What is competitive dog grooming all about?
Dog grooming contests are quite different from traditional dog shows in that they focus more on the dog groomer’s skills, scissor work and creative flair than the main attributes of a dog breed.
Groomers spend years honing their skills and perfecting their techniques. Competitive dog grooming gives them a chance to put these on display so they can learn and better themselves whilst networking with other dog grooming professionals.
If you’re wondering what competitive dog grooming is and what’s involved, look no further than our guide! From preparing for your first dog grooming show to what to expect from the judges, we’re picking apart dog grooming contests so that you can decide whether entering one is right for you!
Table of contents:
What is competitive dog grooming?
Competitive dog grooming shows allow professional dog groomers to show off their skills and techniques. By attracting skilled participants from across the country, they’re a chance for dog groomers to compete against and learn from each other to hone their craft. Dog grooming competitions are great for those passionate about their education and wanting to develop their professional skills further.
Unlike dog shows, judges at these competitions are more interested in the skills and techniques of the groomers participating than whether the dog adheres to certain breed standards. Because of this, even though the dog’s bone structure and breed profile are still considered, there’s no showing in the ring at grooming competitions. In competitive grooming, all cuts are assessed at the grooming table.
Groomers are judged on criteria such as symmetry and uniformity of cuts, style and trim detail and the coat’s balance. The texture of the fur, the number of scissor marks and the tidiness of the feet are also considered.
Placing highly or winning a dog grooming contest can also be useful for a groomer to promote their regular grooming offering. Dog owners are likelier to put their trust in an individual passionate about mastering their craft and who has proven, certified experience in grooming dogs.
How do I get started with competitive dog grooming?
Whether you’re a newly qualified groomer or have been grooming for years, the good news is that dog grooming contests are tailored to suit all abilities.
Most dog grooming contests come in three divisions Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. In some competition leagues, once you’ve placed first three times in beginners and intermediate, you are required to progress to the next level at your next competition. However, for experienced groomers, most contests allow you to enter an advanced level with any prior competition experience.
For novices, there are also some freestyle competitions that you can enter with mixed breeds, where you’re judged more on your creative flair than the quality of a breed standard or scissor work. These fun, entry-level competitions help give a taste of what you can expect from competition grooming, so you can decide whether it’s for you.
Start by looking for shows in your area, and check the entry requirements. In some cases, places are so popular that they sell out quickly, so it’s worth checking in advance to see how early you need to sign up to be guaranteed a space.
The Kennel Club website is also great for locating grooming competitions and reviewing their entry requirements. The Kennel Club even offers information on grooming contests for young groomers of the future, for those who are already showing interest in pursuing grooming as a career.
How do groomers prepare for dog grooming competitions?
Choosing the perfect dog
Once you’ve entered a dog grooming contest, the next step is choosing the perfect dog to groom at the competition. Since some competitions require the dog to be groomed for hours, it’s important to choose a relaxed, well-behaved dog who is good with strangers and can cope with show day without feeling stressed or anxious.
Many competition groomers don’t use their dogs for this reason, as not all dogs are comfortable in a show environment.
If you’re someone that grooms dogs full-time, why not ask one of your clients if you can borrow their dog for your competition? If their dog is a breed that you’re comfortable with, knowledgeable about grooming, and has a relaxed nature, it could be the perfect dog for you to work on! And you could always reward it with some free grooming appointments afterwards.
Whichever dog you choose, always choose a breed you know about and are comfortable working with.
Preparing the dog and mastering the cut
One of the criteria that dogs get marked on at dog grooming contests is the quality of their coat.
Once you’ve got a competition in mind, you must ensure that the dog you’ve chosen to groom has a healthy coat. A few months before your competition, start washing and conditioning the dog’s coat with a gentle or coat-specific shampoo every week. When the competition comes around, the dog should have a coat with at least six weeks of growth that is beautifully conditioned and free from mats.
If you have lots of time to prepare, you could also enter some entry-level competitions with your dog in the build-up to your main competition to get used to achieving your cut whilst gaining advice from judges on how to master and improve your work.
