The elaborate canine fashion found at grooming contests can be downright ridiculous. Just look at the poor pet on the right whose fur has been cut and dyed to display the faces of several Disney characters.
Last year, photographer Paul Nathan visited the prominent Intergroom pageant in East Rutherford, NJ and captured some of the craziness and, yes, the beauty.
While most people say elaborate pet haircuts are great fun, some critics have called the practice of “extreme grooming” humiliating and psychologically damaging for dogs.
Nathan shared a few photos here, but you can see more of his website or in his next book, “Cared for.”
The Intergroom conference and contest began in 1981 in Newark, NJ. It is now the largest international competition of its kind.
More than 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 world of dog grooming.
The competition is divided by breed and type of grooming.
The categories are Poodles, Terriers, Spaniels/Sporting Dogs, Other Pure Breeds, Miscellaneous, and Hand Stripping (where groomers pull dogs’ hair instead of clipping it).
There is another category of grooming: creative. This is where groomers use special hair dyes and techniques to make dogs look like fictional characters or other animals, like this cheetah dog.
When dogs are shown in the creative contest, groomers usually dress in a costume that matches their dog.
To decide the winners, the judges look for skill and creativity, Nathan told Business Insider.
Renowned dog groomer Jorge Bendersky explains his approach in the introduction to Groomed: “My job as a groomer is to capture and enhance the uniqueness of this particular animal with a distinguished, tasteful grooming style that brings out the best attributes. [of the dog].”
Each breed of dog has its own grooming history. Poodles, for example, were usually groomed with their chest hair clipped short and rings of fur on their paws to aid in swimming during a hunt.
Depending on the complexity of the style, it can take anywhere from 3 to 9 hours to groom the dog. Dogs get plenty of breaks.
Dogs in competition are used to being groomed for so long, says Nathan, so they rarely feel uncomfortable.
However, not all dogs are suited to creative competition. It usually takes a lot of patience to be able to tolerate long grooming sessions.
Hair dyeing is done over several days. The dye is non-toxic and non-permanent. It can last from a few washes to a few months.
This year’s competition will take place on April 5. It will attract a whole new crowd of dogs and groomers looking to make their mark with even more elaborate designs.