EDGE Interview: Talking with Gabriel Feitosa: Getting Creative with Dog Grooming
Steve Duffy READ TIME: 6 MIN.
As a child in his native Brazil Gabriel Feitosa wanted to be an artist. Then at the age of 12, he discovered dog grooming and learned that he could turn animals into art.
It was when he took his sister's dog, Icaro, to a groomer in Sao Paulo and became fascinated with the process. "I thought, 'Wow, this lady gets to play with dogs all day and make money?'" he says. "I just got obsessed," |he told the CNBC show "Make It."
He became so obsessed that he quit high school to pursue a career in grooming. At 23 he took a grooming internship with a dog breeder in Sacramento, Calif. and moved to the U.S. where he worked with groomers across the country before setting in San Diego in 2017 with his husband at the time. to worked part-time at a dog groomer who also ran a bakery. After a few months, Feitosa was offered to buy the dog grooming business that was located behind a dog treat bakery, both of which ran successfully until the start of the pandemic, at which time it closed for two months.
In that time, Feitosa's business partner retired and he took over the entire building; and he reopened as an essential business. In 2021, Feitosa was cast on "Pooch Perfect," a competition TV show for dog grooming artists on ABC, where he was a finalist. His salon services 500 dogs per month that are cared for by Feitosa and his 10 employees. Last year his salon grossed some $1.2 million.
The hunky 31-year-old dog grooming artist also has a social media presence of 2 million followers on TikTok and 400,000 on Instagram. He also $125,000 that same year from brand deals and sponsorships, according to the New York Post.
Feitosa also is a big believer in giving back to the community. Just this week, NBC San Diego reported that he recently partnered with The San Diego Humane Society to help them increase the chances that overlooked dogs can be adopted from their shelter, which is near capacity. "We're hoping that by giving them a good time and a spa treatment on top of it, making it more visible, that they would be more noticed," Feitosa said. "We have a chance to give them hopefully a forever home."
EDGE spoke with the camera-friendly Feitosa about his love of animals, his love of dog grooming, any abuse concerns, and how to handle a dog reluctant to be groomed.
EDGE: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Gabriel Feitosa: I am a 31-year-old gay Brazilian and a proud dog dad.
EDGE: How did you get your start in dog grooming?
Gabriel Feitosa: I met a groomer when I was about 12 years old, and I asked her to teach me how to groom. I got obsessed with it. I have always thought that dogs are the most incredible animals. I thought that they were like living sculptures and grooming offered so many different techniques. I was so excited to learn how to do it.
EDGE: Does your creation depend on the breed of the dog?
Gabriel Feitosa: It sure does. The creative process depends on the type of dog, the color of the hair, and the natural pattern of the dog. It all has to align with each other.
EDGE: Do you also take requests?
Gabriel Feitosa: You can request, but then I will help guide to what is the best look for your dog. Let's say you want a giraffe, but your dog is a pug, that is probably not going to work. We will discuss your favorite color scheme, favorite animal print, and how long you want the color to last. It will definitely be a team effort in creating the perfect look for your dog.
EDGE: Which breed of dog is your favorite client to work with?
Gabriel Feitosa: The poodle, because they're tall, they have a lot of hair, and their colors are solid. So, anything that you put on them comes out amazing.
EDGE: How do you respond to people that say this is animal abuse?
Gabriel Feitosa: This is a new thing, so I understand people's concerns when it comes dyeing a dog's hair a different color. Most people have never seen anything like this before. Before I started doing it, I'd never seen it done before. I probably would've been concerned too.. I probably would've been concerned too. I can assure you that it is safe. The dye is non-toxic and made for pets. I am not going to put any dog through any type of stress or discomfort. The hair dye brings the dogs a lot of attention, which is something that they do understand and does impact their lives. I have refused a lot of clients when I thought the dog wasn't ready for this type of service, especially if they show any type of anxiety towards grooming.
EDGE: Do you work with any other kind of pets?
Gabriel Feitosa: There are groomers that do creative things with cats, but I only work with dogs. I've groomed a goat when I was on "Pooch Perfect."
EDGE: Do you have any tips for dogs who hate getting groomed?
Gabriel Feitosa: The key is desensitization. For example, if your dog doesn't like the clipper, you can take an electric toothbrush and turn it on near them while gently massaging them. Do it when your dog is at home laying the couch or sleeping. Practice it in a calm setting. A setting that they trust and are familiar with. The same thing with the water. If your dog is afraid of water, bring him to the bathroom and turn on the shower. Don't place him in there, just let him get used to the sound of running water.
After a while, place him in the tub. So little by little you can get them acclimated to the noises and the processes of the dog grooming experience. I always tell my clients, as soon as they have their shots, go outside with them interact with people. Let strangers pet them. Ask friends and family members to touch your dog's paws and ears. The more desensitized and comfortable they are with these behaviors the better they will do while getting groomed.
EDGE: What impact did appearing on ABC's reality show "Pooch Perfect" in 2020 have on your career?
Gabriel Feitosa: It had a bigger impact than I imagined at the time. I thought because I was on a TV show that my social media was going to blow up and it really didn't. It was an incredible opportunity because I came from the slums of Sao Paulo, and I never imagined myself in Hollywood and on a prime time tv show. This was an incredible personal and professional achievement for me. When the show ended, I didn't get any reaction, but my career moved forward, and I started posting on social media and that's when it blew up. That's when I realized how much "Pooch Perfect" had become the backbone of my new career. When customers come into the shop that's when they remember I was on the show.
EDGE: Scooby Doo, Snoopy, or Pluto – which one would you choose to makeover and why?
Gabriel Feitosa: I'd make over Snoopy because he has white hair and there's a lot you we can do with it. Plus, kids love him, so they would probably get excited when they saw him.
For more on Gabriel Feitosa, visit his website