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Pink Fur, Mohawks and Organic Manis: The Secrets of Hollywood's Hottest Pets

It's not enough to just wag one's tail anymore as dogs work it with everything from pink fur, mohawks, organic nail polish and in one case, yep, a haircut to give the appearance of breasts, hips and a waist.
Stella from "Modern Family"
Coral von Zumwalt

In this looks-obsessed town, stylish women aren't the only ones who are high-maintenance about their manes. Dogs -- or rather, their pet parents -- have gotten fussier about coiffure. These days, they get brushed, shampooed with lavender and peppermint eucalyptus, mudbathed, blueberry- facialed, blown out and styled like any other A-lister.

Yes, "dog 'do" has a whole new meaning these days. Make that dog 'dos: Each of the 180 breeds recognized in the U.S. has specific standard haircuts, says head groomer Danielle Tortorello of Pussy & Pooch spa in Beverly Hills. While Pomeranians aren't supposed to get haircuts, the lion cut (full head and skinny body with lion tail) and teddy bear (1 inch of hair or less on body with face framed like a teddy bear) frequently are seen on the breed. The continental, or poodle cut, is a short body trim with bracelets of fur left around the wrists. Although Yorkies, Maltese, Shih Tzus, Havanese and Bichons are meant to have full coats, many owners request a puppy cut (short all over) to maintain a youthful look. There's also a bolero jacket cut (a shaved middle and long legs, like bell bottoms) for long-haired breeds like Afghan hounds. And Tortorello, who charges $55 and up, even uses a straight iron on curly-hair dogs who wish to be silky, like Maltese.

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Of course, there are owners who deviate widely from standard breed cuts for reasons of taste and vanity. "Dogs want to be recognized," claims New York celebrity groomer Jorge Bendersky (a regular on Animal Planet with such clients as Ralph Lauren, P. Diddy and Gisele Bundchen and author of DIY Dog Grooming, From Puppy Cuts to Best in Show). "You give them pink hair or glitter tattoos -- which I invented -- and you instantly see the difference. Dogs are very social; they want the attention. People stop and take pictures, and you see them puff up. I wouldn't do that on a cat."

Says pet lifestyle expert Janene Zakrajsek, who owns Pussy & Pooch with husband Robert Gaudio: "Lately, we see clients wanting to have more fun with their dogs' styles. A man came in and asked that his dog be styled to look like him. He had a huge, full afro. So we clipped the dog in a rounded way and puffed him out with blow-dryers" set to low heat, since dogs' skin is much more sensitive than humans'. Adds Zakrajsek, whose 12,000-square-foot pet spa caters to an industry clientele including singer Ciara: "Another woman asked for her dog to look like she had hips, breasts and a waist. We did our best."

Among many well-groomed standard poodles and Maltepoos was one recent guest, a Maltese with a blue mohawk. "Mohawks look best on short-haired breeds," says Bendersky, who prefers to color his clients with natural henna, refreshers and color-tint dog shampoos like Bio-Groom Color Enhancer Pet Shampoo ($9). "You color the indented stripe blue, red or green. You puff it up with dog hairspray or gel or mousse or hair thickener. It turns them into little rock stars." Adds Zakrajsek: "Blue is the most popular for mohawks. A stripe can also be done on the ears, tail, feet or body. But hot pink is the color most requested by the ladies for nails, hair, bows, whatever." West Hollywood's Pour La Pooch owner Gia Battocchio says that since dogs lick their paws, it's best to use organic nail polish (Warren London Pawdicure Polish Pen is available online for $8.95). She adds that her most outrageous request was to style a poodle named Pizza: "The owner wanted it to resemble a dinosaur, so we did ridges on its back."

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The most popular time for dog-coat flamboyance is, of course, the holidays. Says Zakrajsek: "One groomer did a Christmas sweater stencil vest on a dog. It was semi-permanent and came out in a few washes." Also popular: stencils of stars and stripes, shamrocks, hearts and rainbows (for gay pride). There are even bindis (or just large beads) for pooches, glued on with nontoxic glue.

How often should dogs get shaping trims? The consensus is every four weeks. And baths? Most groomers say every two or three weeks, but Bendersky, who charges $300 an hour, sniffs, "Bathe them whenever they are dirty. Or when they smell." He also offers his canine clients hot-oil treatments, mud baths with products from the Dead Sea and blueberry facials. "It makes their coats shiny," he says. "You can really see the difference." Every groomer advises: The more you brush your dog, the better his or her coat and the less the animal will shed. "If you let it go and the dog gets all matted, we have to shave off all its hair and start over," says Battocchio. "And dogs need their fur to protect their thin skin." Not unlike everybody else in Hollywood.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

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