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July 2009


“The Competition Grooming Guidebook” by Christein Sertzel is now in print and ready for industry ordering.

Book Cover0001

This book is an all encompassing guide for stylists of all grooming experience levels who are just starting out, or are already active in the competition grooming circuit and want a leg up on the competition. 

With topics and chapters which cover every aspect of trade show competitions and any question that a reader could have about their journey, this book was designed with the purpose of being the mainstay tool for competitors to refer to and gather information from. 

Within this 114 page book, chapters cover everything from starting out in planning and preparation, and go all the way through to explain how classes and points are structured, acquiring dogs, contract templates that can be used for borrowing dogs, what to expect in the ring, sportsmanship, packing lists, advice from industry icons and pros, grooming tips & tricks, what your judges are really looking for, an entire chapter of site links and contacts for more even information, journalling pages, and pages and pages of photos for reference. 


You are sure to find this book at your side as one of your most important tools and references for all of your competition journeys.

  Get your copy today by emailing directly at [email protected]


Here is an excerpt from the book!

Chapter Three: Finding & Preparing Your Competition Dogs


How and where do I find good quality dogs that are up to breed standard?

          The easiest dogs to compete with will almost always be your own.  The many bonuses to owning your own competition dogs are that you know this dog’s entire personality, how to bring out its best, there are no liabilities to someone else in the event of a mishap, and you are solely in control of its grooming-meaning you aren’t costing yourself grooming sales nor are you at the whim or an owner’s decision to pull out after you’ve given them free or discounted grooming. 

At times breeders are also looking to home retired breed stock.  You just have to take the first step and go up and introduce yourself and talk with them.  Tell them who you are and what your plans are and most of all- WHY you are competing.  i.e. - For the continued education and love of that breed.  By taking the time to approach these breeders and making contacts at local dog shows, this gives you another outlet by which to possibly acquire a great quality dog for competing with, either as taking a new dog into your home or just by working with the breeder as you would a regular client at your salon.  At other times some breeders are comfortable after they’ve met you, with placing the dog in your home while you are working on your competitions, like a host family.  This is a great situation as long as you are both protected for liability issues, because you have a beautiful dog with which to learn their habits and personality ahead of the competition day, and when you are finished the dog (usually!) returns home and you’ve made a life long contact with that breeder. 

By the way, you would never want to approach a breeder to talk who is actively competing- wait with respect to the hard work that they are doing to talk with them in the benching or exercise areas.  This trade of information needs to be done with respect, cordiality, and time to spare or you may waste your effort.

            If you aren’t able to take on the responsibility of another dog, again, you may want to either talk with breeders about grooming their dogs as clients for the ring, or to your grooming clients about giving their dog a try.  Most clients are thrilled and flattered at the idea that they will be getting discounted or free grooming in return for their pet being the center of all that attention and up for a possible trophy!  Many owners even like to go along to watch and get great pride from being involved.  Again, the most important element to any relationship is to be sure that you are both protected against liability issues and your extra work is guaranteed by your having that dog, fully coated and ring ready when you need them.  It is hard to fully protect yourself against the people who will work with you for free or discounted grooming and then pull the dog or cut their hair at the last minute because they never intended you to actually take the dog into the ring. It happens, rarely, but when it does, you NEED to have kept a record of the money that would then be owed to you and have that signed contract in order to collect on your end.   And you need to remember that it is a lesson learned, but to keep trying!

Another resource for attaining dogs worthy of and also having experience with competing is from other stylists.  Many times, when you are beginning to compete, you may be on your own for finding dogs unless you have a friend who is already competing. But as you progress with you experience, you may find other stylists contacting you for dogs for themselves and that they may in turn offer to share certain dogs or breeder contacts with you as well. 

At times, some of your trade show sites will list a contact for available competition dogs at the show destination or with other competitors that have dogs and contacts available- this can work out well since traveling with the dogs would be minimal and the dogs would be of good quality.  The only issue again could be that you are unaware of this dog’s personality, so you want to spend some time with these and any dog that you are meeting at the competition for the first time. 

Remember that there is always some risk involved in accepting competition dogs on site. Especially if you are newer in competing and not familiar with many other competitors who are reliable and experienced.  You never know the condition of the coat, their upkeep, their personality, and most of all- after paying expenses to get there, if the dog will be there at all!  So, if you can locate dogs ahead of time, this is always safest.  But, if you really want to compete but have a lack of dogs, don’t let this keep you from it as there are many ways to locate dogs.  

