If you’ve ever been on the internet, chances are you’ve seen photos of brightly colored poodles with cartoon characters or critters or some kind of campy design shorn onto their sides. And though it may seem like a trend for only the quirkiest of dog owners, a new documentary makes the case for competitive dog grooming as art—in fact, some might even call it a sport. Last night, HBO Sports debuted Well Groomed, a peek into a year of the lives of four competitive dog groomers (and their pups) as they prepare for the country’s largest creative grooming competition at the Groom Expo in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Directed by Rebecca Stern, Well Groomed provides both an eye-opening look at the hard-working women who dedicate their time to the competitions and plenty of charming footage of dogs basking in all the attention. Ahead of the documentary’s premiere, we were given the opportunity to sit down with Stern, groomer Cat Opson, and her two dogs Zealand and Inspiration, for more insight into this wild, hairy world. As you might imagine, competitive grooming isn’t without its detractors, which Well Groomed addresses, so Stern and Opson opened up about the controversy surrounding the art and revealed how the right kind of products—and the right breeds—can ensure that the dogs stay happy and healthy. The pair also shared their thoughts on the kitschy performance aspect of competitive grooming, and how the industry remains a haven for independent, women-operated small businesses.
Well Groomed premiered on HBO on Tuesday, December 17, and is available to stream now on HBO Go and HBO Now.