Beauty secrets of Westminster contestants

How do these dogs primp for show? You’d be surprised at some tactics


By Sandy Robins

updated 10:11 a.m. PT, Mon., Feb. 12, 2007


The Westminster Dog Show has been dubbed the Miss America of the dog sporting world. And, as with any pageant, a lot goes on behind the scenes for doggy contestants to look furbulous and shine in front of the judges. It can take hours to primp and preen, poof up and fluff out. MSNBC asked the owners of several of this year’s top contenders to share some of their dog’s beauty secrets for looking spectacular.

Bedlington terrier
Owned by Jacquelyn Fogel

“I believe beauty begins with a good diet,” said Jacquelyn Fogel of West Bend, Wis. “That’s the secret to keeping a Bedlington’s skin dark and hair strong. It also promotes good breath. Versailles has a diet high in Omega 6 and 3 oils, and I swear by Missing Link, a ground flax seed supplement and add Vitamin E and zinc tablets to his daily vitamin regimen. He also eats lots of vegetables, particularly broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus.

“To get him ready for the show ring, I use white theatrical face powder on his legs. It’s brushed on with a soft boar bristle brush, brushed in with a slicker brush and then blown out with the dryer. This helps to remove any moisture from the hair and brightens his leg coat. I also put clear nail varnish on his nails before he steps into the ring to give his nails that extra shine.”

Siberian Husky
Owned by Correen Pacht, Judith Russell and Lee Cera DVM

“I swear by Bo Derek’s canine shampoo, called Bless the Beasts,” said Correen Pacht of Toronto. “It keeps his thick double coat soft and smooth. I also love Isle of the Dogs products for his coat. He gets shampooed and rinsed at least twice, and then we use a T3 Tourmaline Ionic Blow Dryer available at Sephora beauty stores to remove any dampness from his fur. Ionic blow dyers don’t burn or dry out the coat. They are an indispensable tool for runway supermodels and are also used extensively by celebrity hair stylists. It takes at least two hours to get Junior ready for a show. Just before going out before the judges, we mist him with water and blow out his coat to fluff him out.”

Owned by Janet Cupolo

“The Komondor’s long white-corded coat takes five years to reach the ground. The tassels are mats that begin forming when the dog is about nine months old. The coat is never brushed,” said Janet Cupolo of Farmingdale, N.Y.

“I tie up his cords in about eight pony tails on his body and grip all the cord on the top of his head altogether in one big ‘palm tree.’ He also wears an XXL-sized T-shirt to keep his upper chest and legs clean. When it rains, he wears boots to protect his paws. He’s very used to this outfit, and it doesn’t hinder him from chasing squirrels! Just before shows, I remove all this paraphernalia and run my fingers through his cords to remove any kinks. Standard hair gel smoothes any fuzz on his top line or cords.”

Owned by Charlotte Meyer, Gail and Bill Bertrand and Lynn Saleh

“Weekly bathing and blow-drying keeps his coat in tip top condition,” said Charlotte Meyer of West Bend, Mich. “I go to great lengths to ensure the environment doesn’t damage his coat, too. Too much heat or sunlight can cause a Pomeranian to shed and not develop a thick undercoat. So Tyler is often kept in air-conditioning and only spends time outdoors when it cools down.

“I use a standard anti-dandruff shampoo and lots of hairspray. I spend far more time on his hair than I do on mine!”

Owned by Mary Downey

“Affenpinschers have a dense, harsh coat that’s about one inch long all over the body,” said Mary Downey of Riverside, Calif. “It has to be hand-stripped to keep it that length. I shampoo Teaser two to three times a week to keep it soft and ensure the hair doesn’t break off. A good conditioner is the secret. I love the Panacea or Pro-Gro conditioners, and I leave them in. I swear by Grand Finale hairspray. I use it, too! My favorite brush is a green slicker brush made by Hartz that I bought at Rite-Aid. But I also have an expensive Mason Pearson brush in my kit. No self-respecting show-dog would show up at Westminster without one!”