If you want to focus on the main competition, rather than competing in smaller contests in the build-up, you could take photographs of different stages of your groom and ask your peers or, if you know them, some judges to critique the photos. Any knowledge that can help you learn more and fine-tune your skills before your big day is incredibly useful.
It’s also important to time your work in the lead-up to the competition to see whether you’re completing the groom in the allocated time.
In the days leading up to the competition, take time to bathe your dog and clean its paws, ears, eyes and sanitary areas. This is your opportunity to check your dog’s skin for allergies and to ensure that it’s okay to compete.
On the morning of the competition, you may also want to bathe your dog again in a gentle shampoo to ensure its coat is completely fresh for the best results possible.
Final prep for and on show day
Before you leave for the competition, ensure that your dog is fed, watered and exercised so it will be perfectly relaxed in the arena. Then make sure you have all of the necessary equipment for your grooming session, with spares, should anything go wrong. If you’re unsure about what to take, why not check our guide on our recommended 5 Top Dog Grooming Competition Must Haves?
Make sure you arrive early with your dog fully bathed, brushed out and ready to cut. The judge will pre-assess your dog and check it for any issues before the competition begins to ensure it’s safe to cut. Then, the competition will begin.
What to expect during the competition
Once the grooming time begins, the judge will watch from the ringside. They’ll be scoring you on how you handle your dog, the techniques you use, the difficulty of your trim and how well it looks on the dog. If the competition focuses on grooming to breed standards, ensure you adhere to this.
When your time is up, clean your table, ensuring that your dog’s feet are clean and free from loose fur. Keep your dog in a comfortable position with one hand on it whilst it is being judged, and only allow the dog to relax once the judge has walked away.
The judge will check the accuracy of your clipper work, whether lines are sitting correctly and if the coat is even and the trim is balanced. Once all dogs are checked, the winner will be announced.
Some final top competitive grooming tips
So now you know how to enter a grooming contest, what to expect and how to prepare, we thought we’d provide you with some final tips to help you place as high as possible at the competition!
- Never try something new on competition day! Using new shampoos and styling products could alter the texture of the coat and make the grooming process more difficult, so always use tried and tested products that you’ve practised with.
- Always check your equipment before you arrive at the competition. Ensure your scissors are fully oiled and correctly aligned and that your clippers are charged and in full working order. Take spare equipment as a backup in case of an error.
- On the day, arrive early with plenty of time to set up your equipment. If possible, get someone to bring your dog later once you and your equipment are ready.
- Choosing clothing that compliments your dog. For example, if you have a black dog and wear black clothing, it may be difficult for the judge to appreciate the detail in your work as it won’t stand out as well as it would against a lighter colour. A lighter-coloured grooming mat (or darker for a light-coloured dog) is also a clever way to show off your grooming lines.
- Make sure to fully clean your grooming table before your dog is judged, removing any hair that may stick to the dog’s feet.
- Even if you don’t place, always ask the judge for their critique, as this will give you something to build on and correct in your next competition.
Competitive dog grooming: The takeaways
Competitive dog grooming can be a great way to hone your skills as a groomer, develop a good relationship with a network of other groomers and help you promote your skills and ability.
There are many different levels of competition, so whether you’re a newly qualified or experienced professional, you can try your hand at competitive grooming.
Whatever your experience level, it’s important to work with a dog that is comfortable with the situation and whose coat you have been preparing and practising on in the build-up to the event.
On the day, make sure you have all the necessary equipment and some spares, relax and get ready to showcase your skills to experienced judges. Whatever the outcome, never be afraid to ask for feedback, as this will only benefit you in future competitions, giving you constructive criticism for improving your technique.
Finally, look to places such as The Kennel Club and Groom Team England (using the links above) to find competitions to enter and work towards and who knows, with a little bit of practice, you could end up representing the national team!
Shop for competitive dog grooming essentials at Groomers
Whether you’re looking for a brand new set of scissors or a portable grooming table, you’ll find all the latest and greatest dog grooming competition essentials at Groomers. Explore our extensive range today, ahead of your next dog grooming contest.