Cause to Compete
Contests can make for more-confident groomers.
BY LIZETT BOND
Whether they win or lose, groomers who participate in grooming con- tests strengthen their skills and the
grooming industry overall.
Grooming competitions provide the
opportunity for groomers to step outside
of their comfort zone, said Christina Pawlosky, a national certified master groomer
(NCMG), owner of The Pet Connection in
Warren, Ohio, and partner at The Grooming Professors. Pawlosky is also an award-winning groomer and contest judge.
However, the road to the ring isn’t always so easy.
“It takes courage to build up the nerve
to walk into that ring,” said Lisa Leady,
NCMG, owner of Primp My Pooch Mobile
and Salon Grooming in Genoa, Ill., and a
competition judge and an award-winning
groomer. “Competing builds confidence.”
Taking those first tentative steps will
also open the door to invaluable educational tools, according to Pawlosky.
“Not only do contestants learn from
the judging critiques, but they are seeing
the work of other groomers from across
the country and sometimes from around
the world,” she said.
Constructive assessments and observing other groomers’ work during competitions ultimately leads to higher standards
within the grooming industry overall,
Beyond grooming, showing and breeding dogs, Michelle Breen, owner of Best In
Show Grooming in Cincinnati, has been
competing in grooming competitions
“I try to hit 10 to 12 contests a year,” she
said. “There seems to be constant growth
within the category, and new contests are
popping up every year.”
Breen noted that the knowledge and
expertise gained from that participation is
invaluable for her business.
“The bragging rights are always there,
but it’s also a great learning experience,”
she said. “The judges are some of the best
in the world, and you get a lot of really
good, specific critiques.”
Information sharing and camaraderie
with other competitors also helps.
“Competing is so much more than just
placements and prizes,” Leady said. “
Being in the top three is nice, but everyone
walks away a winner.”
Grooming contests have evolved over the
years, with competitors better prepared
before stepping into the ring, Leady said.
“In my opinion, the tools out there to-
day help stylists improve their craft,” she
said. “The grooming is stronger inside the
With groomers more prepared and
armed with better tools, the competitive
atmosphere has heightened, Pawlosky
said, also noting that competitions have
led to a higher skill level within the groom-
Contests have become more mainstream, as well, according to Breen.
“It’s a little more formalized, but we
are also receiving more recognition, mon-
ey and prestige," she said. "It’s great for the
However, reaching the top of the
grooming contest game requires prepara-
tion. This groundwork includes obtaining
the right dogs for competition—a corner-
stone to a winning outcome.
“I think the most difficult component
to open-level competition is lining up dogs
to borrow for the contests,” Breen said. “It
is important to be in contact with other
competitors, breeders or dog show handlers when searching for the perfect dog.”
With competitions scheduled close together, the right canine with optimal coat
growth and other competitive attributes
becomes even more important, Breen
An ongoing commitment to caring for
and maintaining an animal’s coat is cru-
cial, Pawlosky said.
“A lot of these dogs have to be bathed
and brushed out every single week,” she
said. “If that is neglected and they get tan-
gled up, for instance, you’ll actually lose
hair, and then the dog is not in optimal
condition. So, it is a weekly commitment
until you go to the show.”
Nutrition also plays a role in keeping a
“If a dog ends up with a sore spot, resulting in the need to go to the vet to have
an area shaved, that can keep them out of
the competition for six or eight months until it grows back,” Breen said.
Being well trained and socialized are
essential attributes, and a dog accustomed
to the commotion of a show environment
along with standing on a grooming table
for several hours at a time will enhance the
competitive experience, Breen said.
“Dog show environments and that of
grooming competitions are similar,” Breen
added. “So, if you are borrowing show
dogs, a lot of these qualities are built in.”
“You train your eye,” she said. “Every
groom is different—it’s important to be
flexible and adaptive.”
Good sportsmanship and a willingness
to help fellow competitors are common at-
tributes top competitors have, she added.
“Being a winner doesn’t always come
with a ribbon, no matter the competition,” Leady said. “Winning comes from
Dedication and passion form the foundation of every triumph, but these characteristics are not confined to the day of the
event, according to Breen.
“We basically eat, sleep and breathe
dog hair,” she said. “If not actively competing, we are looking at pictures and analyzing other people’s work.”