The Kennel Club’s Young Groomer of the Year competition held at Crufts is certainly a highlight of the year aimed at encouraging young people to be the very best. As featured in a previous Grooming Box, the competition attracted a good entry of quality groomers who had the opportunity to show their skills. These youngsters are the future of our industry and the winner for 2012 is a very delighted Charlie Crowley.
Charlie started grooming dogs when she was 17 years old as a work experience helper at a local salon in Kent. At the same time she took her Diploma in Animal Management at Hadlow College as she wanted to be a veterinary nurse. It was a one-year course one day a week, which included theory and practical training in dog grooming, legislation, health and safety and everything you need to start grooming. Charlie worked on Cocker Spaniels, Westies, Poodles, Schnauzers and Lakeland Terriers.
While working in the grooming salon Charlie found she really enjoyed this part of working with dogs. It was not only the grooming aspect, but having the opportunity to be creative with styling the many breeds of dog with their unique coats. Charlie went on to study her City & Guilds Level 3 Introductory Certificate and to work as a full time junior groomer before starting working at The Pet Spa at Harrods in February 2011 as a trainee stylist. She is currently studying for her C&G Level 3 Advanced Certificate.
Charlie, who’s pet family dog is a Chihuahua called Alfie, took the top spot at Crufts Young Groomer of the Year with a Phantom Miniature Poodle, called Etta, owned by Julie Lalou (BIS winner at Groomer of the Year 2011) but says she loves grooming all Poodles and Schnauzers and as she also likes a challenge she is happy when a new breed she hasn’t encountered before comes into the Pet Spa for grooming.
Enjoying her job at the Pet Spa Charlie said: "I am not sure that I would be happy running my own salon as I prefer to work closely with the dogs rather than handling paperwork or staff. I would like to teach grooming though as I get a good feeling when I have helped someone to learn something new.”
Competing in grooming competitions is something Charlie was encouraged to do by Dione Spice (winner of BIS at English Grooming Group competition 2010). Charlie said: "Dione has been my mentor and she really supported me and showed me the way to have fun and further my experience by taking part in competitions. I love the buzz of the whole event as I am quite competitive at heart.”
So far Charlie has taken third Place in the Intergroom Competition at Hadlow College in 2011, first place in the beginner class at the English Groomers Challenge and first place in the junior class (18-24 years) with Pixie, a Toy Poodle, in the British Grooming Championships, and also went on to win the overall best junior in the show which consequently qualified her to compete at Crufts.
Charlie said: "Staying in the local hotel I woke up at 5am. I had to have a shower with Etta in the morning as the shower was a human one attached to the wall so we had to get in together! Then I dried Etta’s coat on a desk in the hotel room which took well over an hour. I prepared her coat thoroughly by blow drying, brushing and combing through before leaving for the show at 7.30am. We travelled on the coach from the car park to the venue, arriving at 8am. I then had to set up my table and all my equipment ready to start grooming at 8.30am!
"The competition is two hours and I make valuable use of the full allotted time. There is always room for improvement and even when I have my desired shape I need to re-check it and touch up. It requires combing over and over to look for any hair sticking out and anything that can be tweaked to produce a crisp finish.
"I used small Arco clippers on her face, feet and the underneath of her tail to produce the Poodle breed Standard look. I then scissored her body, legs and head all over using Geib scissors both straight and curved. I also used blenders on her ears to leave them padded with a soft finish about the length of a 5f blade.”
Winning the title of Young Groomer of the Year at Crufts was an accolade second to none, Charlie said: "I was so shocked at first. It took some time to sink in. I didn’t realise until I got home that night what an achievement it was. I am really pleased and proud of myself. I am excited about the future and can’t wait to compete again later this year.”
As for encouraging other young groomers Charlie said: "Work hard. Don’t give up, keep trying to learn. Practice makes perfect. You can do it if you really want it.”
YKC Grooming classes which can qualify members to take part at Crufts are held throughout the year. The relevant classes can be found at www.ykc.org.uk.
"Two competitors from each subdivision will qualify for the final at Crufts provided there are at least three dogs competing in the division. If there are less than three dogs competing in the division, only one member will qualify. If there are more than five dogs competing in the division, up to three competitors may qualify at the discretion of the Judge.
Classes will be judged on the following standards; handling of the dog, cleanliness of ears, eyes, mouth and other sensitive areas, no loose hair or dirt should remain in the dogs coat, dog should be bathed prior to the competition with no sign of shampoo or conditioner remaining in the coat, skin should be healthy and claws should be short. Competitors may be disqualified at the judges discretion if the dog is harmed (deliberately or accidently) during the competition. All competing dogs must be aged eight calendar months or over on day of competition.
"Handlers are placed into the age group in accordance with their age on the first day of Crufts not at the qualifier.
"No persons shall carry out punitive correction or harsh handling of a dog at any time.
"Food shall not be carried in the hand or given to a dog in the ring.
"No substance which alters the natural colour, texture or body of the coat may be present in the dog’s coat for any purpose at any time during the show or used before the competition.
"No substance which alters the natural colour of any external part of the dog may be present on the dog for any purpose at any time during the show or used before the competition. Any other substance (other than water) which may be used in the preparation of a dog for exhibition must not be allowed to remain in the coat or on any other part of the dog at the time of exhibition.
"Breaking any of the above rules will result in disqualification from the competition.”
Many thanks to Susan Whitehead for the photos.