Pimp your pooch

Chris Azzopardi

Our pooches deserve pampering. After all, we spend our days filing, typing, serving, cleaning – and they so charmingly snooze, and eat, and play, and snooze some more. OK, so they're pretty damn lazy, but they also make super-duper BFFs – and (wo)man magnets – so we wanna make sure they look as smokin' as we do. And Jonathan David, the gay New Yorker who's one of three left competing for Groomer of the Year title on Animal Planet's "Groomer Has It" at 9 p.m. Saturdays, knows just how we can make-over our critter companions into fetching hotties. Just don't color their fur to match your hair – or he'll have a bone to pick with you.

What tips can you offer the gays to give their pooches a hot new summer look?
I think because we travel with our dogs so much, and they're sort of like our children, … you've gotta give them a look that reflects your lifestyle. If you're on the go and you're out at the beach a lot and you're out at the parks a lot, a shorter haircut is probably a better thing for you and the dog; it's more comfortable and easier to maintain. If you're more of a stylish person and you tend to like to be seen in the best outfits and with the best looks, then you're gonna want a dog (with a) proper trim, so it looks really elegant and chic. My tip is to really think about what your lifestyle is … and do a trim that's appropriate to fit that.

Is it true that shorter hair doesn't necessarily mean the dog will be cooler in the heat?
It depends on the coat type. Obviously Saint Bernards and Huskies and things like that, they're not designed for the heat; it's just not what they're bred for. They actually have insulation that heats as well as cools. So those types of coats, which have a thick undercoat, you wouldn't want to shave that – 'cause it actually ruins the coat, and the undercoat actually takes over and makes it really difficult for the dog to cool down. But your longer-hair breeds, like Shih Tzu and Maltese and Yorkies – where they have a single type of coat (and) it's more like hair, (where) it just continues to grow – you can trim that short and it actually will help to keep them a little bit cooler.

Do you ever get people with really weird requests, like somebody requesting a human trend, like when the Jennifer Aniston cut was in style?
Something along those lines. I actually had a woman who brought a color sample into me and asked me if I could match this for her dog, 'cause she wanted her dog to have the same color hair as her – which I thought was a little bit out-there and over-the-top.

On the show, what's been the most difficult challenge for you so far?
I would have to say dealing with some of the other competitors who are, in my opinion, just sort of incompetent – because I take my profession very seriously, and it's all about making the dog look good and feel good and making the customer happy. And some of them really have a bad attitude about it, and they just think it's kind of like, 'Do it the way you want to do it. Who cares what the customer thinks.' So we kind of butt heads a couple of times through the show about opinions. Some people thought that I took things too seriously; (they'd say) 'It's just dog grooming,' and I say, 'Well, maybe to you it's just dog grooming, but it can be so much more.'

I was just reading the show's message boards on Animal Planet's Web site, and a lot of people think that you might be just a tad bit arrogant on the show. What do you have to say to that?
The way I look at it is that I have a tremendous amount of experience with medical background, with nutritional background, with technical ability. I compete nationally, I'm No. 4 in the country right now, and I think a lot of people mistake my confidence and my knowledge as arrogant and whatever. But I am one of the best at what I do and I'm proud of what I do, and I'm very confident – and I know that I've done a good job before the show, during the show and after the show. So if some people take it that way and they want to see that, they're pleasantly surprised when they meet me in person.