for Chinese New Year pet products and clothing.
"I've seen an increase of 20 per cent in the past three years."
One of the store's most popular products is the Oriental Blooms Cheongsam Dress, which costs $22.
Over at online marketplace Qoo10 Singapore, ItsyDogsy Pet Boutique, which specialises in dog's clothing, has been selling cheongsam as well as local-themed cotton singlets.
One of its most popular designs bears the slogan "I bark, you huat", which customers started buying even before Christmas. They cost $10.90 each.
The pet boutique's co-founder Caroline Lee, 31, said she sells about 100 of these during the Chinese New Year period every year.
Fur extensions are another trend this year.
These involve clipping coloured hair, feathers or fabric onto the dog's existing fur.
Such extensions start at $12 a set.
Business owner Eileen Poh, 26, gave her four-year-old toy poodle a full grooming and fur extensions last week, which cost her about $120 in total.
"I'm happy with it," says Ms Poh, who chose to give her dog fur extensions because she saw photos of them on Instagram and "thought it was something cute".
Some groomers offer natural, good-quality extensions that last up to two weeks. Ms Rachel Sim, 31, co-owner of groomer Dollhouse Pets, says: "Our hair extensions are from Petlocks, a brand that makes pet hair extensions by hand using non-toxic, natural material."
Groomers say customers have, in the past, asked to have the tips of their dog's tail, ears and feet dyed red.
Pet groomer and pet accessories shop Pet's Lagoon owner Kirby Nikki Sim, 28, says clients even asked them to dye part of their pets' rear and shave around it to form a 3D heart-shaped pattern.
Flashy outfits are not the only things lined up for dog-lovers - some dogs will also be in for a meaty surprise this festive season.
Artisanal pet bakery Barking Good is offering a pastel-coloured Pawsperity Cake this year, which is filled with chicken, pork, beef, lamb or salmon and a mix of vegetables such as carrot and sweet potato.
The 1.2kg cake, which is about 15 to 20 portions for small dogs or six to 10 portions for large dogs, ranges from $168 to $198, depending on the type of meat used.
Ms Dionne Sim, 25, co-owner of the bakery, which opened in 2014, says dog owners also want to "shower blessings on their furry loved ones in the way they would best appreciate - good food".
Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, the SPCA's executive director, says the SPCA is against dyeing fur for cosmetic purposes.
"Dogs have sensitive skin and should not be made to undergo unnecessary grooming procedures which may cause irritation," he says. "Seemingly innocuous applications done in the name of fun may result in harm. When there is no benefit to the animal, we should not take unnecessary risks."
In Singapore's climate, an animal can overheat very quickly and clothes and accessories can make pets uncomfortable.
"We should closely observe them to see if there is any discomfort or pain. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid altering an animal's appearance for human entertainment."
Shortly after the last Year of the Dog in 2006, there was a spike in the number of dogs taken in by the SPCA and suspected abandonment cases.
The total number of dogs the SPCA took in rose from 2,727 in 2006 to 3,002 the year after.
These figures include surrenders, abandoned dogs, lost dogs and sick or injured street dogs.
The number of lost dogs that went unclaimed and are suspected to have been abandoned rose from more than 500 a year in 2005 and 2006 to more than 700 a year for the next two years before dropping to 580 in 2009.
Says Dr Gill: "A pet is a lifetime responsibility and there are many factors to consider before getting one.
"For example, do you have the time and resources to look after the animal and do all members of the family support getting the pet?
"If you feel you are ready for a pet, do consider adopting one from the SPCA or other shelters. There are many animals waiting for good homes in shelters in Singapore."