By Chloe Sweet @_chloesweet
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Videographer / director: Scott Hoon
Producer: Chloe Sweet, Ruby Coote
Editor: Marcus Cooper
In Hershey, Pennsylvania, pet groomers gather each year to showcase their most outrageous and intricate dog designs.
With a $2,500 cash prize to be won, the dogs need to be perfectly shaved, trimmed and coloured in under three hours.
Professional dog groomer Milena Kon is a regular face at the competition, along with her pet poodle, Soleit.
She told Barcroft TV: “I have been grooming for about six years but I got into creative grooming about three years ago, when I came here in Hershey.
"I told my husband that I am going to be up there one day with the girls, and here I am today.”
Since March, Milena has been competing with the same ‘Africa’ theme – which features a giraffe, elephant, lion and gazelle designed neatly in Soliet’s fur.
She also has a second show dog that she alternates with Soleit after each year of competing. This is to allow their coats to grow out and the semi-permanent dye to fade between the events.
She added: “I love the creativity, I love what you can do with hair - it's just amazing.
“And I always say that the dogs love it too, they love the attention.”
Poodles are popular show dogs because they have thick, long hair that grows continuously, unlike dogs that shed. This means that they need regular grooming – which is great for creative dog stylists like Milena. If they don’t get their regular haircuts, it will become matted and full of knots.
Emily Myatt, one of the competition’s judges, says that the competition is serious business, and they have high standards when it comes to crowning a winner.
Emily told Barcroft TV: “You need to be in absolutely precision and control of your tools, so it will be fairly high skill level to execute some of the designs that you see.”
Creative dog grooming is banned in countries like Belgium because it is seen as animal cruelty, but Emily insists that no physical harm is inflicted on the dogs during the process.
She said: “All of the products that we use are completely pet safe and they are made for dog’s hair and skin so we don’t have to worry about the safety aspect. It becomes the case that people ridicule because they don’t appreciate art.
“I think if you have appreciation of any art, sculpture or painting then you will have a genuine appreciation of what girls do here, and they are doing it on something that can move which adds an element of difficulty.”
Once the three hours are up, the pet-owners present their dogs in hopes of wowing the judges and audience.
But unfortunately for Milena, she didn’t even win a place at this years’ creative dog grooming competition.
Milena said: “When you compete you want to be number one, everybody wants to be number one.
“There is always going to be competition, but fortunately enough we are all groomers and we are friends with each other, and I am happy for anybody that places above me.”
The first-place title was given to Cindy Oliver, whose design was based on the 1980s cartoon 'The Wuzzles', styled on her dog Paisley. This is second time that she has won the competition, and describes it as a “big accomplishment".