Groom Expo 2008

UPDATE: Picasa Web Album of all Saturday pictures that were clear (and many that were not) is now uploaded.

Be aware that I was taking pics of dogs, not people, so there are some funny expressions there! With no flash the color is saturated very yellow, so I pushed the pictures to blue and blew out the highlights a little; it may look a little odd on some monitors.

—posted Saturday night—

The hotel’s wifi is pretty unhappy that I am trying to chuck photos up here, so I am going to be posting this in chunks. If that works, I’ll consolidate the entry and you’ll never know that it crashed like sixteen times and made me really mad and I yelled at the computer at 2:00 am while the Soup was on TV.


First, let me say that this is the most exhausting and exhilarating weekend of dog-obsession ever. When I do a dog show I’m usually there from 8 am to noon or a little after. This is 8 am to 6:30 pm, leaving me with a massive hairspray headache and the almost irresistible desire to fall asleep in my American cocker spaniel class.

I’ll write more on the classes soon, but first I am going to try to get some photos up. I couldn’t take pics while the classes were going, of course, but was able to get a bunch of the competition area.

I’m deliberately not cropping these photos so you can get an idea of the crowd and the environment. At one end of the big trade show hall (which is not as big as, say, an expo center, but is a typical hotel convention size of maybe 60 x 200 or something) is a competition area that has contestants working on risers so everyone can see what they’re going. There are three levels of competition, from novice to experienced, and several different classes as well. This is the “All Other Purebreds” tournament, which is where (as I understand it, though I am far from experienced at this) you typically see the Bichons and you’d also see the poodles being done in different clips. In the poodle tournament you only see a few different clips, but this class lets you go a little more wild. I noticed that in this class there were a lot of poodles-of-a-different-color (phantoms and partis), while in the poodle tournament there were mostly whites (or creams) and blacks. I am assuming this is because the All Other Purebreds tournament is a little looser, but it’s a good question. If I get a chance to ask someone tomorrow without looking stupid, I will let you know.

The above picture is Jonathan from Groomer Has It (I am a complete groupie, just accept it and move on) about mid-way through his groom of what I am pretty sure is a brown phantom mini poodle. I say “pretty sure” because I’ve been wrong before, but there were a ton of phantom poodles there today and they definitely seem to be in fashion for this type of competition. He’s doing this one in a German clip, which means short ears and a carrot tail with a longer “puppy clip” body.

LOVED this clip. Again, the All Other Purebreds tournament, with a Standard Poodle being done as a giant Bedlington Terrier. Just a beautiful clip and very appropriate when you want a stylish and extreme clip on a poodle but don’t want a lot of hair left on.

The Bedlington is a terrier clip, so the legs are taken pretty close and the body is closer too. The ears are taken down into a tassel and the head is very short on the sides and has some length on the profile to make a “lamb” head. The dog is standing butt-high here, but the illusion is helped by the fact that she’s left a lot of hair over the loin to create height and arch there.

When this clip is done, the dog should look like a cross between a lamb and a coiled spring–in other words, very stylized but ready to leap forward into action.

Another phantom poodle, this one done in a Bichon style. VERY cute on this dog–I took about 20 pictures of this groom because I thought it was such a cute and appropriate style. It’s great to be reminded that you can adapt many different breed clips to breeds where they don’t “belong” if it fits the personality of the dog and the needs of the owner.

Also–Chris Christensen Thick and Thicker. This stuff was flying around by the metric ton. Clearly, I must buy some and see what everyone is so in love with.

I missed the judging of that tournament because I had to go to my Poodle class. This is the class demo dog, who I snapped during a break (can’t take pics during the class itself). The class was all about putting a very stylish short finish on a poodle, and it was certainly very interesting. Except for her ears, tail, and topknot, she was done entirely with snap-on combs over a normal clipper, with a little scissoring to take the clipper lines out. This was VERY COOL to see; the instructor created those big marshmallow legs in about two minutes flat. What you can’t really see is that she has a fancy stencil carved into her side, like every boy in my high school had in the late 80s. Fortunately, hers doesn’t say “Van Halen”–it’s a spiral flourish, again created with a clipper and then scissored in.

