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Is Show Grooming Right for Your Pet?

dogThe sport of showing pedigree dogs receives a great deal of press attention at this time of year. After all, the glamour of major shows like Westminster makes great television.

Many pet owners admire the way the animals are groomed for the show ring, and sometimes wonder why their own pet does not come home from a grooming appointment looking like the show dogs on TV.

The breed standard
The hairstyle rules for the show ring are strict. Show grooming requires not only artistry and skill, but also a detailed knowledge of the American Kennel Club breed standard.

For many breeds, there is a specific style of clipping and shaping that is ‘correct’ for that specific breed. The heads of Cairns and Scotties, for example, are groomed completely differently, although both are short-legged terriers from Scotland. Sometimes the differences are subtle; mere nuances of eyebrow length, for example, differentiate the Lakeland and Welsh terriers.

Often, show grooming is simply not achievable. Just because a dog is pure bred does not mean he has inherited the genes for a "show-quality" coat. While a skilled groomer can sometimes sculpt hair in a way that makes a poor specimen look like a champion, owners should not expect the average pet to emerge from the grooming salon looking like the dogs on TV.

Even if a show coat is achievable, it may not be practical. The time involved in maintenance of a show coat is often underestimated by pet owners. A show coat requires much more than just some ringside primping. Long-coated breeds need hours of daily grooming for maximum show coats. Many show dogs spend their lives wrapped in oiled rags. During their show career, they are never allowed to romp or play because the appearance of their coat is a priority. (Not much fun for the family or the pet!)

Practical variations
It is possible to maintain a beautiful, reasonable length coat, if you are willing to commit to a regular regimen of brushing at home and frequent visits to the salon. (However, owners who skip the daily brushing or let months pass before seeking professional services will find that the pet often has unredeemable mats and tangles.)

Another alternative is to ask for a modified show shaping, but shorter, so that the work involved is considerably reduced. Many people find it expedient to have a buzz clip, because their lifestyle does not mesh with the needs of maintaining any amount of coat.

Ultimately, the decision on how to style — and how often — is one about how much time and money you want to commit to your pet’s appearance. It’s important to understand what a show coat requires before requesting a show style for your pet. Professional groomers recommend researching the requirements for your breed by checking a good breed book (most have lengthy chapters on grooming) and talking with groomers, show handlers and breeders who can provide some insights into what to expect.

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