The Basics of Dog Show Grooming

September 27, 2017 in Pet Grooming By Paradigm

What Makes Dog Show Grooming Different?

This may come as a surprise, but there is a massive difference between pet grooming and dog show grooming. Dogs that are pets and not show dogs are groomed to stay clean and healthy. Getting brushed and having nails clipped now and then is usually enough. Maintenance for a pet is pretty easy. Show dogs, however, need special grooming in order to be at their very best when representing their breed at a dog show. Grooming for show dogs is much more time-consuming and tedious. Planning needs to be done well in advance of the show so that you and your show dog don’t run into any problems the day of the show.

What Does Dog Show Grooming Entail?

The Basics of Dog Show GroomingGrooming a show dog requires a lot of care and patience. No two show dogs are ever groomed the same way, so it may be hard what to predict how long the process will take. In fact, depending on the breed of your show dog, it may take hours to prepare for the first appearance at the conformation ring. In any case, all show dogs are expected to be clean, well groomed and free of any unusual smells that pets might otherwise carry.


Timing your show dog’s bath is probably the trickiest part of the preparation process. It’s important to time the bath just right so that your dog is clean, brushed and blow-dried in time for the show. Most show dogs need to be thoroughly brushed after a bath to prevent tangles and remove any matting from the coat. After all, show dogs get points for being presented in their “natural” state— they must not look like they’ve been over-groomed.


Other steps of the process can span from the night before to the morning of the show. See the lists below for more details:

The Night Before the Show

  1. Brush your show dog’s coat to keep it silky smooth.
  2. Do small trims before the bath while the coat is still dry.
  3. Trim (and buff, if desired) your show dog’s nails.
  4. Clean the dog’s ears; all the better to hear you with!
  5. Bathe your show dog to eliminate any pet odors.
  6. Blow-dry your dog; nothing stinks up a show like “wet dog” smell.
  7. Brush your dog’s coat again once it’s dry to remove matting and tangles.
  8. Do a more thorough trim now that excess fur has been washed out.
  9. Create your show dog overnight to prevent accidental messes.

The Morning of the Show

  1. Keep your show dog clean by walking him or her on a leash while outside.
  2. Make sure your dog’s ears are kept clean with a snood or other covering.
  3. Check for coat areas that may need a touch-up trim.
  4. Brush your show dog’s coat, as it gets closer to show time; best paw forward!
  5. If your dog’s coat needs it, apply a leave-in coat conditioner for extra shine
  6. Get your show dog’s crate and your equipment ready for the show.

Tools to Have on Hand

  1. A portable folding groomer’s table
  2. A grooming apron
  3. Your show dog nail trimmers
  4. Your show dog’s leave-in coat conditioner
  5. Some spray bottles filled with coat finishers and misters
  6. Your electric clippers for trimming the coat as needed
  7. Your show dog’s best brushes and combs
  8. A portable hair dryer
  9. Plenty of washcloths and towels
  10. Your bait pouch for commands
  11. Any treats for your show dog like meats, cheeses, or peanut butter
  12. Your show dog’s food
  13. Your show dog’s bowls for food and water
  14. Your show dog’s crate
  15. A bed and blankets for the show dog (for winter shows)
  16. Any handy cleanup supplies like scoopers or plastic baggies
  17. Your show dog’s special slip-collar and leash

Learn More about Dog Show Grooming at Merryfield

Dog show grooming is a special branch of grooming that requires a lot of time, dedication, and discipline. If you are interested in becoming a groomer to the canine stars, contact Merryfield School of Pet Grooming for more information about our courses and curriculum.


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