 What about competing with dogs not up to breed standard?

It can and has been done!  Most dogs that we see in our salons as clients have certain or multiple conformational flaws, but in choosing a client dog, one would just need to find one with the best conformation and the best coat to work with to accentuate or hide characteristics.  Remember that the more flaws a dog has, the more work you have just made for yourself.  But at times-especially in a beginner’s class, you may place higher if you’ve successfully achieved making that dog look as close to perfect as it can after having successfully hidden these traits.

 The elusive 6 weeks of coat growth- is more better?

 Every stylist should know the specific policies, rules & regulation for each class at each show they will be participating in.  You will always want to find your show addendum and read it thoroughly to have your guidelines set in stone before you start.  Every show that I have contacted for this book requires a minimum of 6 weeks growth.  So we know then that aside from sanitary clipping around potty areas, no clipping of the dog should be done.  Many stylists think then that if they come into the ring with double the coat required that they have a leg up on the competition for a placement.  Well, not usually- unless you are entered in an Extreme Makeover competition.  You are certainly welcome to come in with a huge crop of coat on your dog, but remember that you have to get that entire coat off & finished to superb detail just as the rest that only have 6 or 8 weeks of growth when they come in.  Certain breeds do grow coat at different rates as well as do individual dogs have genetic predisposition for how quickly they grow coat, so it is important to pay attention to how your dog looks when you are maintaining it while readying for the show.  Either way, too much coat can be difficult to effectively and skillfully wade through, especially if you are just beginning competing.  There is a point of acknowledgment that your judges will most usually give you if you make a sculpture out of a huge mound of hair, but you have to do it well or you will end up running out of time and finishing with an unfinished dog.  On the other hand, if there isn’t ENOUGH of a difference between your before & after, you may not place as well, and certainly if you do place against others that worked down far more coat, the actuality of how long you allowed your dog to grow before the competition may be questioned. Now, what your judges see and think is most important, but, one must always strive to be honest and fair when competing.  This way, when you do place, you never will second guess what you’ve earned, and if others do, you still can hold your head high.


  What is the foundation of a great groom? 

Understanding Prep Work is Power!

If you take anything away from this book, let it be that prep work will make or break your entire groom and therefore your placement.  You cannot get an award winning style on a dog that hasn’t been properly and diligently prepped.  So give yourself time to get this job done well because if you cut corners it will show, and you don’t want to waste your time or money trying to fix things that hold up showcasing your true ability.

Remember these tips:

*If you usually bath once- bathe twice. 

*Get your curly coated breeds as close to stick straight as their genes allow!  

*If you are allowed to do pads & sanitary work ahead of time, do it with great attention to detail and thoroughness. I have heard during judge’s critiques where they point out an untrimmed pad or a sanitary that is sloppy. And if the competition is fierce or you are looking at a “Best Groomed” placement, sometimes it is such small things that can make the chips fall in one direction or another. 

*Do not load up your coat with product the morning of your class as it will likely fall apart well before the groom is finished.  A firm understanding of your breed’s coat type and care will eliminate relying on product to do your work for you.  What topical products are SUPPOSED to do is to overcome the shortcomings of the coat such as density and texture which are best restructured immediate to the groom with little rest or movement before judging.  With the exception of densifiers like “Jazzing” or any body building or protein growth treatments for the coat, your coat should be a clean slate when you step into he ring.  Grooming in the raw the morning of your class is usually best unless you know for sure the clip doesn’t require it.  What grooming in the raw means is to not load up your dog with product other than your shampoo and conditioners which are normally required.  Keeping the coat “pure” will take away unnecessary variables that can ruin your chance of turning out the best dog your skills can achieve.   This is especially true in high humidity venues.  And remember, what products work well in your home salon, make not work so well in another climate, so another reason to try to keep the dog’s style free of excessive reliance on products.

*Preserve all the work that you just did!  Remember not to pet your dog excessively or allow others to pet them.  But, BE NICE when you ask others not to pet!  To preserve a straight and fluffy coat, on potty breaks or if it is raining, be diligent and get out & in quickly, and take your last potty break with enough extra time before your class to re-fluff & straighten your dog if it is needed.


What characteristic should I look for when choosing a competition dog?

.......ETC, ETC!!!

Remember, you can order your copy today by contacting me directly at [email protected]