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Beginner's Guide to Dog Grooming Competitions: How to Get Started

Updated: Jan 19

Competing is the perfect place to learn, meet new grooming friends, gain confidence and showcase your grooming skills and creativity as a groomer. Its helps you hone in on breeds that you would like to learn on but also tweak the ones that you are skilful with, all with the added bonus of a critique from a grooming judge. You will receive constructive advice and ideas from your judge and bond with like minded groomers. However, preparing for a competition can be overwhelming, especially if it's your first time. In this blog, Groomer Nation will guide you and discuss the steps you need to take to get ready for a dog grooming competition.

Grooming Competition 101: A Beginner's Guide on How to Start"

Preparing for a dog grooming competition is an exciting experience. With so many aspects to consider, it's important to start with the basics. The first step is to choose a grooming competition, become familiar with the classes and levels of each competition and find a suitable location and a class you are comfortable to enter.

Networking is also key when it comes to competing. Contact Groomer Nation for guidance or fellow groomers who have competed before and ask for their advice, or you might find another groomer who can be a competition travel buddy.

If you are looking for some inspiration on beautiful breeds, try to view websites of registered breeders. These websites often have information on different breeds, including great pictures which you might find helpful and inspiring.

Education is an essential component of any career, and grooming competitions are no different. Improve your Dog Grooming skill and attend seminars and workshops, watch Groomer Nation's show and competition grooming tutorials available to you as a Evolving Pet Groomer Member, and check out your local conformation dog shows.

Selecting the Appropriate Dog and Finding the Right Class for Dog Grooming Competitions.

When it comes to entering a dog grooming competition, selecting the right breed and temperament is crucial. You should choose a breed that you are interested in learning more about or one that you already feel comfortable grooming. While it is not necessary for the dog to be a show dog, selecting a dog with good conformation, coat and temperament can make your job easier on the day of the competition.

It is important to consider the dog's age, anxiety levels, and ability to travel and handle busy environments, table behaviour, dietary requirements, and disposition towards strangers when selecting a dog for competition. Additionally, you should choose a dog with a manageable coat that you can groom leading up to the competition, avoiding dogs that are too large or nervous.

Dogs with skin conditions or parasites should be avoided, as they can lead to poor coat quality and holes in the coat from scratching prior to the competition.

When choosing a competition class, pick one that you feel ready for, you can choose classes like purebred classes or consider fun classes such as Creative, Asian Influence or Salon freestyle.

It is always a good idea to have a backup plan in case of emergencies, such as selecting another suitable dog that may be available. Prior to the competition, take photos of the dog you will be using and analyse its anatomy and body type to determine the best grooming and trimming approach. By considering these factors, you can bring out the best in your chosen dog and increase your chances of success in the competition. A great tip is to take a photo and either print it out or use a drawing app and draw on the picture where you would like to take coat or grow more coat so you can start to visualise your finished groom.

Choosing the right breed and temperament is important when entering a grooming competition. Choose a breed you would like to learn more about, or are already comfortable grooming. The dog you choose does not have to be a show dog, although it can help, but if a show dog is not available choosing one of your client’s dogs or your own dog is ideal. If you are unable to use a suitable dog of your own or your clients, you can reach out to groomers or local breeders to see if a dog is available to hire for a competition.

Essential Steps to Prepare Your Client for Dog Borrowing

When borrowing a dog from a client for a competition, it's crucial to communicate clearly and thoroughly with the client about what will be required of them and their pet. Emphasise the significance of the competition and explain how it works. Make sure they understand that their dog will be away for at least a full day, possibly overnight and the travel details.

Express your gratitude by giving a gift such as a beautiful collar and a photo of their pet looking great after the competition. Obtain the client's contact numbers and ask about their dog's regular diet to avoid any upset stomachs. Additionally, bringing a bottle of tap water from the client's home to avoid upsetting the dog's stomach with different water can be a help.

Preparing for Success: Tips for Pre-Planning and Preparation for Dog Grooming Competitions

In order to have a successful grooming competition, it is crucial to begin planning well in advance and familiarise yourself with the competition rules, each grooming competition can vary with its rules and classes. Consistent grooming of the dog for several months leading up to the event is necessary if you are using a clients dog to avoid developing knots between salon visits, which could cause missing coat before the competition. Offering free bathing services leading up to the competition can ensure your competition dog coat will be in perfect condition for the day. It is also important to have appropriate products for both the lead-up and competition day. Understand your dogs coat type and what products will be best suited for that breed.

