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Competing for Top Dog: Your Guide to Pet Grooming Competitions and Dog Shows


Pet owners, trainers, and groomers have one surprising thing in common. Sure, we all share the same love for dogs, but we’re also united by the spirit of competition! Whether you’re looking to make a splash in the pet grooming world, or you just want to show off your dog’s unique style and skills, it’s time to step onto the stage.

This guide is full of tips and tricks to help you select the best grooming products, choose a show-stopping style, and prepare for competitions. Seasoned competitors know exactly how important it is to invest in professional grooming before a dog show. Do you?

Keep reading to find out what it takes to win top dog.

Dog Shows vs. Pet Grooming Competitions… What’s the Difference?

Dog shows don’t technically score points for a clean, perfect haircut, but professional dog grooming can still be the difference between a blue ribbon or an honorable mention. Grooming plays a key role in how dogs are presented in the ring!

Show dogs are judged for the quality of their coat and ‘conformation’ – essentially, how well the dog matches and conforms to written standards for that breed. It’s also worth noting that ring-side judging happens while the dog is in motion, so dog groomers must account for hair movement when choosing the perfect pre-show pet style.

Competitive grooming, on the other hand, is judged while standing still. Aesthetic nuances and creative style add a lot of points, but judges are most concerned with the smallest grooming details, including scissoring accuracy and smooth clipper lines. Although some categories require rigid adherence to breed style standards, creative grooming and freestyle events are increasing in popularity.

Both competition circuits have skill-based entrance categories that range from amateur to advanced. New show dog owners and amateur groomers can use entry-level competitions to get advice from judges and improve skills over time.

How to Pick the Perfect Show Dog for Competition

Many competitors prefer to prep, train, groom, and show their own dogs. Pet expos and competitive events are often stressful, even for the most well-behaved pups, so it’s important to have a deep familiarity and understanding with the animal that you’re grooming. Over time, most model dogs and their handlers get more comfortable with the excitement and tiring energy of an all-day grooming competition.

Aside from the dog’s temperament, behavior, and competition experience, there are a few non-negotiables: breed, stamina, health, and coat quality.

Creativity: What it Takes to Design a Show-Stopping Cut

Creative grooming is a relatively new category in dog shows and competitions, but it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular. Creative grooming is all about creating a unique and eye-catching look for your pup, which is often achieved with unique clipper patterns, scissored shapes, accessories, and pet-safe dye.

The goal is to create living art that celebrates your dog’s natural beauty and wows the judges with something they’ve never seen before.

Tips to Prepare for Dog Shows and Grooming Competitions

Practice, practice, practice! As a trainer or groomer, you know the skills that still need a little polish. Stay organized with a training schedule, use a stopwatch to prepare for time limits, and keep a log of your progress with practice photos or videos. You can also connect with a mentor or ask grooming colleagues for advice throughout the grooming process.

So, how soon do you need to start preparing your dog’s coat for competition? This detail-oriented grooming work needs to start soon – maybe even earlier than you’d think.

Use a mild, hypoallergenic dog shampoo, which will help nourish and hydrate the coat before competition. Professional grade conditioner should also be added into their bathing routine several months before the show so that you can fine-tune the quantity or switch products to find the formula that works best. A healthy, shiny coat is essential for both dog shows and grooming competitions.

Maintenance brushing and combing is another must-have step in your pet care routine. If you’re unsure of the best techniques and tools for your specific breed, ask a more established groomer for advice. Typically, it’s best to use a wide-toothed comb to prevent matting or tangles, then follow up with a slicker brush to remove loose hair. Finish with a fine-toothed comb while you seal cuticles under an anionic finishing dryer

Testing and Investing in the Best Pet Grooming Equipment

When it comes to competitive grooming equipment, most advice columns focus on scissors or shears and dog grooming clippers, but that’s not all. The quality of your grooming tub, table, and dryer can set you up for success or add extra stress.

We always recommend electric grooming tables and tubs because they give you the flexibility to adjust to your height and create the most comfortable grooming experience for your dog. Show-stopping grooming styles require precise details and technical polish; practicing on the wrong table might prevent you from seeing what you’re missing.

The third major component of your competitive dog grooming setup is a professional pet dryer. Use negative ions to seal cuticles for added shine and fewer flyaway hairs. Our Upgraded Anionic Finishing Dryer with SmartCare is your secret weapon to impress the judges.

Added Benefits at Pet Expos and Dog Grooming Tradeshows

Tradeshows and expos are always worth attending, even if you didn’t enter the competition. Major pet grooming events take place throughout the year, and it’s a great opportunity for owners and groomers to learn, connect, and grow in this unique field.

One of the most well-known pet grooming events is Intergroom, which is held annually in New Jersey. Groomers and show dog owners travel from across the US and around the world to attend seminars, competitions, and networking events.

This is one of the best places to connect with other groomers, learn new grooming techniques, and check out the newest grooming equipment. This year, Shernbao USA is a proud sponsor of the Intergroom Show and Expo!

Other popular events are Groom Expo in Hershey, Pennsylvania; Groom Expo West in Pasadena, California; SuperZoo in Las Vegas, Nevada; and Groom’d, which has been an industry staple in Atlanta, Georgia for over a decade.

Where else can you learn from experts, get inspired by new trends, connect with vendors, and test the latest grooming products before you buy? If your calendar is already filling up with competitions, don’t overlook the value of tradeshows and expos!

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