poodle dog pictureAngela Kumpe

A white poodle is dyed yellow, blue and green, and made to resemble a peacock (photo left). A chow chow's fur is trimmed and carved to look like a lion with a zebra's head emerging from its hind leg (photo below). Have you stumbled upon an alternate universe? Well, kind of.

Welcome to the the world of "creative grooming" competitions, in which professional dog groomers transform mundane-looking canines into fantastical creatures. It's an art form that has its detractors, but with the New York Times interested, and a reality television show in the works, creative dog grooming appears to be gaining in popularity.

We know it strikes a chord with Paw Nation readers because after first running the photo gallery in August 2009, and then running more recent photos last week, you demanded to know even more about this very special kind of dog competition.

The trend began with professional groomer Jerry Schinberg of Des Plaines, Ill. Schinberg held the first-ever "regular" dog grooming competition in 1973, and is credited with introducing the notion of creative grooming in 1980. "I got the idea from going to beauty shows for hairstyling for women," Schinberg tells Paw Nation.

Today, there are more than a dozen different creative grooming contests that are held each year across the country, usually as part of a larger, regular grooming competition. While the prize money for winning a regular grooming contest can be in the tens of thousands, the amount awarded for creative grooming is far less, usually about $1,500. So why do it? "It's fun, and an artistic outlet, and a way of bonding with my dog," groomer Sandra Hartness tells Paw Nation.

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