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Practice Makes Pooch Perfect: An Interview with Groomer Contestant Deb Compton

How do you go from an everyday bather to Pooch Perfect all-star stylist? If you’re Deb Compton, the answer is that practice makes perfect.

“Never stop learning. Always seek out judgment, and learn to take critique because you can’t grow without it.”

Compton and her son Jordan Jones made their debut on Rebel Wilson’s Pooch Perfect. The pair joined ten top groomers competing from across the country in ABC’s latest canine fashion reality show. At stake is a $100,000 grand prize.

Striving to be the best is, according to Compton, in her blood. But it really wasn’t until she experienced working alongside nine other top groomers that she felt she belonged there.

“It was so awesome to meet all the Facebook friends and people whose work I’ve followed for years – to be there with them shoulder to shoulder. I felt like a fan-girl,” she said.

A Foundation in Bathing

Compton started working in the pet industry when she was 16. When Petco needed groomers in South Florida in 2003, she signed up, not knowing exactly what that would entail. After a couple of days of bathing, she was thrown into the training program to fast-track her way forward in the grooming kingdom. Today, as Regional Grooming Team Lead at Pet Supplies Plus in Wisconsin, she prefers her hires spend at least 90 days bathing first before pursuing the profession as a groomer.

“Bathing is half the groom. There’s so much you need to learn about dog handling, coat types, and using the right products,” she said. She’s delighted that PSP now has a structured bathing course for their employees through Paragon Pet School’s Distance Learning program. “This standardization is the best thing that has happened to training at PSP.”

The first episode of Pooch Perfect relied heavily on the lessons learned in the tub in what might be called a bathing skills bonanza. The teams hustled to combat enemy #1 – mud, lots and lots of mud. So much mud that team Compton had to re-bathe, she admits.
“Never underestimate the power of mud.”

Trials and Tribulations

True to her own advice to novice groomers, Compton turns every trial into a lesson to do better. She once was disqualified from a competition for missing a matt in the armpit of a deep-chested Portuguese Water Dog – an omission caught by eagle-eyed judge and Learn2GroomDogs.com trainer, Lisa Leady. She went on to persevere in the competition ring for eight years, triumphing in All American Creative for her sumptuous sculptures. Although at one time “terrifying,” the experience in competitions helped prepare her for the pressures of performing on Pooch Perfect.

In competitions and on the show, Compton relies on her artistic background to craft creative results using coloring and sculpting techniques.

Colorful Inspiration Through Groomer Community

Her inspiration came from hours of watching icon “Pina” Irina Pinkusevich create masterpieces in Learn2GroomDogs.com tutorials and elsewhere.
“Watching (Pinkusevich) I had a transformative moment where I realized it was a form of subtractive sculpting, using the dog’s body as leverage.”

This epiphany propelled Compton to hone her skills while simultaneously running her own grooming salon, In the Dogz House, for a decade while homeschooling her children. From the vantage of a Salon Owner, she said grooming can be a lonely business if you don’t reach out to work with others in the groomer community and continually sharpen your skills. Two years ago, she joined Pet Supplies Plus, a move she says gave her the best of both worlds due to the company’s highly personalized approach. Her son Jordan, who trained with her since he was 14 years old, now also works with PSP.

The Pooch Perfect Experience

In addition to the camaraderie of working with fellow groomers on Pooch Perfect, the show also gave Compton and her son a unique opportunity to bond in both a personal and professional capacity.

“It was amazing. I learned how much I had to rely on him and to know when to ask for help. It really strengthened our relationship.”

While she can’t share too many details of what’s to come in future episodes, she said the casting company did a great job bringing all kinds of different dogs to the show.

“It was nice to be able to bring everything I had to every dog I worked on,” Compton said.

Rebel Wilson’s organic and rapid-fire wittiness on and off the camera made the experience memorable, and the collegial bonding among groomers gave the time in California a “summer camp for groomers” vibe. But apart from being a once-in-a-lifetime personal experience, Compton hopes Pooch Perfect gives something beyond entertainment to its audience.

“What I hope comes from the show is that people sitting in their living rooms who love connecting with animals realize that making them beautiful is an actual, rewarding career. I hope it inspires them to take the next step in life.”

The first episode of Pooch Perfect premieres on ABC at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30. The Trio of Celebrity Judges include TV personality Lisa Vanderpump, dog groomer Jorge Benersky and veterinarian Dr. Callie Harris.

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