By Kelley Rose McNeilly
Pet grooming is a unique career, and because of that, we have the opportunity to gain knowledge from many places. One of the most important being Conformation shows.
Conformation shows, or Dog shows, were created to evaluate the breeding stock for each breed recognized by a kennel club. The dogs that placed at shows and finished their Championship would be the ones bred to create the next generation. The dogs are judged not only on structure, but movement, coat type and, to a lesser extent, groom.
All of the requirements a dog must meet to make it close to the ideal specimen of its breed are listed in the Breed standard, which is created by its parent club. The parent club and breed standard also provide information on how the breed should be groomed.
By attending dog shows you can keep abreast of the most current styles each breed is sporting. These trims are what each of your pet grooms should be based off of.
Attending a Conformation show and watching each breed, as it should be seen, will educate you as to what different breeds leaving your salon should resemble.
A step further is learning to correctly do show grooming on different breeds.
Whenever grooming show dogs is brought up near a group of pet groomers, it’s often stated “But I don’t groom show dogs. I groom pets.” That’s probably true, but the very standard of how they should look is found on show dogs. We all understand that many pets do not exhibit the quality of well–bred show dogs, but there is no reason we can’t strive to make them look as close as possible to the breed standard.
There are more benefits to learning breed standard grooming than just the patterns. Many techniques can be crossed over to enhance your pet grooms and add flare.
Anne Francis, an award winning groomer, who shows her Kerry Blue Terrier and American Cocker Spaniel says, “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to think [about] when a dog is going to move. I can cut out hair, that if a dog [were] walking, [would make] the legs look funny (poodle armpits for example.) Competition and showing dogs have helped my pet grooming tremendously.”
Rebecca Stahl NCMG, who shows Welsh Terriers and grooms some of the top Spinone Italianos, adds “Just by being at the shows you learn what breeds are supposed to look like and [that] can translate into a shorter, more manageable, but still correct pet clip.” One technique she recommends for pet grooming is Handstripping. “All wire coats can benefit from some form of carding or stripping to make their coats healthier.”
Karen Tucker, past GroomTeam member, has been breeding and showing Miniature Poodles for 27 years. She tells us “I try to balance my pet trims and correct as many flaws as I can, just as I would on a show dog.” And one technique she thinks works well in pet grooming is this: “Using a comb with thinning shears on the flat [work], like you would on a sporting dog.”
Heather Roozee says, “Show grooming absolutely has improved my pet grooming! Knowing structure and profile basics makes it easy to put a small touch on a pet that will make your groom stand out from the rest.”
The benefit of being able to add special touches to your grooms is simply invaluable when there are so many groomers for your clients to choose from.
Learning the grooming techniques used on different breeds can change cookie cutter styles on mutts to something exciting and different for your clients.
“I think it’s the fact that every dog I do is in a modified breed trim of some sort. I have straight up mutts that are handstripped into Australian Terrier patterns, Doodles in Bedlington trims, and the list goes on. When I [did] Asian fusion bevels I was able to do them easily because I knew how to do American Cocker bevels.” —Blake Hernandez
What about breeds that don’t have sculpted trims, but rather look more natural? Stefanie Thellman says, “I’m definitely better at scissoring pads, ears and tails since getting into [Australian Shepherds]. It’s a different mentality to do minimal grooming and try to leave as much hair as possible.”
Many breeds that appear ungroomed in the show ring actually have a lot of grooming time put into them. But the techniques used to make it look natural are very different from those used on a sculpted dog, like a Bichon Frise. Learning these techniques can help make simple trim-ups sparkle.
By integrating show grooming into your pet grooms you can improve the look and style of your trims. You will also have something unique to offer your clientele with the knowledge that you gain by learning as many techniques as you can. ✂