By Kathy Hosler
Groomers, You may begin. If you have ever watched or participated in a grooming contest, you know that these words signal the start of a competition. And, when time is up, it’s Scissors down. The judges then make their decisions and the groomers learn if all their hard work has paid off.
Competing is not always easy. There are many challenges. Groomers put a lot of effort into finding a dog (or dogs) to compete with. And their coats must be maintained until the competition. They put in long hours preparing the dogs and themselves. In addition, they often have significant travel and other expenses.
Difficult or not, today’s groomers are up to the challenge. More of them than ever before are stepping into the contest ring. Whether it is in the Breed ring or a Creative Styling contest, grooming competitions are so popular that often when registration for a contest opens, every entry is filled within minutes.
Why? Everyone has their own reasons. But one of the biggest draws is that competitions bring together stylists who want to perfect their skills and continue to learn.
We talked to Bryanna Fretz, an up–and–coming competitor who was recently named the 2019 Rising Star at Intergroom, and asked her to share her thoughts about grooming competitions and why they are so popular.
“I entered my first contest when I was fresh out of grooming school,” recalls Bryanna, from Ontario, Canada. “That first experience made me realize I had a lot more to learn.
“It was several years before I stepped back into the ring. I didn’t place in that contest either, but I received a lot of good feedback and encouragement. Now, I can’t imagine not competing.”
Lindsey Dicken, one of the premier groomers in the world, has been competing for about 13 years. She has traveled all over the United States and to multiple countries, has been a multi–year member of GroomTeam USA, and has won countless trophies, awards and titles.
“When I went into my first competition,” says Lindsey, “I was completely overwhelmed. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I competed with a little Welsh Terrier—and I placed. I thought, ‘This is amazing. Oh my gosh, now I have to go to more of these.’ And, the rest is history.
“When you compete, you never stop learning,” says Lindsey. “I find myself picking things up from watching the other competitors and getting critiques from the judges. It’s a never–ending process of bettering myself.”
Everyone’s first time in the competition ring is always the most difficult. But as you gain experience, it becomes easier. You will begin to make friends with the other competitors and perhaps even be mentored by them.
“You become a grooming family,” Lindsey says. “I’ve made some of the best friends while competing. You see the same people and you form good friendships. It’s a way to be around like–minded people and they don’t think that you’re crazy when you talk about dogs and grooming all day long.”
“Fellow groomers are a support system,” says Bryanna. “They help boost your confidence. Even though we are competitors, we still support each other.”
Can competing help you in your salon every day? Absolutely. It forces you to complete a groom within a certain time frame, which helps your efficiency and timing. Before and after photos of each entry are taken. That really helps you see what you did (good and bad) during the contest. And, you will have the photos to help you for future grooms.
“You learn to develop a system,” shares Lindsey. “I fell into the trap that most groomers do when starting to compete. I fixated on one area. I’d be grooming a leg and be focused on it and try to get it perfect and waste all my time on one spot.
“You learn that you have to keep moving. Then you go back and tweak the groom. It’s definitely time management. You can have one beautiful back leg, but if the rest is not done, you are out of luck.
“At the end, even if you don’t place, the most valuable thing you get is the judge’s critique. The judges put so much effort into helping each person. Then it’s up to you to apply their suggestions. Every time I go to a show, I feel inspired to do better.”
“Yes,” adds Bryanna. “It’s incredibly important to be open and take the criticism and feedback from the judges. Then, use it to push yourself forward while maintaining your own style.
“Competing has helped me become a much better groomer. Before I had low self esteem and little confidence in my grooming abilities. I knew I could make a client’s pet look cute, but when it comes to breed profile, it’s either right or it’s not.”
In the competition world, every participant has things that they look forward to, and some that they would prefer not to experience.
“The thing I like the best about competing is challenging myself,” Lindsey says. “I think most groomers who do it are competitive by nature. It’s nice to get out there and compare your skills to your peers.
“My least favorite part is getting up early to do the bath and prep work on my dogs,” says Lindsey with chuckle. “It sure makes for long days.”
“For me,” says Bryanna, “the worst thing is the week before the competition. I feel anxious, nervous and can’t sleep. I worry that I have not prepared enough, and stress over if I will remember to bring everything. My stomach is in knots until the moment the competition starts. Once it begins, I’m okay.”
Participants are finding that competing can really take their business to a new level. “Grooming isn’t just a nine–to–five job for me,” says Bryanna. “It’s my passion. Competing has helped with my skills and on a personal level with my clients. They see I am putting my time and energy into furthering my skills. They love all my trophies and awards.”
It’s true. The public is more exposed to competitions now. With Facebook and other social networks, people are seeing photos of groomers competing. Now, the entire world can watch most competitions live on GroomerTV.
If you are thinking about entering a grooming competition, Bryanna shares this advice: “No matter what, it’s so important to challenge and push yourself a little past (okay, a lot past) your comfort zone. Whether you place or not, knowing that you’ve done your best and you have treated the dog with care and compassion, at the end of the day, that’s a win!” Scissors down. ✂️
To find a grooming competition near you, visit barkeigh.com/calendar