1. Octopus dog
Welcome to the wild world of creative grooming! While most people take their dog to the groomer’s just for a bath, trim, and shine, creative groomers take it a hundred steps further. They turn their dogs (usually standard poodles) into living, breathing canvases for a truly unique kind of art.
Take this poodle, for example. Once it was just a plain jane white dog, but now it is also a purple octopus — a dogtopus, if you will. She strutted her stuff at the Groom Expo in 2002, but — if you’ll believe it — creative grooming has only gotten more extreme since this dogtopus competed.
2. Bird dog
Using an arsenal of scissors and permanent (or semi-permanent) dyes, creative dog groomers shape and color the floof of their poodles into intricate themed designs. There are a few different competitions pet owners/groomers can enter their dogs into, where they will then be judged against other equally extravagantly groomed dogs.
The groomer of this bird-like dog left most of its front half floofy and shaved its back half shorter, dying them separately. As you can see from the colorful feathers stuck in its fur, creative groomers don’t just use scissors and dye — they sometimes add accessories on, too.
3. Horse dog
Haven’t you always wanted to ride a big dog around your house like a horse (or, at least you did when you were a kid)? Well, this dog is cut and groomed just for that fantasy. Although, to be honest, having it look like a horse somehow makes the idea of riding it less exciting.
While it’s probably not safe to ride a poodle around, they do need good exercise every day because they are generally very active. In fact, poodles are known to be athletic dogs that can be well trained. They’re usually very smart, eager to please, and friendly.
4. Tweety Bird and Sylvester dog
One thing creative groomers concern themselves with is how recognizable their design is. “I think that when you’re walking down the street or when you stop at the gas station, everyone should know what that dog is, no one should ask,” Adriane Pope, competitive creative groomer, told the New York Times.
Basically, if someone spent hours crafting their dog to look like Tweety Bird and Sylvester, it better be instantly recognizable as Tweety Bird and Sylvester. Hey, you wouldn’t want someone to call your Yoda tattoo an elf. As to what theme or character can go on a dog, well that’s only limited by the groomer’s imagination.
5. Ducky dog
While these pictures make poodles seem to be the picture-perfect pet, poodles do require some work. Other than regular exercise and attention, poodles also need daily brushing if their fur coat is kept long. If you don’t regularly brush and comb your poodle’s fur down to the skin, the hair can get matted and need to be shaved.
While you can learn to groom your poodle yourself, you can also take it to the groomer every four to six weeks for bathing, fur trimming, and nail clipping. Who knows, maybe your dog will come back looking like the rubber ducky in your child’s arsenal of bath toys.
6. Season’s Greetings dog
This pooch is like The Nightmare Before Christmas of dogs — is it a Halloween or Christmas themed dog? The answer, of course, is both (with Easter thrown in, I guess?). Just like this dog comes in three seasons, poodles come in three different size varieties: Standards are taller than 15 inches at the shoulder, miniatures are between 10 and 15 inches at the shoulder, and toys are shorter than 10 inches.
Other than their height and size, the three types generally have the same proportions. But of course when it comes to creative grooming, the larger the canvas, the more you can do. So standard poodles are the standard for these competitions.
7. Giraffe dog
So you may be wondering: How did shaving and shaping of poodles first start? Well, you have to get into poodle history because long before creative grooming started, people groomed their poodles into the traditional “continental cut” to aid the dog in the duties it was bred for — water retrieving.
Originally, poodles were bred in the 16th and 17th centuries in what is now Germany. They were charged with the job of retrieving whatever game their hunting owner shot down, such as waterfowl. But with all that fur going into the water, people decided to shave bits of it off.
8. Orange and green dog
A thick poodle coat could weigh the dog down as it dashed into the water, so people began shaving parts of the fur off. This made the dogs more buoyant and allowed them to move more easily in the water. However, a poodle’s fur was kept around its chest and joints to keep them warm and protected from injury.
They would also shave the hair on the dog’s face and around its eyes to aid it in retrieving the game. Finally, poodle owners tied up the hair on the dog’s head with colored ribbons to keep the fur out of its eyes and to identify it from afar.
9. A very colorful dog
Perhaps you could say creative grooming really got its start in the 18th century when French nobility began to fawn over little poodles. They would shape the dogs’ hair into different cuts, not for the utility of water retrieving, but for style.
From there, poodle grooming evolved into the magnificent monstrosities you see today. It can be awfully expensive: The high-end scissors themselves can cost $600 (or more) and one elaborate design is often $500 worth of dye. While most poodle owners don’t rainbow-ify their dogs, plenty do get their dogs groomed into different cuts.
10. Josh the eagle dog
The biggest creative grooming competition is the Groom Expo in Hershey, Pennsylvania. At the convention, they have educational seminars for groomers in addition to the various competitions. Many of the grooming competitions have beginner to expert levels.
