The Craziest Canine Beauty Routines at the National Dog Show

Photo: Steve Donahue/See Spot Run Photography

The National Dog Show presented by Purina is the crème de la crème of all dog events and competitions. The dogs that best represent their breed standard show their stuff in the ring, and the competition is stiff. But what many people don't realize as they're watching the show on their TV Thanksgiving morning is what goes on behind the scenes. And let me tell you, it is a LOT.

The beautiful dogs presented to you on your TV set do not wake up like that (sorry pups, we can't all be Beyonce). Backstage there is a giant convention center lined with rows of grooming tables where dogs patiently sit and get primped and pampered. Most dogs bring a whole entourage—groomers, owners, occasionally breeders, and always a handler. This entourage sets extravagant stations that rival that of a backstage dressing room for the stars. From Chi straighteners to buckets and buckets of products, to actual bathing stations, these dogs come prepared.

And with great products come great results! The canines walked in from their rainy trailers looking like an average dog (nothing against average dogs) and come into the ring fluffed, brushed, and ready to go. Here are a few things I learned about these extravagant beauty routines, some of which are at least three hours longer than my own.

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Not All Dogs Use Traditional Dog Shampoos and Conditioners...

In fact, most of the dogs that I met were primped using the same exact products that you and we use in our own haircare routines. Mousse is used to give the pups volume during their blowout and clouds of hairspray line the rows of dogs so not one hair is out of place.

Jessica, groomer of Golden Retriever Jersey, talked to us about some of the human products that she uses. "I use some bodifier which really helps to fluff them up," she said. "And then, I really just use a little bit of L'Oreal mousse around her legs. I give her a blow dry and the rest is all natural!"

Jessica explained to me that some dogs have hair just like humans, and that's why they can use the same products that we do. And to be honest, Jersey's hair looked a whole lot better than mine did that day.

In terms of dog specific products, it was clear that Chris Christensen was a fan favorite. Think Pantene, but for dogs (and more expensive too)!

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...And Some Don't Use Shampoo At All

Joe, owner of Old English Sheepdog, Philimina, weighed in on the hardships of prepping a dog for a show. "The hardest thing to do is keep them white," he said of the signature white coat of the Old English Sheepdog. "For bathing right now we're using Dawn Platinum. When I first started I used to use stale beer. The coat has to have texture to it so you don't want anything that's going to soften it."

Fascinated by the idea of using dish soap on a dog's coat (and questioning my own dog's expensive shampoos), I pursued the topic further. "The Dawn is supposed to be good at taking off greases and oils," Joe said. "It's the same Dawn that they use to clean up birds after oil spills."

Some groomers of white dogs finish their routines with chalk or cornstarch to give them that clean look, but it's a fine line because you don't want a dog to shake in the ring and end up in a cloud of white powder.

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I did speak to the owner of Rosie, a hairless Xoloitzcuintli who obviously takes a different approach to grooming. Since the dogs have no fur to brush or wash, you have to make sure their skin stays super smooth and soft, so as not to become too leathery. Rosie uses none other than one of our favorite go-to beauty products—coconut oil!

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Their Routines Takes A Long Time

The one thing that stayed pretty much consistent with every owner of a furry dog that I spoke to is that these dogs take a lot of commitment. Some owners admitted to working on them for two to three hours prior to a show and others prefer to take them to get groomed professionally. There's the bath, the haircut, the nail trims, the texturizer, the blowout, the brushing, and, of course, the finishing touches. And that's just on an average day.

In the end, I realized that while grooming a show dog is a lot of work, the result is definitely impressive. The dogs looked fabulous!

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