Bangalore: With one recent survey estimating 2.2 million canines being kept as guard dogs and domestic pets, increased household spending on them is translating into a big business in India.

And it isn’t just food where the money is being spent. From grooming to outfits, mostly urban Indian households are starting to spend lavishly on their pet dogs.

Yashodhara Hemchandra of a Bangalore parlour says people want their pets to be as well groomed as they themselves are

And for those really keen to pamper their pet dog, there are a range of aroma therapies available, including body massages with aromatic oils.

Some “people these days want their pets to be as well groomed as they themselves are. They see their pets as an extension of their own personality," says Yashodhara Hemchandra of Bangalore’s Fuzzy Wuzzy parlour.

As dog grooming parlours mushroom in large cities, there is a proliferation of services too. Hair streaking, or colouring, is one such fad. Yashodhara says some customers ask for purple or green tails and ears for their white-coloured pooches. Then there are nail enamels, colognes, perfumes, tooth pastes, talcs, soaps, shampoos and flea sprays designed just for dogs.

The market size for such grooming products alone is around Rs80 crore a year, estimates Nitesh Narsinghani, who is a team leader at Research and Consultancy Enterprise (RACE), the consulting arm of the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) in Ghaziabad.

For a survey conducted in September for an international pet food maker, Race also estimated that there are nearly 2.2 million domestic dogs in Indian households. This estimate was based on talking to some 40 distributors, 280 vets, about 1,800 pet owners as well as kennel clubs in eight large Indian cities.

A pet dog gets a royal bath

“I wanted nice, soft beds for my dogs. I couldn’t find anything interesting here and got it imported from US. Though the dog beds cost as much as my own bed, I feel very satisfied when I see them (dogs) snuggling into their beds and peacefully sleeping," says Sonia Singh, who owns three pomeranians—Coco, Brownie and Muffin—in New Delhi. The annual market for dog accessories in India is estimated at around Rs50 crore by RACE.

Of course, when it comes to food, it is no longer a case of feeding the dog some leftovers as biscuits, chew sticks and food supplements are all in vogue. A family can spend anywhere between Rs200 and Rs8,000 a month on food.

“Food is one area where owners do not compromise. They do not buy food products put up on sale and are averse to trying new products as well as free samples. We have traditional vegetarian families taking non-vegetarian food products for their pets," says Jayakaran, who goes by one name and owns the Glenands Pet Shop, a canine food importer, in Bangalore.

The total market size of pet food (including snacks) is estimated at about Rs300 crore and is growing at 8-10% annually, according to RACE.

Even as India remains one of the most under-insured markets with hundreds of millions of its citizens having no insurance of any kind, companies have been offering dog insurance. Insurance plans for dogs between two and eight years can cover sickness, death due to accidents and diseases, even permanent disability.

The sum assured is based on the dog’s market value correlated to its breed as well as age. The certificates for these have to be provided by a vet.

The premiums are generally 3-5% of the sum assured and can vary from Rs2,000 to Rs25,000.

“We provide breeding risk as well as public liability cover (in cases such as the dog biting someone) for up to Rs50,000. The policy holder needs to pay an additional premium for such covers," says B.R. Roy, manager, National Insurance Co. Ltd.

Meanwhile, Indian prospective dog owners continue to get more choosy about the breed they want, which is also pushing up prices, especially for pure breeds.

Breeds such as pugs and golden retrievers continue to be a big draw and can sell for as much as Rs40,000 and Rs10,000, respectively.

“With more people residing in flats, demands for small breeds have shot up. The most preferred breeds are pugs and pekinese. Big dogs like German shepherd have lost their charm. People prefer adopting light-coloured male pups. There is a stigma attached to black colour," says Jayakaran.

And a growing number of urban nuclear families coupled with more Indian families travelling for vacations has also led to a spurt in day-care and boarding centres for dogs, with rates that range from Rs300 to Rs1,000 a day.