The elaborate dog fashion found at grooming competitions can be totally ridiculous. Just look at the poor pet on the right whose fur was cut and dyed to display the faces of multiple Disney characters.
Last year, photographer Paul Nathan visited the preeminent Intergroom competition in East Rutherford, N.J. and captured some of the madness and, yes, beauty.
While most people say elaborate pet haircuts are all in good fun, some critics have called the practice of “extreme grooming” humiliating and psychologically damaging for the dogs.
The Intergroom conference and competition began in 1981 in Newark, N.J. It is now the largest international competition of its kind.
Over 3,000 dog and cat groomers from 21 different countries participate. The “Intergroom International Groomer of the Year” award is considered the most prestigious in the dog grooming world.
The competition is divided by breed and type of grooming.
The categories are poodles, terriers, spaniels/sporting dogs, other purebreeds, miscellaneous, and hand-stripping (where groomers pull the hair from dogs instead of cutting).
There is one other grooming category: creative. This is where groomers use hair dye and special techniques to make the dogs look like fictional characters or other animals, like this cheetah-dog.
When dogs are presented in the creative competition, the groomers typically dress in a costume that matches their dog.
To decide the winners, judges look for skill and creativity, Nathan told Business Insider.
Celebrity dog groomer Jorge Bendersky explains his approach in the introduction to Groomed: “My task as a groomer is to capture and enhance that particular animal’s singularity with a distinguished and fashionably tasteful grooming style that brings out the best attributes [of the dog].”
Each dog breed has its own grooming history. Poodles, for example, were typically groomed with their torso hair clipped short and rings of fur on their legs to facilitate swimming while out on a hunt.
Depending on the complexity of the style, it can take anywhere from 3 hours to 9 hours to groom the dog. The dogs are given plenty of breaks.
The dogs in the competition are experienced at being groomed for this long, says Nathan, so they rarely get uncomfortable.
Not every dog is suited to the creative competition, however. It typically takes a lot of patience to be able to tolerate the long grooming sessions.
The hair dyeing is done over several days. The dye is nontoxic and not permanent. It can last anywhere from a few washes to a few months.
This year’s competition is on April 5th. It will draw a whole new crowd of dogs and groomers looking to make their mark with even more elaborate designs.
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