To comply with the competition rules, it is essential to check the growth time that is required for each class and ensure your dogs coat has enough growth. Most competitions require a minimum of 6 or 8 weeks growth for most classes. If you are planning to hand strip check the rules for your event as the time could vary for a rolled coat.

Ensure all equipment, including blades and scissors, are sharpened and prepared in advance. And when planning for travel, it is important to consider whether to fly or drive and ensure the necessary travel crates are available if flying. It is also recommended to reach out to local groomers who may offer to rent out their salon for your preparation work or you will need to bring the necessary equipment for bathing and drying if facilities are available at the destination or accommodation.

You’re Grooming Competition Checklist

Here is a quick check list to get you started.

Personal Checklist:

  • Pillows and bedding (if needed for overnight) | - Toiletries | - Berocca

  • General clothes | - Deodorant | - Panadol

  • Underwear | - Hygiene products | - Band-Aids

  • Socks | - Makeup | - Medications

  • Comfortable shoes | - Hair brush | Hair ties

  • Raincoat | - Hairdryer/hair straighteners

  • Grooming clothes for comp day | Grooming wear for preparation grooming |

  • Snacks, water and lollies |

Competition List:

  • Pet carriers/cages or show crate| - Extension lead (tagged) | -Stripping knives

  • Dog crate or trolley | Grooming suitcase or bag-|- Slicker brush/ brushes

  • Combs | - Scissors/thinning shears/chunkers/ scissor bag |- Clippers, five in one clippers and chargers

  • Blades/ blade oil |- Paper towel/baby wipes | - Attachment combs |- Groomer DK Stripping Knives |- Grooming products/chalk/hairspray/scissor spray

  • Grooming table/ grooming arm/ grooming noose |- Water bowl, and water

  • Grooming revision notes for your dog |- table cover for presentation

  • Shampoo and products associated for prep work |- Force dryer/heat dryer

  • Chamois & towel |- Nail clippers or grinder | Poo bags |- Collars and leads

  • Dog Bedding or blanket for downtime |- Information and paperwork for the competition

  • Spare towels | - Small Hand broom and brush for cleaning up when your finished competing|- Snacks and lunch for you and the dog |

  • Change for vending machines | - Presentation jacket for yourself if you choose| Headache tabs | Clippers x 2 and chargers | - Finishing products like Hairspray |

  • Reading glasses | - Blade oil or spray | - Anti-static spray |

  • Head lamp or light (if grooming a black dog)

Download the Groomer Nation Grooming Competition Checklist.

GN Grooming Comp Checklist
Download PDF • 80KB

Last-Minute Preparations: Tips for the Day Before Dog Grooming Competitions

If you are travelling by car, make sure your car is ready and packed the night before. So there are no issues when you travel, check tires, water, and fuel. Make sure to have all your directions and navigation ready too. If you are catching a planes check your flight time, taxis, uber or car hire and if you are flying with your dog make sure you know drop off time and the address. If you are flying with your dog there is set times for drop off and can be off site from the domestic check-in, this is important that you know all the details. Go over your check list of all your equipment and remember to eat and sleep well leading up to the day. And stay hydrated! It keeps the body and mind fresh.

Nailing the Big Day: Tips for Success on the Day of Dog Grooming Competitions

Competition days typically commence very early in the morning, necessitating preparation of your competition dog. To ensure a productive day, make sure you get a good night's sleep and eat a nutritious breakfast. Bring water, high-protein snacks, and perhaps some lollies for a quick energy boost. Be sure to have all of your dog's necessities on hand, such as a water bowl, water, leash, waste bags, treats, wet wipes, and a comfortable blanket or bedding for when there is downtime. Also, ensure that you have all the equipment on your checklist.

Allocate sufficient time in the morning to prepare your dog for bathing, drying and fluff drying, and make sure your pet is immaculately clean. Before the competition, comb and brush out all tangles and knots, clean ears, and trim nails. Proper coat preparation is important for your finish to be perfect. It is the foundation of your grooming and is often dismissed as “just bathing the dog” Be sure to be thorough with your prep work the judges have this high on the list for your overall critique.

Consult the competition rules to see what is permissible to trim before competition day. If the competition permits pre-clipping, on points of the dog like hygiene, pads etc it will save you time in the ring. However, if the competition does not allow any clipping work prior to start of your class, avoid any trimming your dog.

