Color and controversy abound in art of creative dog grooming

“Nightline” hits one of the biggest dog grooming competitions in Las Vegas, where artists use their pooches as their canvas. They hit back at critics, insisting their work is safe and positive.
7:49 | 01/16/20

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Transcript for Color and controversy abound in art of creative dog grooming
Reporter: We're in Vegas at one of the biggest dog grooming competitions in the country. But these poodles aren't just here to get primped and pampered. They're works of art with vibrant colors, creative cuts, and elaborate themes. Designs so flamboyant, so extravagant, that these pups have heads turning pretty much everywhere they go. Creative grooming is pretty synonymous with extremely intricate motifs that are scissored and cut into the dogs. Reporter: This is the world of competitive, creative dog a quirky, colorful, and controversial industry that has groomers and their pups taking the stage and competing like never before. It's an artistic expression. There's minimal creative grooming like just coloring ears and tails. Goes all the way up in range where you almost can't tell it's a dog anymore. Reporter: Cat is a legend in the industry with over 20 years of experience. I've been on Jimmy Kimmel, the cover of "Groomer to groomer" magazine, taught creative classes. Reporter: Today at super zoo she's going up against the top creative groomers in the world, for the top spot and cash prize of $2,500. Alisa and her poodle ditto are the new kids on the block. I haven't been able to be in a division with cat. I love to push myself and go up against those really amazing women because I know that they're the best. Reporter: Only three years into her creative career, she's been waiting eagerly for a shot to try her shears against a grooming heavyweight like cat. I've done really well this year. I'm very grateful. We have gotten a lot of good critiques and we just go to the next show and better ourselves. Reporter: For these two it's a passion. For the rest of the world a It's the super bowl of creative grooming. Reporter: Even the center of a full dog "Well groomed" streaming on HBO. The public's reactions to these creations are visceral, and it's not without controversy. We do get some backlash, especially online, that people think that I'm using my dog for followers or content. Reporter: At home in Elgin, Illinois, Alisa is a full-time First client today is a shanoodle named Helga. I became a groomer about 10 years ago. Had art in my life, so it was just another art form to jump into. Reporter: Working out of a mobile grooming van, she says more and more people around town are taking notice of her craft. Little by little I've been kind of converting some people to be like, oh, yeah, let's see. It started out with a tail, now we're on to ears. Reporter: Today she's adding a splash of purple to this pup. See? You're good. Reporter: Her standard fare is still a traditional groom, but Alisa's hoping to do more. I do have a lot of clients who know about ditto, who knows what we do because it sparks curiosity. I do get a little of it bought I wish it was more. Reporter: Her real passion is getting ditto's coat contest ready. She works on perfecting a single design throughout the year. Ditto's current theme? Beetlejuice. This one has been probably racking around the 20 some hour line. We do increments. You do a different design for each competition? Luckily you can go through the whole year and do the same design and better yourself and find ways to make it what you want in the end. But you can't go to the same grooming competition the following year with the same design. Reporter: With the process dependant on her dog's hair growth, Alisa has to plan out her designs far in advance. What is the creative process like? I usually either take a picture of my dog and draw on the side on my tablet, oh, I really like this movie, it's got really cool-looking characters, I wonder what it would look like on a dog. I like to carve and color a little bit so my eye can still see the shape. You do it in two-hour increments, whatever the dog will allow. She sleeps through all the some people think we tranquilize her to lay on the table so calmly like she does. I mean, she's just trained and used to this, so she's just a calm dog. For someone who's never seen a dog like ditto before, is creative grooming humane? Oh, yeah, yeah. Everything is nontoxic that I use. They're all vegetable based. They're all safe. You need to calm down Reporter: She's even taken to tik Tok to prove the point. People didn't like the fact that ditto looked different. So people took it the wrong way. They reported it. How do you respond to that criticism when you do hear it? I try to not let it get the best of me. I would rather educate someone in a nicer fashion, because why fight fire with fire? Through all the backlash, is it worth it? Oh, yeah. In the end it kind of just matters between me and her than what someone thinks on the internet. If you have one message for people who are critical of the creative grooming industry, what would you say to them? It boosts is confidence of a even to the point where some of them will ask for it. I want people to open their eyes to it. Because, you know -- it has such a positive, amazing thing to it that I wish the world could see. Reporter: Alisa and her fellow groomers are no stranger to controversy. If you can laugh at yourself, then you'll be a little bit less offended when other people laugh. Everybody has a right to express theirself. Like if you want to go to a nudist beach, I'm not going to go to the nudist beach with you, but I'm not going to judge you for it. It's one more way owners can express their own personality through their pet. Reporter: When it comes to super zoo, it's all about making sure their creative partners are ready for the competition stage. If that dog moves one step, that groomer's control of those tools is the only thing that stands between disaster and a masterpiece. It's showtime. Reporter: Their owners give presentations on their designs. This is zealand. She as 5-year-old standard poodle. We have beetlejuice and Lydia during the wedding scene. Reporter: It's time for the judges to critique. On this side we have the wife, Barbara. Looks really nice. Hello, darling, hi. We are judging color definition, the scissoring technique, how smooth the work is, if the work is very recognizable. Thank you so much. Thank you. Reporter: After much discussion -- The first place winner, Sandra whiteness from yucca valley, California, and Nevada. So we didn't place but I think it was very popular with the crowd. Reporter: While cat didn't place this time -- Third place, Alisa kasiba. Reporter: It was Alisa who got to go home with some hardware. I thought her beetlejuice looked great. We placed third at super zoo. Were you happy with the result? It was such an honor to be in the top three. You want to come say hi? Reporter: Wide eyed and thrilled after a third place finish? It's still business as usual back in Illinois. So adorable. Reporter: When the pups are not on stage, they're just like any other dog. What do these guys like to do? Ditto's favorite thing is to play ball. She loves catch. What do you guys have you ever seen dogs that look like this before? No. First time. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm ashan Singh in Elgin, Illinois.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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