5 Tips for Grooming Contest Newbies
For generations, professional groomers have joined the ranks of competitive dog rooming. While entering this field might seem intimidating at first, it only takes ome preparation and planning to set yourself up for success. With hard work and
determination, competitions can help you advance your career and have a little fun along
the way. Take your skills beyond your grooming table and into the competition ring with
1. Discover the Talent
Before you get started, you’ll need to identify a dog to groom. While the dog should have
a healthy coat and meet breed standards, it’s important to find a well-behaved dog that
can travel. Choose a dog that’s known to stay calm and comfortable in a public setting
surrounded by people, other dogs and the sounds of grooming tools. Any dog you have
trained, groomed or have a good bond with is recommended, but your own pet will likely
be the best choice for your first competition. When working with a client or breeder’s dog,
I suggest drafting a contract to outline expectations for both parties. For example, agree
to keep dogs on a regular grooming schedule to avoid an impromptu trim. It’s important
to establish a set of rules from the start.
2. Select a Grooming Show
Once you’ve selected your show dog, it’s time to choose
a competition, which requires some homework, as you
should always research and learn about the competition
you’re entering. In addition to considering the date and location of a show, it’s important
to select a competition that caters to your expertise. There’s a wide range, from breed-spe-cific competitions to creative grooms and even competitions for adoptable rescue dogs.
Visit each trade show or competition’s website to familiarize yourself with the rules and
entry deadlines. Once you find the perfect competition, don’t hesitate to register. Most
will fill up early, so secure your place as soon as you’re ready to commit.
3. Make a List and Check It Twice
Create a checklist to keep you ready for anything in your travels. Remember, you don’t
need to pack up your whole shop. If, for example, you know you’ll be grooming a poodle, there is no need to bring your hand-stripping tools along for the trip. Just travel with
your go-to necessities. I recommend packing cordless tools so you’re not limited by the
placement of your booth or grooming table. Any advance prep, like grinding nails or
cleaning up sanitary areas, should be completed before you leave.
Wondering what else to pack? I always keep these handy: grooming loops, towels,
styling tools and a grooming smock. In addition to the basics, I travel
with a pet first-aid kit, including any medications, a spare collar and
leash for each dog, and a few generic tags engraved with my name
and mobile number, just in case.
4. Don’t Skip the Competition Meeting
Arriving early will benefit both you and the dog. When traveling
with a show dog, it’s always important to give it enough time to relax so the dog isn’t agitated in its new surroundings. Plan to arrive
the day before the show so you can attend the competition meeting
and scope out the contest area. This meeting, typically scheduled the
night before the competition, is an opportunity for the show coordinator or judges to run through the big day’s agenda and ensure all
competitors understand the rules and expected procedures. This is
the time to familiarize yourself with event expectations and ask any
questions. For example, you might get to sign up early for a time slot
in one of the likely limited tubs, dryers and setups onsite. By avoiding
setbacks, you can prep and bathe your dog with ample time so you
and your dog can arrive rested and ready for show time.
5. Lights, Clippers, Action: Time to Make It Happen!
Once onsite, head to your table assignment and set up your tools.
Most competitions will require a “before” picture taken by the show
photographer, so you’ll want to start preparing your dog’s coat as
soon as you arrive. If you get nervous, remember: You’re a pro! Most
first-time competitors find that, once they get into the groove, it feels
like being back at the shop. About an hour into the show, there might
be a mandatory break time for the dogs to relax, stretch and have a
drink, which is a great time for you to see how your groom is taking
shape and identify any areas that still need some work.
You can also align yourself with the competition’s time checks so
you can budget a few minutes at the end to review your groom, check
your clipper lines for clean work, add any final sprays or finishes, and
take a step back to ensure the profile looks good. When time is called,
clear your table of all tools except the comb you used for grooming,
as the judges will use that to comb through your dog’s coat. Remove
all hair from the table, then stack and present your dog so you’re
ready for your turn.
While each competitor hopes to get a placement, remember that—
win or lose—every grooming competition is a learning opportunity.
Let this experience help you set new goals, push you to learn more
and, most of all, have fun! •
Nicole Kallish is the global education manager at Andis Co. (booth 409) and
a certified master groomer and board member for the Creative Groomers Association. She received her education from The Academy of Dog Grooming
Arts in Arlington Heights, Ill. She is also a current competition judge and
has been a Groom Team USA liaison since 2015.