The first-place prize for the creative styling contest last year was $2,500, but of course, you’ll have to subtract the $500 for dye out of that. However, if you’re curious to just check the convention out, your plain pooch isn’t welcome: Only competition, demo, and service dogs are allowed into the convention center.
11. Paisley the Wuzzles dog
For some creative grooming competitions, the contestants do part of the grooming work beforehand and then finish the design at the competition. “None of the professional creative design groomers at the shows could have dogs stand on the table if they were not enjoying the attention,” Susan Sholar a dog groomer and American Kennel Club delegate said.
“That attention not only comes from those doing the creative grooming; when these dogs leave the stage, everyone wants to take pictures, touch them and baby talk to them as long as possible,” Sholar said. “The dogs absolutely love this.”
12. Renegade the koi and Twinkle the panda
While some people worry about the safety of creative grooming, the groomers say they use non-toxic dyes specifically made for animals. The groomers also say their dogs don’t stand in one place for any longer than a regularly groomed dog because the design is crafted over a series of days, not all at once.
However, the dogs do seem to lose some dignity in the process. Twinkle the panda doesn’t look especially happy about his new hairdo, but it’s hard to discern Renegade’s feelings through the giant mustache on his face. But then again, maybe Twinkle’s glower is just an act for the camera.
13. Tiger dog
There are some safety concerns when it comes to dyeing a dog. For example, human hair dye should absolutely never be used. It is toxic to dogs and can be life-threatening; it can burn their skin and cause blindness. Also, since the dye is on their fur, they may lick it and ingest it, causing more health problems.
This is why it’s imperative to buy pet safe dyes. On top of that, if your dog is shy and generally doesn’t like attention from strangers, a dye job is probably not for them. Dyed dogs get a lot of attention, so it’s best if the dog likes it.
14. Panda dog
However, although there are many dye products marketed for pets, many of them still warn on the label to not let your pet lick the dye. Presumably, this means don’t let the dog lick the wet dye before you rinse it out of its fur. There also haven’t really been studies on whether or not “pet safe” dye hurts dogs.
In some states, it’s illegal to dye animals in different colors. This was mostly put in place to protect ducks, chicks, and rabbits during Easter, but you may get fined for dyeing a dog.
15. Soleit the safari dog’s backside
It’s bad to bleach a pet’s fur, so creative grooming competition dogs are usually naturally white. In addition to dyes, creative groomers use adhesives to stick rhinestones and other decorations on dogs’ coats. In this dog’s case, it’s a pair of fake eyes on its elephant butt.
Creative groomers may use temporary adhesives that can be simply washed off or semi-permanent ones that need to be removed with something like vegetable oil. Don’t just take some super glue and a bit of plastic to make your dog look like this.
16. Soleit the safari dog’s side
In some cases, a dog may be allergic to dye, so people recommend initially putting the dye on a small section of fur and waiting a day to see what happens. During this time you should watch your dog for any adverse reactions, like itchiness. Or sadness. Or complete and utter embarrassment.
If you’re interested in a creative grooming hairdo for your dog, but not competing or doing the work yourself, there are some salons that offer these services. Some of these groomers are in the National Association of Professional Creative Groomers, which holds them to a certain set of standards.
17. Alice in Wonderland dog
This particular picture shows the range of grooming and creative grooming that you can do for a dog. Some people just dye their dogs pink without extensive shaping, while others will color just the ears. For competitions, creative groomers go all out, putting things like the Cheshire Cat on the dog’s head.
However, you may want to be careful about which groomer you take your dog to. Pretty much anyone can pick up a pair of scissors and call themselves a dog groomer — there’s no real certification process, although some people are advocating for one to be put into place.
18. Sam the My Little Pony dog
This year, Well Groomed, a documentary about creative grooming was released. “During the last several years of filming the grooming community, I’ve only seen happy animals who have been treated with tender, loving care,” wrote Rebecca Stern, the director of Well Groomed.
“Everyone I’ve come across within the grooming world are real “dog people” whose lives revolve around taking care of animals.” Stern documented a year in creative grooming competitions, focusing her filming on four women and their dogs. The film has been at several film festivals this year and will premiere on HBO on December 17th of this year.
19. Charmed dog
Many of the competition winning creative groomers have their own grooming businesses, so theoretically you could take your dog to them for coloring. However, the complicated competition designs can take over 20 hours, and so you probably can’t get that for your dog.
Catherine Opson, who did the koi and panda dogs, has a grooming salon, Estrella Pet Grooming, in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California. There you can get standard dog grooming as well as colorful and creative options. There are others around the country, as well.
20. Cow dog
Creative grooming wasn’t always the colorful, over-the-top artistic expression it is today. In the past, it was a bit more simple, like this creatively groomed dog that looks like a cow. Award-winning groomer Dawn Omboy was part of that change: she’s known as the Queen of Color.
