5 Tips for New Competitive Groomers
Hi guys! I'm Marci Wanta, owner of Wiggle Waggle Pet Care in Verona, Wisconsin. This year, I competed in entry level competitions at various grooming trade shows across the country. Here's my top takeaways for anyone considering entering their first grooming competition.
Photo courtesy of Animal Photography
1: Do your prep work well.
Your prep work is the foundation of your groom. Good prep work will set the stage for a polished groom with a good finish. It will take some trial and error to find the right shampoo or products you need for each breed, individual dog and coat type. For example, do you need a volumizing, whitening or texturizing product?
Before the competition starts, thoroughly bathe, dry, fluff dry, brush, comb, trim or file nails, clean ears, shave paw pads and trim sanitary if applicable for the breed. If you need guidance on how to prep a specific breed, look on Instagram or social media for videos. Reach out to someone you’ve seen compete with that breed and ask if they have any videos that walk-through prep work or if they can offer any advice.
2: Comb like your judges.
At one competition this year, Teri DiMarino was making her rounds judging the entry division for all other purebreds. When she came to my table, she started combing through my Bedlington. As she got around to his face, she combed near his eyes and scooped out a chunk of hair that was a good inch longer than the rest. I felt a little defeated because I wasn’t going to place, but I’ve never left that chunk of hair there since!
Comb every single hair. Get in the nooks and crannies. Check the toes. Your judge is going to come and dig in that armpit, by the eyes, behind the ears and by the mouth. Comb like your judge as you groom and find those chunks of hair, so your judge doesn't.
3: Learn from each groom.
While staying true to the profile, each judge and each groomer may have slightly different preferences on each specific breed trim. Stay for your critique after judging. Take note of those critiques and incorporate them the next time you work on that profile.
You are there to compete, and you are there to learn. Ask other judges or other groomers if they will critique your groom. When you hear multiple critiques, you can learn which things need the most tweaking and which things you are doing well. Come into the ring with the mindset of growth.
4: Follow a routine and plan extra time.
Plan extra time into your routine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten a blow dryer, shampoo bottle, leash, time for a bathroom break or time to grab lunch. In addition to possibly forgetting something or running late, someone else might be using a tub or table when you need to be prepping one of your dogs.
I've found it helpful to follow a routine for my show weekends and for the groom itself. When making a routine for your grooms, do you start with the feet, head or topline? Do you set in your lines and lengths, then go back and put a finish on? Or do you finish as you go? I find that I make more mistakes and just feel off when I stray from my routines. Stick with your routines.
5: Use trade shows to network with other groomers.
Trade shows are a perfect opportunity to network. Make friends! Talk with your fellow competitors. Be friendly and kind. Offer to help if someone needs it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself. Learn from what your fellow groomers have to offer. Everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn.
We never stop learning. Even open level competitors are still learning! Remember there is usually more than one right way to do something. Whether you compete for the first time or the 21st time, be proud of yourself. You did the thing!
Since starting her competitive grooming career in 2021, Marci has placed 3rd in Entry Level Wire Class and 3rd in Entry Level All Other Purebreds at the 2022 All American Grooming Show, Honorable Mention in Entry Level All Other Purebreds at the 2022 Atlanta Pet Fair and 1st place in Entry Level Salon Freestyle at the 2021 All American Grooming Show.
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