Competitive dog groomer Susan Hatch was top ranked nationally for grooming, and she’s aiming to repeat that success by showing English springer spaniels.
Susan Hatch says dog hair has taken her to lots of places.
The owner of Lakeville’s Fancy Paws Pet Salon is not wrong.
Hatch learned to groom when she was just 13 years old, spending a full summer in dog grooming school. She groomed on Saturdays throughout high school and college. “I studied marketing, English and biology at the University of Minnesota,” Hatch says. “After college, I worked in medical sales.”
In 2012, she returned to her dog grooming roots, trading her medical sales career for the opportunity to open a grooming salon and take part in national dog grooming competitions. She’s had no regrets.
As a member of Groom Team USA, Hatch was considered one of the top 10 dog groomers in the country. Every two years, Groom Team USA competes in the World Grooming Championships. In 2017, Team USA won gold.
Yes, competitive dog grooming is a thing, and yes, Hatch is very good at it. “There are only so many dog grooming competitions, and I did well enough to make the team,” Hatch says. “I was on the team for two years.”
While most people think standard poodles, shaved shapes and hair dyes when it comes to dog grooming, the actual grooming competitions aren’t about wild cuts. “Creative grooming isn’t competitive grooming,” Hatch says. “It’s a whole different ball game.”
The goal of competitive grooming is to replicate the breed standard in a set amount of time. In other words, the dog is supposed to “look” the part. That translates to accentuating breed ideals and diverting attention when needed. “All dogs have faults,” Hatch says. “The job of a groomer is to hide those faults.”
When asked for examples, Hatch mentions the preferred dip in a dog’s back, rib spring and tail set. She adds that grooming can alter the appearance of the dip or make a dog more or less curvy. (When viewed from above, a healthy dog should have an hourglass figure.)
When competing, most show dog groomers rarely use electric clippers. Scissors, which sometimes can cost thousands of dollars, trump clippers. And hand stripping (manually removing hairs from the follicle) trumps scissors. “You’re judged on the standard, but technique is a factor,” Hatch says.
And it’s best to start with a pretty dog.
As a member of Groom Team USA, Hatch was asked to appear on the HBO Max reality show Haute Dog. “They asked all of us to audition,” Hatch says of her Groom Team USA mates. “Half of us made it, and half of us didn’t.”
The ones who did fly to California were isolated in hotel rooms during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were all friends and had competed against each other before,” Hatch says. “I didn’t win, but I’d do it again. The exposure to grooming made it worth it.”
Her experience in grooming competitions is opening the door for her to transition to dog showing competitions. Her new goal is to work with a team to show the best English springer spaniel in the country. She also shows American cocker spaniels.
Why springers and why cockers?
“I love how springers want to please you,” Hatch says. “I love how they have the energy to do things, and I love how they can shut down and sit on a couch. Cockers are merry. They’re the clowns of the sporting group.”
It goes without saying that both breeds benefit from a good grooming.
Fancy Paws Pet Salon
7688 160th St., Lakeville; 952.236.9322