This form of artistic expression is rather challenging. It’s like carving a sculpture out of marble: Once you cut, it’s done and gone. It takes a long time for the dog’s hair to grow out again, so people can only do the elaborate designs every few months.
21. Missy the Angel
Winning at the “Super Bowl of creative grooming” Groom Expo competition in Hershey, Pennsylvania gets the groomer and her dog on the cover of Groomer to Groomer magazine. Creative grooming competitions are biggest in the United States, so sometimes people come from other countries to compete in the U.S.
Angela Kumpe, who did this dog, has gotten on the cover of Groomer to Groomer seven times and is well-known in the creative grooming field. She’s written two books about it: A Creative Collection and The Ultimate Guide to Salon Creative. She gives private classes in Arkansas.
22. Musical dog
For the Groom Expo, groomers must do a “pre-groom” in which they do much of the dyeing and some styling beforehand. Then, at the competition, they get about two hours to finish the design with the dramatic trimming and detail work needed to make the art come alive.
Some groomers practice their detail work in semi-permanent dye beforehand, which washes off in a few days. In addition to the dog’s style, the groomers can dress up themselves and do a short performance along with the dog’s theme for bonus points.
23. Lion dog (part 1)
While the prize money is not huge for these competitions (usually in the $1,000 to $2,500) range and the $500 of dye for each design uses a chunk of that money, winning can get a grooming business a lot of exposure.
If the groomer wins the big Groom Expo and Groomer to Groomer cover, that can get a lot of new business for them. But competition isn’t the only thing these dogs do: Catherine Opson takes one of her creatively groomed dogs to visit children in hospitals.
24. Lion dog (part 2)
While the permanent dye can fade, it usually sticks around until the fur grows out and the groomer cuts it off. However, that doesn’t mean the details and the design stay pretty for that long.
“The minute I let go of him, he ruins it immediately,” groomer Kumpe said to the New York Times about her dog. “He rolls around, the hair spray goes away. They are dogs after all.” So creative grooming is a fleeting art form only immortalized in pictures.
25. Spiderweb dog
The judges at these competitions look for impeccable clipping skills, dye that doesn’t bleed together, wow factor, and original designs. They are very critical and sometimes were competing groomers before becoming judges.
There may be a panel of three or so judges who look at the dog before the competition starts and then at the end. They compare the difference to see if it underwent a dramatic change. They’ll even look at the fur on the floor to determine how much clipping the groomer did during the competition.
26. Train conductor dog
According to Slate, the word “poodle” comes from the German word pudelhund which means “water dog.” It sounds similar to puddle and is actually the root of that English word. They’re named this because they were originally bred to be water retrievers.
While poodles are known for their very poofy fur, they don’t shed much and are thus generally good for people with allergies. But that poof makes them great living topiary for dog groomers. It’d be hard to win a creative grooming competition without a poodle.
27. Cindy the Chupacabra
These outlandish doggy designs seem all fun for the groomer, but one can’t help but wonder: What does the dog think of it? Unfortunately, we can’t just use a talk to animals spell and ask them. So we look at their behavior and turn to dog cognition science for an answer.
Well, it turns out dogs don’t really seem to understand that the dog in the mirror is themselves. As a result, these dogs don’t really see what their whole dyed body looks like. They’ll see parts of it, but not all of it.
28. Disco dog
As mentioned before, not all dogs are cut out for creative grooming. “You want to color dogs that enjoy the process and that are used to getting groomed and pampered,” creative groomer Cindy Oliver told Groomer to Groomer.
“If the dog is constantly moving or fighting, and you end up with more color on you than the dog, then that dog is not cut out for creative,” she said. “If [the client’s] dog doesn’t seem healthy or has skin issues or sensitive skin, DO NOT color their dog!”
29. Duchess the Queen of Hearts
Starting out in creative grooming can be quite overwhelming, so some of the top groomers told Groomer to Groomer their beginner tips. “For someone who is just getting into creative grooming, I would recommend starting with temporary products such as chalk, blow pens, or my favorite — temporary airbrush inks,” Dawn Omboy said.
“Airbrush colors can be washed out easily so there’s plenty of room for error. Also practicing on model dogs or wool mats is a great place to start. You can scissor creative designs and place color on them. As long as you’re using temporary products, you can wash the color out and practice on them over and over.”
30. Birds of a Feather cat
If you thought cats were safe from creative grooming, then think again. Most cats would probably not stand for it, but people have dyed the few that tolerate the process. However, many dog safe dyes say on the label to not use them on cats, so it may be harder to find products for cats.
Angela Kumpe groomed this cat into a pattern she called “Birds of a Feather.” Creative grooming is truly unique and a wonder to look at. One can only hope to run into one of these animals on the street to see it in real life.