How to Dye a Dog's Fur Safely

By Jane Meggitt

People dye their hair all sorts of colors -- many never found in natural human hair -- and this trend is going to the dogs. Dying a dog's hair safely might mean going to a groomer experienced in canine color changes. You can ask your veterinarian if she has any recommendations for safe canine hair dyes.

No Human Hair Dye

Never use human hair dye on your pet. These dyes can be toxic if ingested -- not something people are prone to do, but licking their fur is natural behavior for canines. Human hair dyes contain various chemicals that can make your dog sick. Don't risk it, even if you only intend to dye a small portion of your dog's fur.

Canine Hair Dye

If you want color that lasts for several weeks, use a hair dye specifically designed for canine use. You can purchase such dyes online or at pet stores, or ask your groomer for recommendations. Some canine hair dyes are available in gel form, making them easier to use and create patterns than liquid versions. Always read the instructions carefully before applying dye to your dog. Canine hair dyes are not appropriate for young puppies.

Food Coloring

If you want to change your dog's hair color briefly -- such as dying him green for St. Patrick's Day -- food coloring is the safest way to go. While you can use the unsweetened version of Kool-Aid, it can make your dog's hair sticky. Bathe your dog prior to dying, so his fur is clean. Mix water and food coloring, then either place the mixture in a bath -- if your dog is small -- or put it into a squirt or spray bottle if your dog is larger or you only want to color certain areas. Soak the fur thoroughly, then brush or comb the dye to work it into his hair. When you're finished, place your dog on newspapers or old towels until she dries naturally. Otherwise, you'll have food coloring all over the place.

Canine Dye Precautions

Don't allow your dog to lick areas of dyed hair while the dye is still wet. You might have to put an Elizabethan collar on your pet until the dye dries. Don't let the dye come into contact with your dog's nose, eyes or mouth. If your dog does get dye in his eyes or other orifices, flush the area thoroughly with clean water. If his eyes or mouth appear irritated after substantial flushing, take him to the veterinarian. Even mild dyes can cause reactions in susceptible animals. If your dog experiences an allergic reaction or starts itching, stop the dye job and take him to the vet. If your dog has experienced skin reactions or his skin is sensitive, don't dye his hair.