Competitive dog grooming techniques and procedures differ from the standard salon groom. A salon groomer offers low-maintenance grooms to ensure pet health, whereas competitive grooming can be extremely meticulous.
Competitive grooming is also known as conformation grooming. It’s all about grooming dogs according to breed standards set by national kennel clubs. These standards define the ideal look of a purebred dog of a specific breed. This type of grooming is quite technical and is a hassle to maintain when not prepping for a show.
We’re going to take you through the staple equipment and tools commonly found in an average competitive dog grooming kit. Here we go!
Tools for All Competitive Groomers
You’re probably familiar with the long locks of an Afghan hound. Their hairs should be brushed thoroughly and often! It should lay flat and silkily on the side of the body. Meanwhile, you have dogs like the Alaskan Malamute whose coat should stand up away from the skin and body. For the purposes of the show, the hairs should look thick and dense. Don’t brush along the gain if you want a voluminous coat!
These examples illustrate that every dog has different grooming needs. Thus, every groomer has different tools to meet those needs! No groomer has the same exact kit—especially when it comes to items that are their keys to success! That being said, you can generally expect to see these items:
- Nail clippers
- Hair clippers
- Grooming scissors
- Mat breakers
- Slicker brushes
- Undercoat rakes
- Fine-toothed comb
- Curry comb
- Greyhound comb
- Rubbing oil
- Lubricant oils for scissors
There are also some large pieces of equipment you can expect all competitive groomers to have. After all, they need to transport their dogs and keeping them comfortable before they debut in the conformation ring! This is a non-exhaustive list of items:
- Kennels and cages: They can accommodate multiple dogs if a groomer is preparing two dogs. These kennels are durable and heavy-duty. They lock securely and come in a variety of sizes to accommodate even the largest dogs.
- Portable folding grooming table – in case you need to do a last-minute touch-up! You want the best set-up you can possible get so you can see and fix any issues in the best conditions.
But it’s not just the tools that warrant mentioning. Human products like shampoo and toothpaste shouldn’t be used on canines. Human skin and digestive systems differ from those of dogs, so human products could lead to some serious health complications. Here are other useful products competitive groomers always have in their kit:
- Shampoos: A variety of shampoos exist for each dog’s specific needs. Sensitive shampoos, clarifying shampoos, and hair brightening shampoos exist. Choose one that meets the heath and breed standard needs of your dog.
- Dry Shampoo: Use it to clean off any new areas of concern. It’s not as thorough as regular shampooing, but this method is much quicker. You apply dry shampoo without any water and then towel it off.
- Leave–in coat conditioner or coat finisher spray: If a shiny coat is part of the standard, you want to maximize the look. Just be sure that you don’t overload it!
- Toothbrush & toothpaste: Keeping their teeth pearly white and their breath smelling fresh is necessary. A variety of tartar-fighting, enzymatic, or all-natural flavored toothpastes exist on the market. Before you can make a dog look its best, you should make sure to check in on its dental hygiene.
Day-of grooming tricks!
The majority of the groom should already be complete before the day of the show. But there’s always going to be last-minute touchups—no matter how much you prepare! Here’s what’s worked for some of the world’s leading groomers…
To help brush out mats and tangles, you may want to spot-treat your dog’s coat with a detangling spray. It softens the hair to loosen the knots and make them easier to work with. After this, consider using a snood to keep the hairs in place and non-staticky. This is an effective way to keep long-eared dogs’ ears clean as well!
Just before the show, tame any unruliness and smooth it all down. Using a fine-tooth brush, ensure all the undercoat that has shed has come out. Then go in with a light spritz of water. The water should sit atop the conditioned coat and add shine.
You wouldn’t want all your hard work to become undone just minutes before the show! Snoods are actually created for human use, but they’ve become quite popular with conformation groomers. Effective at keep hair in place and low-hanging dog ears from debris, snoods are a polished groomer’s best friend.
For a whitening boost, beforehand, competitive groomers may use special shampoos that brighten up white fur. For a spot-treatment, cornstarch can brighten up the hue on white-haired dogs in a cinch! But take warning: it should be thoroughly brushed through. There’s nothing worse than having a cornstarch cloud floating around a moving dog. Cornstarch actually is a miracle product for groomers! It helps loosen mats, treat cuts, deodorizes bodies, and dries up the wet hair around the mouth!
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