Hairless Chinese Crested
Owned by Sue and Jim Gardner

“Because Polly is a hairless dog, she has special beauty needs,” said Sue Gardner of Palmdale, Calif. “She requires just enough natural sunshine to keep her beautiful color but can’t tolerate excessive exposure. Being a California girl, she loves to lounge outside by the pool, so naturally she has to wear lots of sunscreen. I like the one made by Mary Kay.

“Before a show, I remove any straggly body hairs and moisturize her all over with a Jergens lotion. She’s always cold in New York in February, so she wears warm pajamas. I always buy some new outfits before a show.”

Powder Puff Chinese Crested
Owned by Virginia Dorris

“We’ve tried lots of products to keep Spike’s silky hair looking good,” said Virginia Dorris of Bradenton, Fla.. “My handler, Kay Palade Peiser, likes Pantene’s 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner. We use a Chris Christianson short pin brush to keep the part down Spike’s back straight. He has a raincoat and boots to protect his coat and paws in wet weather.”

Miniature Poodle
Owned by Janet Lange

“Humidity is a killer for a poodle’s curly coat,” said Janet Lange of St. Louis. “We blow dry Antonio’s hair against the growth pattern and then use hairspray to keep it fluffed up. With a black poodle you have to be careful not to use too much spray, otherwise it gives a grey caste on the fur. I use color-enhancing shampoos and human hair dyes to keep his hair jet black and to prevent any red pigment showing through. Of course he wears leggings before a show to protect his legs. Fortunately he knows how to stand and pee.”

Owned by J. Robert Jacobsen, Timothy Reese and Randy Winters

“It’s an old wives’ tale that Pekingese aren’t ever bathed,” said Timothy Reese of Idaho Falls, Idaho. “We just don’t bath before a show. This way you give texture to the coat resulting in that lion-like look. We brush Fame several times weekly using water in a spray bottle to mist the coat. We also use baby talcum powder or cornstarch to get a show-stopping look. As far is his ears are concerned, Pekingese have ‘long furnishings’ to give that Oriental appearance.

“Before a show, I use a light tissue paper to wrap the hair on the ears and then secure it in place with a latex rubber band. I brush his teeth daily using good canine toothpaste and a Braun Oral B electric toothbrush, just like the one I use. And just before he goes into the show ring, we reduce the static in his coat by spraying it with distilled water mixed with a small amount of Infusium 23 Leave-in Treatment. He loves the hoopla involved in getting ready.”

Old English Sheepdog
Owned by Douglas W. and Michaelanne Johnson and Bridgette Callahan

“Old English Sheepdogs have a double coat. And, if not groomed properly, the undercoat gets entangled with the top coat, causing severe matting. It’s just like a wool sweater when washed — it shrinks and tightens!” said Douglas Johnson of Colorado Springs, Colo.

“When we bath him, we use a white color enhancer to make him whiter. I love Crystal White Easy Groom. Some people use curling irons to the head hair to make it puff out. But I find just line brushing it does the job. I use Barber shop neck paper and dental rubber bands to wrap his hair around his mouth and beard every day to protect it from staining and to keep it as white as possible. And we used standard ponytail wraps to keep his hair out of his eyes when he’s not in the show ring.

“Special booties are an absolute necessity for an Old English sheepdog. His are custom made for him by Jill Floberg of Bright Booties for the Distinguished Canine. The Velcro straps are wide and strong and fit comfortably over the hock and foot. He wears them on snowy or muddy days at home too. He has two pairs in purple and silver.”

Neapolitan Mastiff
Owned by Joyce Wolf

“Strider’s biggest beauty problem is his body odor,” said Joyce Wolf of Beverly Hills, Calif. “On long trips when bathing is not possible, I use apple cider vinegar. It removes any smell and restores a nice shine to his coat. I pour it over his back, rub it in and then towel dry him. Until he’s completely dry, he smells like a huge Waldorf salad …”

Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. Her work appears regularly on, and in various national publications.



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