Judges Weigh in on Grooming

Judges discuss the most common grooming errors they find in the ring.

By Allan Reznik | April 26, 2013

Judge examining teeth
One of the most common grooming mistakes that judges see is unclean teeth.

With so many judges actively participating in social media, we decided to poll them on an issue they must address at every show: What are the most common grooming errors you find in the ring?

1. NICOLAS DE BEDOUT SKNAR: Unclean teeth, long nails and smelly hands for the judges.

2. RICHARD EICHHORN: Over-sculpting and excessive use of grooming products.

3. PATRICIA GILBERT: Filthy teeth on a dog, especially when it is a full-dentition breed, make me cringe. Long toenails bother me, and generally a dirty dog is insulting to all involved. I don't get too many of them. People know I was a groomer.

4. KERRIE KUPER: Nails! Cut them.

5. ERIC LIEBES: I see two general sets of problems: (a) Ignoring breed-specific grooming as described in the standard or by convention, and (b) overgrooming every breed by blowing and back brushing.

6. BONNIE LINNELL CLARKE: Overuse of product, teasing, spraying. Rat's nests on Shih Tzu.; sculpted curly coat on PWDs so they have Kerry Blue necks and Bichon heads; painted masks on Danes and Boxers; way too much of everything on all coated breeds. I didn't sign on to be a grooming judge. Fix it in the whelping box, not in the tack box.

7. KATHY LORENTZEN: Overtrimming of most Sporting dogs! Straight lines cut on furnishings, topcoats cut off and, on Golden Retrievers specifically, blown-out open coats that would never shed water. There is little regard for the requirements of the breed standards in Sporting breeds anymore.

8. BUTCH MACDONALD: My biggest complaint is too much product and not enough soap and water! Too many dogs are shown dirty or with too much product to make them look clean.

9. JOHNNY SHOEMAKER: I am finding many dogs — and even my own breed, Poodles — with dirty and rotten teeth. That I do not like. I am also finding some dogs' coats that have not been washed for months ... unacceptable for me.

10. CHRISTIE SMITH: Overuse of product and trimming on dogs when the standard says trimming shall be penalized or even disqualified.

11. BETTY-ANNE STENMARK: Inappropriate grooming for the breed. For instance, the fluffed and puffed Golden Retriever, the PBGV exhibitor who thinks untrimmed means unwashed or the Bedlington scissored into a wheelback.

12. RANDY TINCHER: Going to a show? Wash your dog and trim its nails for starters.



Click on one of the photos below to learn about the grooming and presentation trends that have occurred over the years in that group.

Sporting Group Grooming

The Sporting Group

Hound Group Grooming

The Hound Group

Working Group Grooming

The Working Group

Terrier Group Grooming

The Terrier Group

Toy and Non-Sporting Groups Grooming

The Toy and Non-Sporting Groups

Herding Group Grooming

The Herding Group




4 of 18 Comments View All 18 Comments

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Lynn   Houston, Texas

3/12/2015 1:01:20 PM

And yet judges reward over-groomed, swimming in product dogs ALL the time!! Practice what you preach! I've seen so many of my breed that is supposed to be shown in a natural state (with minimal tidying) treated like poodles, and spending hours on the table. It borders on the disgusting. This is one area where I much prefer UKC shows.

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Alex   Findlay, Ohio

3/10/2015 8:53:45 AM

I just had a judge tell me last weekend that my Poodle's nails were too long... problem is they were already filed down to the quicks... I noticed before I started showing that all my show dog friends on fb had their dogs nails ridiculously short... so I make a point of filing her nails back as far as I can before going to a show. She also has flatter front feet, which I am told is due to her age where she is teething. I don't know what I can do about that, I'm not going to purposely quick her nails just to get them shorter.

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Lynn   Vancouver, International

11/13/2014 9:36:11 AM

I was astounded when I read the Judges' comments as I find the judges tend to put dogs up that are groomed to the max with product and back combing and generally the handlers that get the points. I agree with Pam - the judges need to judge the dog, not the grooming or the handler! That is not to say that the dogs don't need to be clean and well tended, they do, but the judges need to really look at the dogs in front of them and not the cosmetics.

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Paul   Springfield, Illinois

11/12/2014 5:00:09 PM

A year ago I sent a dog to a handler in the south on recommendation from a breeder who had used him multiple times. My dog was about to turn 2 years at the time, had just had a dental cleaning and was in top show condition with only feet trimming and baths every 2 weeks. He could have competed as a special but only had been out twice as a class

The first weekend out he took breed over 4 specials and took winning points each of the 4 days and took a major. He repeated that record for two more weekends, and then suddenly the best he could do was a reserve--and then last in his class. When he finally returned home with one major and 12 points, the reason for his failure to continue the winning streak was obvious. His front legs were no longer white but nearly chocolate brown from licking. Literally every square inch of his body had been scissored, stripped, or shaved--for a breed that requires none of these whatsoever. In short, he was ruined--and had horrible teeth full of tartar--six months later. How anyone could ever return a dog to a client who was current on his bill is beyond my ability to understand or

I regret ever having sent him. He will never finish his title as he has now lost 3 teeth after I had a dental done. It will take more than a year for his lovely coat to return after a hack completely destroyed him.

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