Josh White is used to attention. The 30-year-old dog groomer’s style is as colorful and label conscious as a pop star with an eclectic smattering of designer clothing ranging from Supreme to Vivienne Westwood.
His lithe 6-foot-1 frame is adorned with tattoos of butterflies, wolves and flowers covering his arms and neck. A small tattoo of a pair of scissors is at the top of his right cheek, a piercing goes across the bridge of his nose and a stud piercing is at the top of his left cheek.
Fashionable persona aside, it’s White’s dog Snow, a 4-year-old female standard poodle whose hair is regularly dyed in a kaleidoscope of rainbow hues or with portions of her puffball hair trimmed into the shape of a heart, that sends heads turning on walks through their West Hollywood neighborhood and fingers swiping thanks to their social-media-documented travels across the country.
White’s fashion aesthetic isn’t uncommon for Los Angeles, but it’s most likely unexpected for a dog groomer. A staunch animal lover since childhood, White is fusing his love of fashion with a career in dog grooming, building a brand and business that feels apt for our social media-fueled and pet-obsessed times.
He’s also shattering the perception of what a dog groomer looks like and helping to modernize the pet industry, which tends to be steeped in old-school tradition, thanks to his animated cuts and vibrant colors that appear to take a page out of “Edward Scissorhands.”
“I wanted to be a vet actually, but vet school is very expensive,” says White, who grew up in Corona, Calif. “I didn’t even think grooming would be my career. I just knew I wanted to work with dogs. I started when there weren’t many Black dog groomers and none who look like me. There is still not a lot of representation.”
White says he isn’t so interested in the pageantry of the industry and is pushing the norms of pet grooming to be more accepting of nontraditional cuts.
In March 2018, White and Mehdi Rezig, his 35-year-old boyfriend and business partner, opened West Hollywood dog grooming salon Dogue Spa, a cheeky take on the word “vogue” that White says he has had in the back of his mind since he was a teen. Originally from Algeria and raised in Switzerland, Rezig has used his corporate finance background to complement White’s creative side for building their growing business.
Located on Santa Monica Boulevard near West Hollywood City Hall and Hamburger Mary’s, the Dogue space is unassuming. The grooming salon’s prime locale (White and Rezig met and still live in the neighborhood) plus the stylish cuts and color attract regular celebrity clients including Awkwafina, Cardi B and Usher. This is where dogs and their whimsical looks are the stars.
“Josh is consistent, detailed and the most loving when it comes to his fur clients,” says Giselle Soto, a client and eyebrow expert who owns Giselle Soto Brows. “I find myself giving in to extra treats because I just can’t say no.”
A bath for a dog with short hair runs $50 while a bath and haircut for a poodle will cost more than $200. Dogue’s website states that every service includes a personal styling consultation, nail cutting and filing, a blueberry facial, and love and attention.
“I love to make dogs look like an extension of their owner,” White says. “I feel out the vibe of the owner, consult with them and give them what they want, and it’s a creative cut.”
White knew from a young age that he would work with dogs. Rather than watch cartoons or play with action figures, he showed a strong interest in dogs, surrounding himself with adopted puppies and asking his mom for books on dog grooming, which he fervently studied.
“It was always dogs for me,” White says on a recent summer day at an outdoor cafe in West Hollywood.
From there, he started working in shelters and eventually a veterinarian clinic near his hometown. “I just did as much as I could with dogs because that’s where my passion was,” White says.
Through much of the pandemic, dog adoption rates skyrocketed with rescues and pet-finder sites seeing double, if not more, the amount of interest.
“During the pandemic, we experienced at least double the normal amount of inquiries,” says Marina Russo, founder of Love at First Mutt, a foster-based nonprofit dog rescue based in Los Angeles. Adopt-a-pet.com, a nonprofit pet adoption website, says its site traffic for pet searches in 2020 was up 93% from the year prior.
Unsurprisingly, Dogue’s grooming business doubled as well.
“The dog-grooming industry has huge potential,” says Rezig, who has always owned dogs and is newer to the industry through the opening of Dogue.
There were 118 exhibitors showing 1,300 strange and wonderful plants as the 35th Inter-city Succulent and Cactus Show and Sale made up for a lost year this past weekend.
At Dogue, dogs roam kennel-free while waiting for their service and White greets each client that comes through the door. On the Dogue Instagram page, videos of groomers breakdancing before diving in to do a dog’s cut or tie-dye color have garnered hundreds of views and comments.
“It’s very tied to our brand to be so personable,” Rezig says. “Usually in grooming you don’t really get that experience, whereas we really try to make it feel like a human hair salon.”
Recently Dogue was named best dog groomer of L.A. by Los Angeles Magazine. The attention hasn’t stopped there. As White populated more upbeat photos of himself and Snow, both of them sporting megawatt color and coordinating looks, his Instagram feed became a literal bright spot amid a heavy year. The @joshandsnow Instagram has about 29,000 followers, many of whom consistently comment on Snow’s tie-dye teddy bear looks.
“She looks like a pegasus running in the water!” commented one follower beneath a video of Snow galloping through a lake near the Grand Canyon.
“You guys melt my heart every time I see photos of you guys!” wrote another, this one punctuated with heart, rainbow and dog emojis. The sentiment is overwhelmingly about Snow’s cuteness, and anyone following them can count on wholesome, feel-good eye candy that, while primed to pop on social media, has the comforting throwback quality of the Care Bears or a Lisa Frank sticker book.
“Snow always makes people smile,” White says. “She is something — happy and positive. She makes me happy, and I like showing our bond. I take her everywhere.”
In L.A., this alchemy often leads to one thing: reality television, and White and Snow’s journey into TV is more “Amazing Race” than “Vanderpump Rules.”
There are plenty of things for SoCal plant lovers to do and learn this month, even in the heat of summer.
In 2019, White and Snow filmed a competition reality show called “The Pack.” The first season debuted on Amazon Prime in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Pack” was canceled, but a new audience, endeared by Snow’s calm nature and colorful coat and White’s sweet and sensitive demeanor, opened up for the dog-and-owner duo. “You see me crying a lot on the show,” White says. Though they didn’t win the competition, White and Snow were named fan favorite by the show’s most engaged viewers.
White has since started a podcast called “After Bark” with fellow contestants from “The Pack.” Episodes range from dog nutrition tips with celebrity dog trainers to adoption and rescue stories. Snow and the other co-host’s dogs can often be heard howling in the background.
Despite White’s dog-grooming and marketing skills, his modern take on the industry, he says, has raised eyebrows, particularly when it comes to grooming competitions.
“For me, it’s about creativity, and with grooming competitions, I just felt like the odd ball out,” White says. “So, for me, I was like, ‘OK, what can I do to stand out that’s different and still get everything that these people were getting from competing?’ That was making my Instagram feed.”
White says that his @joshandsnow Instagram feed does bring Dogue business, but it’s not just requests for the outrageous cuts and color inspired by his creative aesthetic (Dogue uses a vegan, nontoxic vegetable dye from a company called Opawz). White and his team give plenty of traditional “grooms” particularly after servicing adopted dogs brought in during the pandemic that were in rough shape. “We saw dogs that hadn’t been brushed for months,” Rezig says.
At Dogue, there is a daily bustle and often a long waitlist to get in with White, but he’s there each day fusing his creativity into dog grooming, managing his staff of four and, whether he’s aware, giving the dog-grooming industry a stylish face.
“I may not be what people think of when they think of a dog groomer,” White says. “But for me, I’m putting my dues in, in my own way. I’m making my own space.”
Get Group Therapy
Life is stressful. Our weekly mental wellness newsletter can help.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.