Creative Dog Grooming

Creative dog grooming or just "creative grooming" is more or less an umbrella terminology used to identify dog grooming that does not conform with breed standards set by official breed associations.

Contrary to what some sources would have you believe, creative grooming is not just about making your dog up to look like an octopus, a camel or even Yoda (cool as he is).

While it can involve a lot of themed grooms featuring an abundance of fantastical colors and styles, there is much more to it than that.

This article will attempt to shed light on some of what creative grooming involves.

What is Creative Grooming?

Stripped down to it's basics, creative dog grooming is literally anything that goes beyond what breed standard grooming would usually permit in favor of more eye-catching and exquisite styles.

One particular benefit of creative grooming is that it enables the groomer or owner to express their dog's unique personality. This is often done through the use of special cutting techniques, accessories, and color using dog hair dyes.

History of Creative Grooming

To a certain extent, creativity has been a part of dog grooming for longer than you might expect. One interesting point to note is the substantial influence women's fashion trends have had on it throughout the ages.

According to The Lost History of the Canine Race by Mary Elizabeth Thurston.

In the 1890s, the wife of Emperor Napoleon III, Princess Eugénie inspired a corded poodle style in which "the fur on the shoulders and head was encouraged to mat until it formed ropelike coils that trailed the ground".

And, in the 1960's, "flower children" poodles that were "appropriately attired with real or plastic daisies, and in some instances, dyed in psychedelic swirls of green, pink and yellow" could be seen in Central Park.

Creative Grooming Today

Today, while we can still a clear feminine influence in creative grooming, the scope of available styles has definitely widened. Creative groomers are no longer restricted to mirroring standards set by the ruling elite class as they were in the past.

In 2020, inspiration is drawn from a range of subject matter including foreign cultures, popular western culture as well as the dog's own personality.

That said, while the trends may change, some of the techniques adopted in the past still remain in use today.

Extreme Grooming

"Extreme" creative grooming, as it's often coined, is associated with creative grooming competitions in which professional groomers bring to life stunning, albeit slightly crazy, designs and concepts. In some cases these are done live in front of you.

Extreme styles are generally much more “out there” as well as ambitious in what the groomer is trying to create and usually take a significant amount of skill and patience to pull off.

Unfortunately for the wider creative community, it is often these more “extreme” grooms that the media tends to leverage when dishing out accusations of animal cruelty.

Likely because anything that they can portray in a negative light generally gets more attention.

But the truth is, creative groomers of all types place just as much, if not more, emphasis on their dogs' well-being than your average pet owner. Spending a significant amount of time (hours on end) with their pets developing very close bonds.

Cindy Oliver – The Rollin' Dog House


Creative groomers compete in the US and other parts of the world in highly competitive yet friendly grooming competitions, one of the largest being GroomExpo.

Recently a new and exciting documentary called "Well Groomed" was released, the film gives an inside look into the world of competitive creative grooming and features some of biggest names in creative.

Pet Tuning

"Pet Tuning" is used by some to describe the lighter side of creative grooming, as opposed to "extreme" grooming.

Depending on the breed of dog as well as the look that is trying to be achieved, tuning is something that owners (non-groomers) can even undertake.

Dog stencil tattoos and tail coloring seem to be popular ways of tuning for first timers.

This Chinese crested groom by Kali Topp is a great example of a minimal pet tune that a professional groomer can achieve.

Using only one color and one accessory, the tuning draws on the dog's natural features and coat type to complete it's look. Love it!

Kali Topp - Grooming by Kali

Asian Fusion

An increasingly popular trend coming out of Japan, Korea and China, Asian Fusion takes a step away from color in favor of cutting technique and accessorizing to achieve the desired style.

Getting Creative

Whether they know it or not, most people have it in them to be creative in some way, shape or form. The key is how you go about guiding the process to create something truly worthy of the dog being groomed.

Just as most hairdressers would argue that when styling a human’s hair it is often best to go with the grain, working alongside a person’s natural features and hair type to create an attractive finish.

A lot of groomers would say the same general rules or guidelines also apply when styling a dog, whether it’s just a haircut or taking things a step further with the application of pet safe hair dyes.

In essence, go with the flow where you can and when you do go against it be sure that the clash of opposing forces serves to create an eye-catching finish.

Less is often more....

Cliche as this may be, its worth remembering when adding creativity to the mix.

For many owners and groomers alike, styling in a way that builds on the dog’s natural features and frames their personality is a key contributing factor in determining the direction of the style and the final look. 

In Summary

From the extreme styles seen in competitions to the more casual splash of color or unique cuts – creative grooming, much like creativity itself, can manifest very differently from groomer to groomer and dog to dog.

Creativity as we know it has played a role in dog grooming for over a 100 years and will continue to do so, that said, we may see a shift towards adopting more natural creative grooming processes as they become available.