Verity Hardcastle knew from a very young age that she was going to work with animals.
“From as far back as I can remember I loved dogs,” says the award winning dog groomer.
“I remember driving around Harrogate in my parents’ car shouting out the names of all the breeds. It was clear that animals were going to play a big part in my life.”
Her grandfather bred working labradors. “It meant I got the see both sides of the animals – from pets to working gun dogs and I understood early on the importance of both types of relationship.” She studied business at college, but admits her heart wasn’t really in it.
When she was 19 she got a Doberman on the proviso that she showed her at competitions.
“It was an entirely new world to me,” says Verity lives in Harrogate with her husband and two small children.
“I became fascinated by the whole things, and with the world of dog grooming.” She enrolled on a course to learn all the skills she needed to open her own dog grooming studio in Harrogate.
She set up Verity Hardcastle Grooming and Training in 2010. The company has won several business industry awards including twice winning Pet Industry Federations ‘Grooming Salon of the Year’.
Verity says although dog grooming has been around for hundreds of years with new breed such as cockapoos, the demand for services like her’s has grown.
“People are moving away from shorter haired breed such as labradors. The new breeds are popular because their longer hair doesn’t tend to shed, but it does need looking after and as a result they need regular grooming by a professional,” explains Verity.
She is now is a certified Master Groomer and a member of the Guild of Mastergroomers. She is a multi-award winning dog groomer at Championship level and has recently won top awards at The Grooming Show, Great North Groom, Master Groom, Premier Groom, Love to Groom Scotland and even won first place at Groom Expo in America.
She has three poodles, Lily, Alice and Olive and competes in shows with them.
It was while she was competing in January last year that she was approached and asked if she might be interested in taking part in a new BBC television programme looking for Britain’s top dog groomer.
“I did a couple of Zoom meetings, as by then we had moved in to lockdown, and they asked me if I wanted to be one of the judges on Pooch Perfect.”
The show was one of the first to be filmed after the first lockdown was eased, but it had to be done under Covid restrictions, including social distancing.
“It was a challenge,” says Verity, “We filmed in Manchester and although we didn’t have to be in bubbles we did have to socially distance, but the team were amazing and I really enjoyed the experience. We had to be tested a lot but we never had one case of Covid.”
She said it was hard being away from her one and three-year-olds, but she tried to get back to Harrogate as much as she could.
“My husband was amazing and I couldn’t have done it without him holding the fort.”
Pooch Perfect is an eight-part series which puts professional dog groomers through a number of challenges, many out of their comfort zones in a bid to find the country’s best dog groomer.
The series saw dog groomers from across the UK compete a series of heats, then quarter and semi-finals with eventually the top three taking part in tomorrow night’s final.
But Verity says it is much more than just a reality TV show involving dogs.
“Of course it is all about dogs and there are some fantastic breeds and we really put the groomers through their paces, but there is also a really big educational element to it which I feel is so important,
“Dog grooming isn’t just about making the dogs look good, the dogs need to be groomed and the viewers learn a lot about dog care and the importance of looking after their pets ad why certain breeds are groomed in certain way.”
She explained that all the dogs in the series were put forward by their owners and they all love being groomed.
“We interviewed all the owners via Zoom and then all the dogs were signed off by a vet as being healthy.”
The show is presented by award winning Doncaster actress and dog lover, Sheridan Smith.
“Sheridan is amazing,” says Verity. “She has a baby too – and loves dogs we had a lot on common.”
They will learn this month whether the show will be recommissioned.
“I really loved the television work,” says Verity.
When she is not appearing on television or winning awards, Verity is busy renovating their home in Harrogate.
“It is one of those houses that you walk a past and dream of owning one day but never really think you will, but then it came on the market and we just had to have it. It does need a lot of work but it will be worth it.”
But her first passion is still her dog grooming.
“I have never been bitten by a dog in all the years I have been a dog groomer.
“Dogs just love being groomed and you can ell they feel like kings and queens afterwards.”
Tomorrow will see the three finalists create a continental clip on an elegant standard poodle. However, the show has had its critics, with some people branding it cruel and degrading for the dogs. One recent episode saw some dogs shaped to look like other animals and included the use of dye. Jody Gordon, the series’ animal welfare consultant, who spent nearly 20 years working for the RSPCA said: “All of the challenges were designed to highlight the skills and knowledge of the professional qualified groomers taking part in the show. Any use of temporary colour or accessories was strictly limited and only used to highlight the groom and any use of colour was explained and contextualised for each groom. All of the grooms in the series were carefully monitored by the animal welfare team to ensure that the dogs were happy, healthy, had sufficient food and water and got adequate rest away from the studio environment.”
PoochPerfect is on BBC One on Thursday 8pm and also in iPlayer