The History of Grooming


In the 1893 novel by Gordon Stables, Sable and White: The Autobiography of a Show Dog, readers are introduced to Dandy Joe Robinson “Weterinary Surgin — Dogs Borded, Poodils Klipped.” Robinson’s workday also included selling bespoke dog clothes, performing dental surgery, and applying judicious spots to a customer’s Dalmatian. Although fictional, this tale foreshadowed a range of contentious issues in the dog world, but perhaps none more so than the parameters and ethics of grooming

Today dog grooming is a recognized profession, replete with certifications, competitions and technical marvels. Today it goes without saying that we are expected to keep our dogs clean, neat and properly groomed. However, none of these concepts came easily to the dog world.

Many practices associated with cosmetic improvement of animals originated with the Romans, who were unquestionably obsessed with grooming and hygiene. However, these early practices later fell by the wayside in Western Europe. For many centuries grooming was a luxury reserved for aristocratic pets and valuable hunting dogs.

British impresario Charles Cruft, the founder of the phenomenon that is the Crufts dog show, was the first to envision the inherent promotional opportunities of good dog care. He foresaw that dog shows could “achieve two purposes. First they would enlarge and improve pedigreed stock. Secondly, it would improve the level of dog management, which was not very high at the time, except among owners of sporting animals.” (The Dog Book) That is an understatement. In the late 19th century there was very limited understanding of how to groom dogs and almost no tools were available to do so. Revising this situation seemed virtually impossible considering the obstacles it entailed. “Grooming, to be effective, must be constant and thorough. A casual overhauling with a dirty brush once in two or three months does not represent our views on the subject; but it is very hard to convince some kennelmen of the benefit proper grooming will bestow on the dogs’ coats.” (The Illustrated Book of the Dog)

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