Back to the competition hall and the beginning of the Poodle Tournament. This is Julie Wilkins–she’s arguably the best groomer in the US and she’s based in Gloucester, MA (shout out!). She is just beginning her groom here; you can see that she’s going to do a German clip on this pretty Standard.

Each groomer must bring in a dog with at least 8 weeks (I think; maybe 6) of growth with no pre-scissoring allowed. The dog can be combed out and clean (and this one plainly is) but the entire groom has to take place at the hall. Again, didn’t crop this picture because I wanted to show you the surroundings.

Closer one of Julie’s dog. I chose this one to show you because I thought it showed very well the profile that a groomer is going for. The topline has to be perfectly level, and you line up two points: the highest point of shoulder goes directly over the elbow, and the point of the pinbone (that’s the bone sticking out behind the tailhead) goes directly over the front of the back feet.

Her dog isn’t quite stacked in the rear–the back feet are going to end up about three inches further back–but this is close.

A good groom can be divided into quarters, with the crosshairs approximately in the middle of the dog’s abdomen, and there will be a pleasing symetry between front and back and between top and bottom. In other words, if you leave a ton of hair on the front and take it off the back, the dog is going to look unbalanced, like if it was a toy and you set it down it would fall forward onto its nose. Similarly, if you take a dog too far down in front and leave it in long in back, the dog will look weak and sick because the chest and neck will look thin and wimpy. The whole thing should look, again, balanced, like a toy that would sturdily stand.

Julie’s dog shows this already, and she hasn’t even begun. This is why prep work is so important, and why so many groomers use show dogs for these competitions. A TON of these poodles were champions. That’s because if the dog under the hair is already well-built and balanced,  you only have to bring out the quality. You don’t have to fake it and create it with hair.

Two hours later. Jonathan is done here, just checking out the last bit of symetry. Again, draw a line from the bend of the topline into the neck down to the elbow; it should be a straight line. And the pinbone to the toes is the same.

The judging on this class was insanely long. Evidently the judges had some kind of big argument and couldn’t come to an agreement. They kept coming back to Jonathan’s dog, checking the groom (running combs through it and over it) and then going over to Julie’s dog and doing the same.

Jackie Bolton with her entry in this tournament. I fought for this shot–the crowd was standing room only and about 15 people deep.Last year Jackie won over $30,000 in prize money in a single day, winning the Triple Crown (a combination of classes showing her versatility as a groomer). These events are NOT small potatoes. Many of these groomers have endorsement deals, sponsors, etc., and this is big business.

Julie waiting for the results. Look at the beautiful roundness at the bottoms of those back legs. You can see how even a more modern groom like a German clip is still supposed to whisper a little bit of the Continental (the way poodles are shown in the conformation ring). If you took down the legs above the hocks, took down the front legs above the joint, and clipped the back half of the body short, except for the tail and ears you’d have a Continental clip. Those rear legs actually end in what would be the bottom of the rear leg poms.

Finally the results are in! Jonathan takes third at this level.

And Julie wins it all!

She absolutely deserved it. That dog was groomed like hellfire and damnation and wow.

You can see that even when the dog moves and turns its head, the finish is absolutely smooth and plush. There’s a good three inches of hair on that neck and it looks like it was done with a laser.

Tomorrow–creative grooming! Dogs that look like, I dunno, volcanos and microwaves! Heck if I know. Pictures before we leave if at all possible; otherwise look for them Monday morning.


3 thoughts on “Groom Expo 2008

  1. Thanks for the photos Joanna, they’re fantastic. They really give a good idea of what’s going on and it’s fascinating to see all the different kind of clips. I assume that most of the dogs shown are poodley-types as that fur lets you do more than other breeds would? Is it also harder to work with?

    And where’s our creative grooming photos!

  2. Pingback: Comments roundup « Ruffly Speaking: Railing against idiocy since 2004

  3. wonderful pictures and i love the descriptions. i am thinking of competing with a standard poodle, so the little grooming hints were fantastic! i really want to get more involved in grooming contests
    and Julie Wilkin’s poodle looks FLAWLESS! i wonder what her secret is to scissoring such long coat but still have it look so smooth and perfect

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