I want to dye my dog's fur with a color for part of a costume, and it has to be his whole body.

I have read online about using food dye or chalk and am willing to try that but am unsure. I obviously want to use the most humane method something that won't harm his skin or fur, but I also want to make sure that whatever I dye him with will not bleed (rub off on my hands when petting him or get on his bed) and can come off with a bath or two.

Does anyone have experience with dying dog fur and have advice on what I should do?

  • 4
    For anyone voting on this question: Please remember that a downvote means "this question is not interesting and not useful". If you think that dyeing a dog's fur is a bad idea, then you should upvote an answer that says so, rather than downvoting the question. If you think that it's important for people to know that dyeing a dog's fur is a bad idea, then you should upvote the question, so that people will see the question and its answers. Dec 7, 2018 at 5:46
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    Please don't answer the question in the comments, it bypasses our quality metric - voting.
    – Henders
    Dec 11, 2018 at 9:27

4 Answers 4


If this is part of a costume (I hope you mean like a Halloween costume and not a permanent change of fur color), you should put your dog in a costume as well instead of dyeing his fur.

  • Some people suggest using food coloring, but you have to research whether every single ingredient is safe to be consumed by a dog. Be aware that the color might bleed, get sticky (if it contains sugar) or get licked off by the dog.
  • If your dog's natural color isn't white or very light, you need to use more aggressive chemicals to dye it in the desired color.
  • Hair dyes for humans is absolutely toxic to dogs. There are specialized hair dyes for dogs, but even they contain dangerous chemicals and cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Even "organic" and "herbal" dyes for dogs are not safe.
  • Chalk isn't toxic, but keep in mind that the dust may irritate his eyes and airways. Since you need to cover his whole body in chalk, he cannot avoid the dust by walking away.

You can read more about the bizarre trend of dyeing dogs in neon colors and the negative effects of it in this article from Pets World and this article from Vetco.

So if this is part of a Halloween costume, you could wrap your dog's torso in some cloth resembling the desired color. With some basic craft skills you can easily sew a little dog costume. Have a look at this easy instruction and this very detailed step-by-step instruction.

If you want to change the color of your dog permanently, you should reconsider and accept him as he is.

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    Have you got a source for 'scientists assume that dyeing...' ? That sounds like a really interesting paper to read! :)
    – Henders
    Dec 7, 2018 at 11:33
  • No worries, I didn't mean that your answer needed it, just that I was very interested to read more about this because it's the first thing that I though when reading the question - the dog won't understand what is happening.
    – Henders
    Dec 7, 2018 at 11:48
  • @Henders As it turns out, dogs are mostly color-blind and cannot see neon colors. Doesn't mean any dyes are even remotely safe for pets...
    – Elmy
    Dec 7, 2018 at 20:46
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    I think anything you dye the dog with will bleed some. Even human hair dye bleeds.
    – Kai
    Dec 7, 2018 at 21:00
  • @Elmy - I literally hadn't even considered that fact. Good point!
    – Henders
    Dec 11, 2018 at 15:12

Two of your objectives are not compatible.

  1. I also want to make sure that whatever I dye him with will not bleed (rub off on my hands when petting him or get on his bed), and…

  2. Can come off with a bath or two.

I previously did a lot of research on human hair dye and found there is nothing available that both will not come off easily and will come off easily with washing.

There is an extensive Q&A about human shampoo for dogs here Can I use human shampoo to wash a dog?

If we assume similar concerns with hair dye, which is going to stick around much longer the a quick wash and rinse. It seems that chances of significant harm to your pet from a poor dye choice is likely.

As Elmy points out in their great answer you would need to choose between:

  • Something that comes off easily and has potential health issues related to eating or breathing.

  • Something semi permanent that will require harsh chemicals to apply, almost certainly causing harm:

    • your scalp will burn;
    • you might have scabs on your scalp;
    • all around your scalp will be red;
    • your scalp will itch;
    • your hair will look puffier and a little cray;
    • your hair will feel much more dry;
    • you'll have some breakage.

Do not under any circumstances use hair color intended for humans on your pets. The chemicals in the hair color are toxic, and an animal’s first instinct is to lick off anything foreign they come in contact with. Also, the pH level of your pet’s skin is very different from a human’s, and your pet could have an adverse reaction. Really, don’t do it. Source

There are a number of pet hair dyes available on the market (I am not listing them, google for yourself 'dog hair dye').

These claim to be pet safe, but as with human products you have to choose between semi-permanent and come-off-easy. Also, unless your pet’s fur is a very light color, it is not going to show well. Most of the examples I found online where on pure white standard poodles.

“What most people don’t know is that dyeing a companion animal’s fur can cause the animal stress and can lead to complications or allergic reactions that endanger the animal’s health,” PETA’s statement against dyeing animals. “Our dogs and cats love us regardless of how we look; why not extend the same kindness to them?” source

TL:DR, Never user human products or bleach to dye a pets hair/fur. If you absolutely must do it, and your pet is very lightly colored (i.e. white) use a pet-specific product. Realize that even the safest choice will likely to cause them psychological trauma.


One of the things you commit to when you get a pet is to take as good care of it as you possible can for the entire life of your pet.

Finding later that it has the wrong color is simply not an option, and changing the color of your pet because you think it will look funny/cool/nice is not a thing that can be seen as a part in taking good care of your pet.

Take a look at what you want to do and ask yourself: will this benefit my pet in any way and is it helpful for my pet?

Remember, a pet is not a thing so please do not treat it as one.

If you still want a pet with an other color, you buy one with the "right" color. However, do not forget you are responsible for giving as good care as you possibly can to all the pets you have in your care.


Don't do this. Your dog didn't ask to have their fur dyed. This is animal abuse.

  • While I agree that the dog isn't asking for a "dye job", I can't agree that this is animal abuse as I'm not sure that it actually "hurts" the dog.
    – elbrant
    Dec 7, 2018 at 17:53
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    @elbrant Please see this answer for possible harms to the animal.
    – JAD
    Dec 7, 2018 at 18:09
  • Not going to argue this with you. OP indicates that she is concerned enough to be humane and is looking for possible solutions. There is no indication that she's harming her dog.
    – elbrant
    Dec 7, 2018 at 18:17
  • @JAD Are you able to elaborate on why it is animal cruelty? Would be nice to have some points added to your statement :) Dogs do enjoy grooming (baths, haircuts etc.) when started at a young age, there are pet made dyes which are safe to use as well - no physical or mental harm comes to the animal when applying these dyes. Dec 8, 2018 at 0:49
  • @RebeccaRVT you're confusing animal abuse and animal cruelty. You (and OP) should wonder for whose sake you want to dye the fur. Placing the animal in a spot of discomfort for your own enjoyment is, to me, something you should not be doing: abuse.
    – JAD
    Dec 8, 2018 at 10:36

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