Working for a fashion magazine, you don’t run across a whole lot of staffers who show up at the office claiming they ~woke up like dis~ (Beyoncé voice optional) — in other words, we unapologetically groom and dress to impress. Likewise, you don’t run across a whole lot of contestants (read: dogs) at the National Dog Show, presented by Purina, who just plopped down on the annually televised carpet without giving their overall aesthetic a Princess Diaries-style overhaul.
Obviously, the pups aren’t personally handling their grooming, but you’ve got to give them credit for patiently putting up with their handler’s every beauty whim. It can’t be easy being waited on hand and — er, paw, and, uh, paw.
On Nov. 17, I caught up with some of the 2,000 dogs and 190 breeds (and their people) entered in the annual show, which airs each Thanksgiving on NBC, and found out the beauty rituals that distinguish them among America’s top canines.
Scroll down below to meet some of the country’s bougiest dogs, and learn how you, too, can groom your furry BFF into champion material.
(Note: only Billy the Lhasa Apso and Whiskey the Whippet are reflected in the photos below.)
Billy the Lhasa Apso
Achievements: Honestly, what hasn’t Billy achieved? He’s not even four and he’s already the top Lhasa Apso in the country, plus he’s registered as Grand Champion Silver Xeralane’s Bite Me, which is a pretty bad-ass name. As if he didn’t already have absolutely everything going for him, Billy is also something of a globetrotter — his owners crisscross the map from England, Hawaii, California, and Japan. This year, this very good boy claimed the title of NDS Non-Sporting group winner.
Beauty Secrets: According to handler Adrian Agard, “You prepare basically all year with this kind of a breed.” Lhasas don’t have fur, they have hair like humans, so they literally use all the same products and tools you do — straightener, blow-dryer, hairspray, etc. If Lady Gaga has put it in her hair, odds are Billy has too.
Anonymous Lagotto Romangnolo
Achievements: Bronze Grand Champion — this dog has seen his day.
Beauty Secrets: According to said Lagotto’s owner, his routine is fairly low-maintenance, but the adorably curly coat is key. “Lagottos are very easy to take care of. They just need to be cut down a little bit. If they’re just pets they can be shaved down, you can leave them long and shaggy. Just a little bit of water here and there, make them curly again for the show.”
Willow the Poodle
Achievements: Willow is not your average show poodle — she’s also a budding movie star. With an agent in New York and a movie with Rebel Wilson and Priyanka Chopra out in February, this boss bitch (pun intended) is on the rise. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, but Willow has proven that she has what it takes.
Beauty Secrets: Willow’s person begins prepping for a show three days ahead of time. On day 1 she and her brother Finn get shaved, on day 2 they take a bath, and day three is devoted to “brushing, more brushing, and trimming.” And though she tends to “switch around” the products she uses, Willow’s mom notes that she’s a fan of Chris Christensen and Pure Paws.
Savannah the Shih Tzu
Accomplishments: She’s a puppy, so it’s an honor just to be nominated — er, competing.
Beauty Secrets: In addition to her regular bath and blow-out, Savannah gets brushed for about an hour a day throughout the week leading up to the big show. In her (and her mom’s) humble opinion, Espana shampoo and conditioner is where it’s at.
Achievements: “Too many to count” — direct quote from humble owner.
Beauty Secrets: This Bergamasco gets washed with Eucalan (a wool wash) about a week before the show. “The wool wash keeps the oils in their coat — we don’t strip them,” her person tells me. “I keep her muzzle brushed out and I lay her on the floor with me and go over one end and roll her over on the other side and make sure all of [her mats] are separated down to the skin.”
Adele the Irish Wolfhound
Achievements: AKC and UKC Champion, as well as the champion of my boyfriend’s heart.
Beauty Secrets: Adele’s beauty routine begins about a week in advance, and while not much is needed in terms of her coat — “it’s supposed to be coarse,” her handler tells me — the hair in their ears must be stripped out. By the end of the process, the inside of the gentle giant’s ears should feel “just like velvet” to the touch.
Whiskey the Whippet
Accomplishments: Best In Show, 2018. That’s right. Whiskey is the literal top dog.
Beauty Secrets: This smug pooch is just a natural beauty. “Whippets are wash and wear,” his mom Cheslie Smithey tells InStyle. “You just wipe ‘em off and go. Whiskey has beautiful black eyeliner, but it’s 100-percent natural.”