Extreme Dog Grooming Competitions Take Fur Styling To A Funky New Leve

Maggie Marton
by Maggie Marton
This isn’t your typical “shave and a haircut” kind of grooming competition. From Star Wars and Sesame Street, to Jurassic Park and Shark Week, creative dog groomers find inspiration in the strangest places.

A tasteful coif. A little off the top. A puffball tail. Painted paw nails. These are things you’re not going to see at an extreme dog grooming competition.

“Extreme” dog grooming, or creative dog grooming, involves groomers creating elaborate designs in dogs’ coats. They use typical grooming techniques, like trimming and shaping the coat, but instead of breed-specific designs, groomers create artistic works. Rather than a simple coif, dogs’ coats are sculpted into shapes of characters, scenes, even wild animals like zebras and lions. Then, the coats are dyed to create the colorful masterpiece.

Every year, thousands of groomers compete to win honorifics, trophies and thousands of prize dollars in extreme dog grooming competitions. And it’s not just a niche, one-off show that goes unnoticed – more and more groomers and curious onlookers are flocking to these competitions to see what unorthodox do’s are making an appearance.

Groomers typically work within a rigid set of breed standards. Creative grooming evolved to give professional groomers the opportunity to apply their skills in novel, unique ways, like creating a scene from Memoirs of a Geisha or the cast of The Muppets.

Detractors criticize the effect on the dogs, though most groomers work with dogs who are comfortable and conditioned to professional grooming. Further, while the designs look over-the-top, the materials used are non-toxic and pet-friendly dyes (often vegetable dyes), wash-out colored hairsprays and pet-specific nail polish.

In competition, some steps can be taken before the timer starts, though groomers are rewarded for the most significant transformations on stage. At Groom Expo in Hershey, PA, for example, groomers have three hours to complete their designs. Plus, groomers often dress to match the design they’re creating so that, at presentation, there are often little skits (picture a pair of poodles groomed to look like Clydesdales… pulling a cart!) And prize money is big: At Groom Expo, the awards hit $5500.

And, yep, there are even creative cat grooming competitions. All we can say is, “Wow – those must be some pretty chill kitties!”

Do you think you’ve got the grooming skills to go head to head with some of the most specialized snippers in North America? Or are you intrigued and what to see it up-close and in-person? To participate in or view a creative grooming competition, check out show schedules around the country:

Would you ever let a groomer take this much creative license with your pooch? Would you consider dyeing your dog’s fur a different color or painting his nails with nail polish? Let us know how far you’d go in the comment section below.

Maggie Marton is the definition of “crazy dog lady” and an award-winning writer based in Bloomington, Indiana. Obsessed with dogs, she writes for numerous pet-related publications and is active in animal welfare. Recently, she launched her first eBook, Authentic Blogging, to inspire others to write with their own voice. When she’s not reading about dogs, writing about dogs or walking dogs, she loves to hike and nap—both activities usually with her dogs. Maggie lives with her husband, John; Emmett, a pit mix; Lucas, a shepherd mix; Cooper, a pit mix; and Newt, the lone kitty (who, of course, runs the show). You can find her online at OhMyDogBlog.com, on Twitter and Instagram.

Maggie Marton
Maggie Marton

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