Creating a Winning Impression when presenting your dog at the end of the comp, by choosing clothing that accentuates your dog's features can help. Avoid wearing clothing that blends in with your dog's coat colour, this helps to ensure the judge can see the outline of your dog when it is finished and stacked. A clean grooming table and a comb ready for the judge is also a must before the competition and at judging time and don’t forget you can use a table cloth for final presentation of your dog. Don't forget to ask the judge for feedback even if you don't place to improve your skills for the next competition.

Maximising Your Time: Effective Time Management for Dog Grooming Competitions

Make sure to allocate ample time for travelling to and from the competition, accounting for potential traffic, parking constraints, and any necessary pet bathroom breaks. Allow plenty of time for setting up you’re grooming table and settling in.

In each dog grooming competition class, there will be a specific time allocated for your breed, trim style, and size. To ensure success, it's essential to practice your timing and break up your grooming into manageable increments to ensure you finish on time. For example, if you're grooming a poodle and have two hours allocated, practice timing yourself for each task, such as trimming the top knot, legs, body, and poodle point. If you have a plan of how long each area takes this will help you during the competition time.

If you need to use any finishing sprays at the end of your groom, make sure you incorporate this into the allocated time you are given. Many competitions do not allow any spraying after time. Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to mastering time management for dog grooming competitions.

Judging criteria for dog grooming competitions

Judges will look for balance, symmetry, uniformity, technique, style, and pattern of the trim. At the top of the list is cleanliness and prep work of the dog. Ask yourself, is the dog's coat fresh, thoroughly clean, and matt-free and groomed out correctly? Prep work – before you are judged, nails trimmed, pads clipped, sanitary trim done, any pre-work that can be done in accordance with the Grooming competition rules that you're entering, ears cleaned, coat freshly bathed and a comb can glide through, brushed and blow-dried/ fluff dried - must be done before the start of a competition.

Dogs should always be groomed three-dimensional, so balance and symmetry are important. Judges look for balance and symmetry on the overall groom, correct top lines, heads style and body patterns, well-clipped poodle points and clipped areas plus sanitary areas, scissoring, clipping, carding, and hand stripping skills. It's crucial to have a good understanding of the breed standards for the specific breed you'll be grooming. You can easily access the registered breed standards by visiting the website

Last-minute issues can arise when traveling with a dog, so be sure to check for any underlying skin issues or if any coat is missing. It's important to let your judge know when you are being prejudged, don’t wait till after the competition time is over.

And most importantly, kind and humane handling and treatment at all times. Grooming competitions can be stressful, but remember that the dog's welfare is first and foremost, and the judges will be watching for this. Never leave your dog unattended at the table and remember you are there to enjoy yourself, learn from your judges, receive great critiques, and meet new grooming friends.

Overcoming Pre-Competition Jitters: Tips for Staying Calm and Confident in Dog Grooming Competitions

I have some valuable information to share with you that I learned from a wonderful teacher: and that is nervousness and excitement are essentially the same feeling. To clarify, nervousness is excitement with a negative expectation, while excitement is nervousness with a positive expectation. Physically, both emotions result in similar bodily responses such as an increased heart rate, sweating, shallow breathing, even butterflies in the stomach, and a rise in cortisol levels. The only difference lies in the mental representation of the potential outcome.

When someone feels nervous about competing, it is likely because they have created a negative expectation in their mind. However, if they were to create a positive expectation and envision positive outcomes, such as a successful competition, they will start to feel better and more confident. By visualising positive outcomes always, this will shift your nervousness into excitement and harness that energy to achieve your goals and have a great grooming competition.

Envision yourself in the ring, surrounded by the vibrant energy of other excited grooming competitors, an enthusiastic crowd, their cheers uplifting you as you groom with your skill and focus. Remember, no matter the outcome, the true victory lies in your courage to step out of your comfort zone, to learn, and to grow. Each moment in the competition ring is a testament to your journey of learning, growth and the determination to push your boundaries. Embrace this experience as a valuable step in your continuous path of grooming learning and self-improvement.

Remember, dog grooming competitions are not only a chance to showcase your skills and creativity but also a fantastic opportunity to connect with fellow groomers and receive valuable feedback from experienced judges. Don't forget to join the Groomer Nation community and become an Evolving Pet Groomer. You'll have access to expert advice in our Groomer Nation Community and an extensive library of show and competition grooming breed videos perfect for learning new skills before a competition. Get ready for the world of grooming competitions, remember to have fun, relax, breath, and enjoy the amazing and addictive world of grooming competitions.

Competing in dog grooming is not just a hobby, it's a calling. Keep on answering that call and let your skills and creativity shine in the competition ring!

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