Judy Breton - Groomer to Groomer

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Judy Breton

Her love for the grooming industry is endless and, judging from her resume, so is her drive to improve the lives of groomers everywhere.

Judy Breton has had an impressive career in the grooming industry that spans six decades! She has dabbled in everything from grooming in a family-run boarding kennel to becoming an international speaker and judge. She has worked in product development for a major manufacturer and, for many years, Judy was the show promoter of two of the largest grooming events in the country. 

Her love for the grooming industry is endless and, judging from her resume, so is her drive to improve the lives of groomers everywhere. I got to catch up with my friend Judy and ask her all about her impressive and expansive career. 

Jonathan: Hi Judy, I’m so excited to speak with you today! You’ve devoted your life to this industry and you’ve done so much in your career, so let’s talk about how it all began. You come from a family of dog lovers and your family has roots in the dog world, tell me about that and how you got into pet grooming. 

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Judy: My Dad bred and trained black Labradors for hunting. When he retired, Dad and Mom bought a commercial training and boarding facility in Danville, CA. I was looking into going to beautician school and my parents suggested dog grooming school so I could help expand and support the business. After graduation, I worked for a salon in Milpitas, CA and thought I was a great groomer. Then, in the late 70’s, I went to my first grooming competition show in San Francisco. There I observed some great grooms and realized that, in actuality, I sucked as a groomer! From then on, I have worked every day to improve my grooming and to help educate other groomers.  

Jonathan: Aside from being a groomer, you worked for many years in product development for Tomlyn Pet Products, and you also worked with Petco and PetSmart—pretty impressive! Tell me about those experiences and what they entailed.

Judy: Working at a kennel you get a lot of bath dogs. We used Tomlyn products at Breton’s and I liked their product line, and I got to know the president and the staff in sales. I would help out at the shows when they needed a break because I talked “groomer language” and knew the line, and I loved sharing information with other groomers at shows. 

One day, I got to talk with the head chemist, Dr. Ben Weinstein, and he told me about a new line of shampoo they were developing. Jo Breton, my sister-in-law and grooming partner, had a chemistry background from UC Berkeley. She would do the tech stuff and I would do the feel-good stuff like writing evaluations to send back to the lab. I also worked as key account manager for Tomlyn and got to develop fragrances for seasonal promotions. I learned so much about the in’s and out’s of manufacturing and sales. 

Working with the services sections of PetSmart and Petco, I was very lucky to be able to travel around the country doing educational training for most of their regions and, as a result, I have met some great groomers that are now close friends.

Jonathan: You’ve also been a grooming contest judge and educator both here at home and abroad. Where around the globe has grooming taken you and what was your mission in education?

Judy: Let’s see… Germany, England, China, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Canada, Mexico and Belgium. I have also been to all the major shows in the U.S., speaking and judging.

What is my mission in education? To help groomers around the world share ideas and not be isolated from the new and changing world of grooming, and to share my decades of experience. I am now a Pet CPR and First Aid PetTech instructor as well.     

Jonathan: Well, clearly people know you all over the world, but one of your most visible roles in the industry was working for WPA as the Director of Grooming and Special Services, bringing us the amazing shows, Superzoo and the Atlanta Pet Fair. Tell me about those years and some of your accomplishments during your tenure. 

Judy: Back in the 80’s when I was in charge of grooming for BAPI (the Bay Area Pet Industries), we put on the grooming seminars and contests for WWPSA as a volunteer/club member. Some thought that groomers weren’t part of the pet industry. So, when I got hired, I was so excited to get paid for what I had done for free years ago. 

When I started with WPA, we were working with Jerry Schinberg of the All American Grooming Show, Pam Lauirtzen of US Pet Pro Classic and Ann Stafford of the Atlanta Pet Fair to standardize the shows. All the rules for the contests were set up the same and we all talked about many other changes. Then Barkleigh bought All American from Jerry and WPA bought Atlanta Pet Fair from Ann. When rule-time review came around, we continued to share ideas. We all wanted the contest rules to be consistent for the competitors and judges. 

What I am most proud of is working to bring the world’s groomers to SuperZoo and making that a world-class grooming show. I think the $10,000 Jackpot prize money might have helped a little with the success. We had winners from all over the world, and I also got to hire judges and speakers from around the world to help make it a true international show. 

Jonathan: With all your experience and accomplishments, you’ve been the nominee and recipient of countless awards. Tell me about some of those awards and tell me which one you are most proud of.

Judy: My first accomplishments were the PPGC Certified Master Groomer achievement and ABKA Certified Kennel Operator. More recently, receiving the WPA 2020 Hall of Fame Award was an honor, but the Shirlee Kalstone Global Achievement Award presented by GroomTeam USA is the one I am most proud of. When I started grooming, Shirlee Kalstone was the biggest icon in the industry; the person I admired and wanted to follow. To receive this award was the highlight of my career.

Jonathan: Well your love for this industry is obvious. You’ve served on the GroomTeam USA advisory board for many years as well as being the current show rep. You’re also the VP of the California Professional Pet Groomers Association and you’ve worked with PIJAC to fight for the best interests of pet groomers when it comes to legislation. Tell me about what you do in regards to legislation and why this is so important for our industry. 

Judy: Every morning when I go to my computer, I review the “PIJAC First Look” industry briefs to see what is going on in the world that will affect the grooming industry. I also watch the NAIA weekly briefs. Items come up that can affect our industry and could cripple grooming if not monitored by groomers. We need to watch what the government wants to put in place. I am not against government regulation, but I think we can do a better job of monitoring our industry ourselves. Sometimes a city or town can get a ruling started that can then be moved on to county, then state. We have to watch that the wrong wording doesn’t get started in the first place. 

I also support the Facebook group “National Alliance of Grooming Associations.” Because the laws will come at us from the local and state level, we all need to watch what is happening and know that your voice does matter. How many groomers know who their state Assemblyman or Senator is? Getting to know them now will help when you need their support.

Jonathan: That’s very important work. But when you’re not being a superwoman in the grooming industry, you’re a superwoman at home with a husband, four children, thirteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren—wow! But there’s also another important family member that will live on forever in your heart, your beloved dog Rusty. Tell me about Rusty and why he’s your heart dog. 

Judy: My youngest son was born in 1970 and his name was Roger, and we got a Golden Retriever puppy about the same time and his name was Rusty. Rusty was a great dog. He loved the kids and was a great companion. As my son started getting older, and I would have to tell him, “ROGER, NO!” the dog, being named Rusty, would start to cower as he didn’t know the difference in the names. So we ended up calling my son “Scooter” as a nickname. And to this day, friends from our past still call him Scooter, although he prefers Roger now that he’s a grandfather himself! ✂️

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