Following my most recent blog post about my personal experiences of Korean locals’ negatively reacting to my dogs, I think it’ll come as a shock that Korea is also starting to adopt an extreme doggy pampering subculture. Say whatttttt? Yes! Although I’ve had my ups and downs with pet ownership culture here in Korea, I have noticed an insurgence of Korean pet owners taking pampering their pets to the next level.
Now I’ll proudly label myself as the type of dog mom who does indulge in the occasional matching puppy outfit or seasonal holiday pet sweaters. I’ve even knitted my former pet hamster Mordi a Christmas hat my first year in Korea. I mean look at them!
But I am also all about a dog being treated as a dog. I let my fur babies enjoy running around at the park or safe areas that they can be unleashed. I let them get a little dirty jumping into piles of leaves and picking up sticks. You know, dog stuff. I don’t try to deny them the simple pleasures of being a dog. Especially since we live in a concrete jungle full of high-rise apartments and artificial parks. I feel quite guilty at times that they don’t necessarily have a grassy backyard to run around in at their leisure.
I’m also quite frugal these days and for the most part. I groom them myself with a trim, wash, and blowout. Every 2 months or so, I’ll take my mini poodle Louis to the groomer and have her give him some boujee poodle cut. With our other girl Toka, she’s still a young puppy so we haven’t had to worry about her grooming so much yet.
Let me tell you about the irony of pet grooming here. The very first time I tried to find a groomer to just give Louis a trim and nail clipping, I could not for the life of me find one.
Yes, I searched the internet. I even went to the veterinarian clinic on the first floor of my apartment building to ask them if they also did grooming services considering that they also were a pet hotel. I was met with strange stares and confusion. The answers I received was that I could just groom my dog myself, which is what I had been doing, and then they’d proceed to point me in the direction of their own inhouse grooming tools for sale. I really only needed someone professional to cut Louis nails for me since he will not sit still long enough for me to do it.
I had seen other locals with their fancifully groomed Bishon Frise’s and Maltese’s walking about the streets. Surely, they were taking their dogs somewhere to get groomed. One day while walking home from work, I happened upon a tiny little whole in the wall place that had the cartoon picture of a mini schnauzer on the front. Low and behold it was a dog groomer shop! Honestly, here in Korea they don’t really advertise as groomers and just from store fronts they look like any other small mom and pop vet clinic. Anyway, this spot has been my go-to place for grooming and surprisingly the cost for a nice stylized mini poodle cut is only 40,000 won. So about 38 USD. This includes bath, ear cleaning and nail clipping, and the stylized cut!
Why is it so hard to find these places? I still don’t know, but once you do find them, they do pretty great work.
What I quickly realized is that Koreans love sticking with the fanciful stylized cuts for their dogs. My groomer would deny my request for a simple trim on Louis and insist on some fufu dramatic stylized cut. EVERYTIME. This explains why you’ll pretty much never see a Korean’s dog unmanicured but cut in the most beautiful of styles.
I soon fell into this obsession of keeping an eye out for other mystic and allusive grooming places I would happen upon around my city, and boy was I surprised at the intensity of some of these places. There’s a dog grooming place located in Jeongja that offers mud baths for your dog and steaming treatments. My Korean friend even told me about a “Doggy Spa Hospital” in Pangyo that considers holistic spa treatments for your dog’s anxiety and healing. I was taken aback. How could we go from virtually finding no dog grooming places a year ago, to the most extra AF grooming shops. I had to laugh. Korea really knows how to take something over the top. If you’re wondering the cost of these kinds of groomer shops, I’ll stop by and inquire, then update this post later!
2.Doggy Hair Dying
Piggy backing off the whole fancy grooming trend here, I’ve also started noticing more and more ajumma’s (a.k.a women around the age of 45-60) who own small breed dogs, getting their dogs fur color dyed. I almost died of laugher at the river one day when Louis and I out for a walk, was greeted by this lady’s unleased fur baby flopping about looking like a skittle. This dog had every color under the sun and the woman, and her friends humorously chased the bouncing skittle away from us.
That occurrence was not an isolated thing. More and more dogs in the waiting room of my local vet clinic had pups sporting tri-colored ears and tail combinations, or dip dyed paws. I could only hope and pray that their owners were at least using safe non-toxic vegetable based doggy hair dye. But then again this is Korea soooooooo…
3.White Colored Dogs
I’ve heard the stigma back in the states that pets who are black or darker colored, are often the last left on the shelter floor, the first to be euthanized, and are less likely to get adopted for some odd reason. Apparently, that seems to be somewhat the same here in Korea.
I don’t have any hard statistics to back up this observation, but from what I’ve seen, 8/10 Korean dog owners have a white dog. The most popular breeds being the Bishon Frise, Maltese, Shih-Tzu, mini Poodle, Yorkshire Terriers, and their national dog the Jindo (which is what we think our little Toka is).
I believe they view owning the white versions of these dogs, with the exception of the traditional brown and black Yorkshire Terrier breed, as equating to wealth and a pristine image. Many of the dog cafes that sell puppies inside, host their lineup of white teacup puppies in the window displays first as eye candy to lure in customers. Furthermore, I guess if you buy a white pooch, then you have free reign to dye their fur multiple neon colors (Insert sarcastic eye roll).
Now let’s talk about the additional dog items I’ve seen more and more people around town with.
The purpose of a leash is to be able to walk your dog outside, so he/she won’t run off, right? Well forget that here, they will legit pull up with their dogs in a stroller. That’s right, a stroller. Some people use what I assume is a human child’s stroller, but most of the time they sport the fancy doggy strollers. These things retail for anywhere between 177,000 won to an upwards of 490,000 won (152USD-420USD). REDICULOUS.
I can’t justify spending so much money on an item for the dogs which does not allow them to exercise properly. I mean why not have the dog walk beside you instead of pushing them everywhere when they are fully capable of walking? Only if your dog is injured, handicapped, or in recovery then I can understand using one fo these.
However, to play devil’s advocate, I have seen in various establishments a sign that has the dog stroller image with a dog inside painted green indicating that shoppers can bring their pets inside with them so long as they’re in a stroller or a carrier of some sort. This is fine. I actually appreciate that some shops and shopping malls are progressing to the point where they’ll let your dog accompany you (within reason). But to be honest, some Koreans just love pushing their dogs around in strollers and showing them off.
I will be open and honest with you, like previously stated in the intro of this post, I am a sucker for dog clothes. Korea now has a large market for dog clothing stores/ boutiques. You can even go inside some furniture stores and find a dog section with clothing pieces to match the exact same color and texture of the sofa, rug, or chair you are ordering. So basically, Fido can be camouflaged laying on that fancy new rug or sofa in your living room lol!
I’m not that obsessive but for crying out loud, they sell in the open-air markets up in Myeongdong district doggy knock off Supreme, North Face, Gucci, and various other brands which I am not ashamed to say I’ve purchased. For dogs that do not grow long coats for winter, I think it’s totally justifiable to buy your dog a winter coat seeing that Korean winters can be rough.
Do my dogs have a wardrobe more extensive than mine, of course not. Every new season I try to trade, swap, or donate the doggy clothes that my pups grow out of. No point in being wasteful with all the old clothes they can no longer wear. However, in the Chelseable future, this will be the one “unnecessary” thing I continue to indulge in for my fur babies.
If you are a fellow dog lover, I’d love to know what the top dog trends are your country!
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