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About Competitive Dog Grooming

Talented professional dog groomers from throughout the world have been participating in competitive dog grooming events for over 30 years. Major competitions such as Intergroom in New Jersey draw large and appreciative crowds. These events showcase the skill, artistry and professionalism of dedicated groomers who have invested countless hours in honing their skills at this challenging endeavor. The techniques and practices that result from or are refined by these competitions are often adopted by the grooming profession at large, so they end up enhancing the lives of family pets everywhere. Despite the popularity and importance of competitive grooming, many pet lovers know very little about it. So, we are providing this FAQ on one of our favorite activities.

What is competitive dog grooming?
As its name implies, competitive grooming is a competition that evaluates the grooming done on individual dogs by dedicated grooming professionals. Just as at an AKC sanctioned dog show, competitive grooming contests involve dogs and people (a groomer, instead of a “handler”) and they are scored by sanctioned judges. The judging system is very similar to that used at an AKC sanctioned dog show.

Who are the judges?
The judges themselves are grooming professionals. These individuals undergo continuous education and follow standardized judging procedures that cover issues like time frames for judging and codes of conduct. In 1998, the International Judges Association was formally established by Vivian and John Nash, its goal being to standardize and promote fair and equitable placement of contestants agreed upon and accepted by a panel of judges in professional dog grooming competitions.

Do the competing groomers bring their own dogs to these events?
Yes, groomers bring their own dogs. They also furnish their own grooming equipment.

What breeds of dog do groomers bring?
Groomers work with all kinds of dogs. In order to be involved in a competitive grooming event a dog must be diseased free and must be at least one year old. The dog must also show no signs of aggression. All dogs must comply with local city, state or county regulations, and all must be on a safety loop when not crated.  

What exactly do groomers do at these events? Do they groom the entire dog?
Yes, that’s pretty much so. A dog has to come to the show washed, dried and free of mats (unless he’s a corded coated breed). The dog should also have his toenails clipped, and the hair around the toes and his underbody hair, as well as the hair around his toes should be clipped.  The goal is that the dog comes to the show ready to be groomed.

Do the groomers all work on their dogs at the same time?
Yes. Much like at AKC Dog shows, when all of the dogs of a breed are in the rink at the same time. Groomers all begin grooming at the same time, and all must stop when the judge ends the competition.  The only thing a groomer can do after that is comb hair ends. Groomers have to remove all hair, equipment and products from the grooming table.

What grooming techniques are allowed during the competition?
All recognized techniques, such as clipping, thinning, hand-stripping, carding, plucking scissoring and vacuum grooming systems. Singing the coat is not allowed; in fact flame devices are banned from competitions. Groomers also aren’t allowed to put decorative objects such as beads and bows on a dog.  The purpose is to groom the coat in a way that highlights the natural beauty of the dog.

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