Creative Dog Grooming: Delightful or Abusive?

On the competitive dog grooming circuit, this is an extreme sport.

by Jennifer Grant

Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

Welcome to the strange and magical world of creative dog grooming, where dogs are more than pets; they are partners in an artistic process that is far too intricate to be considered merely a hobby. These groomers have gone wild for a type of shaping and dying that can take 40 to 50 hours to complete. It involves a consenting agreement between dog and groomer that spans weeks.

Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

In a competition, however, you will have to create these works of art in under 2 intensive hours. Creative grooming contests are held all over the country, but “the big one” is the Groom Expo in Hershey, Pennsylvania held every September.

The smallest pony in the world. Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

It’s not too late to get registered if you think this could be your thing, but be warned that you first must be a member of the National Association of Professional Creative Groomers. The organization was created to ensure safety for dogs and quality in creative grooming, as defined by their professional standards. The most important part of the creative grooming process, in fact, is the happiness of the dog. An unhappy, non-consenting canine is not going to sit still for 2 hours.

Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

The reaction to creative dog grooming can be harsh and swift. Trust me, I was of the same frame of mind before I looked more closely into this whole thing. While we do not recommend that you dye your own dog, the dye used here is vegetable-based, non-toxic; and the adhesives and sprays are specifically designed for dogs.

Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

Not to worry about their emotional well-being either, competitive grooming dogs are selected for their personality in that they enjoy being pet and rubbed for hours at a time. They have a calm temperament and thrive in the spotlight.

Design by Angela Kumpe. Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

These dogs are loved by their owners. When not competing, their life is just like any other dog. Catherine “Cat” Opson of Estrella Pet Grooming told NTDTV, “The dogs like the attention that they get. If they are a shy dog, then they’re not the right dog for this.”

Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

Poodle and Bichon Frise coats are the typical choice as these are coarse and curly, making for more flexibility in design and durability in canvas. However, there are some designs that can be cut and dyed into other dogs, like this Golden Retriever cutie.

Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

Some creative groomers make this their life, inventing ever more elaborate designs and taking these all over the world. These are the groomers that typically win the big prizes, women like Angela Kumpe who has made the cover of five grooming magazines and has been interviewed by celebrities, such as Queen Latifah. When not on the creative grooming circuit, Angela lives in Little Rock, Arkansas and runs her own business, called Angela’s Grooming.

Angela Kumpe at the Intergroom Competition in New Jersey. Photo Credit: The Mirror

This year, American pet owners will spend about $5.4 billion on pet grooming and boarding services. They might not invest in this level of grooming, but just a basic dye job runs about $70. Again, this is not for every dog. You know your dog best. If he or she does not enjoy a bit of strong attention, extreme grooming would be stressful. My dog, on the other had, would have a big grin on his face wishing his paws could contort enough to take a couple of selfies.

Photo Credit: Ren Netherland

One of the pitfalls of competitive, creative dog grooming is the moment the dog jumps off the table and heads outside. Typically, these little fluffers roll around, wrestling in the grass and chasing tails, completely destroying the design. Well, one shouldn’t become attached to their art after all; dogs are always helping us “keep it real.”