I had a lovely time at Mastergroom , international dog grooming competition held in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire over the weekend.
Seeing all the lovely work in the competition ring reminded me of the times when I used to compete. My first competition was Pragobest, Prague in 2000. I took my mini Schnauzer, Indy, and to be honest I didn’t know much about preparation, timing, and many other things. At the time I had only once been at a grooming competition, and it was again Pragobest in 1998 – this competition was a breaking point in my dog grooming career, and made me realise this is what I want to do and that there is more to dog grooming than just clip off, short trims with comments “it’s ok, he is not a show dog”. That morning just before we, my mum, my dog & I, left the room I felt sick, my hands were shaking, and I was so nervous (I wish I had the Calming Floral Spray that time). Or excited? Who knows … have you ever realised that excitement and nervousness feel the same? Anyway, I finished Indy on time, and to my big surprise we got 3rd place! OMG! I was over the moon!! I was so excited I didn’t even ask for feedback … silly me! That day I started dreaming about winning Best in show at a grooming contest. While I lived in Slovakia I competed a few more times at Pragobest without placing, and it was an amazing learning curve. I borrowed an English Setter with a curly coat for hand stripping, crying after her owner; a matted standard Schnauzer for hand stripping with dirty feet and legs because she was chasing a cat that morning … I can laugh at it now 😊!
My first competition in the UK was a British dog grooming championship in 2005 where I competed with a Clipped Fox Terrier Lady and won 2nd place. Happy days! But honestly, hand stripping was the technique I wanted to compete with. So, in 2006 I entered a hand stripping class with Welsh Terrier, Bruce (half-brother of my Rosie). John brought him to me from his mum a day before to prepare him. And I remember that day like it was yesterday. I put him on the table and trimmed a few patches to see how the coat would come out and what it would look like. And then I started to cry because it looked like his cheeks would go bald … and I rung John crying. He reassured me we would be fine … and we were. We not only won the hand stripping class but also Best in show. My first Best in show! The same year, my Kerry Blue Terrier Kimi, Bruce & I won British groomer of the year. And the rest is a history…
Here are few things I have learned during my dog grooming career:
1/ Dream big and take little steps towards your dream every day. Every day in the salon I was working on my technique, my speed, my neatness. Analysing other peoples work. Taking photos, making notes, and using them.
2/ Do things that scare you – scissoring was scary for me for so many years. To improve my scissoring I got my Kerry Blue Kimi 14.5 years ago. Even though I got her to learn and practice my scissoring, I was still trimming her with comb attachments … too scared to do a full scissor trim. Then when I did my C&G Level 3 practical exam, I asked my examiner Zoe Duffy, if I could compete with a Kerry Blue but with comb attachments … she said yes, but you would be marked down on the technique … but her face was saying “why would anyone do that?!” (Or something like that, lol!) So one day I closed my eyes (not literally) and trimmed Kimi with scissors … the whole dog … a year later I won British groomer of the year with her. So be brave and persevere!
3/ Don’t listen to other people … or at least not all of them. You will come across people who will tell you, you should do something else, you can’t do this or that, you are too old, you are too young … When I opened my first salon in Slovakia, so many times I cried in my empty salon, praying for clients
… and slowly I built the business, the reputation, simply by following my passion, and not giving up. My parents used to tell me: you can’t have a job looking after dogs (at that time in Slovakia it was the reality, unless you were a vet) and I was happy to show them a few years later I could.
4/ Don’t take criticism personally. Take it as feedback, something you can learn from. It’s hard not to take it personally, because it makes our ego scream. But be honest with yourself, listen, be grateful and learn from it.