Westerville's newest salon is offering cut and color for a different demographic.

Westerville's newest salon is offering cut and color for a different demographic.

At Designer Paws, 5991 Maxtown Road, dogs and cats can be treated to regular baths and grooming.

But owner Misty Gieczys also provides "creating grooming," which includes dye jobs, temporary tattoos, feather extension, nail polishing and more.

"We always have creative ideas that we can do," Gieczys said. "Most people want ears or tails (dyed), or a logo on the side."

While Gieczys has been known to transform dogs into Santa Claus, Care Bears or sharks, she's also a longtime groomer trained in typical animal grooming and show-dog grooming.

Gieczys has worked for corporate businesses as a groomer for nine years.

The training she received during that time turned her on to the world of creative grooming.

"When I was in school for grooming, I saw our trade magazine and the cover was a poodle colored up as a dragon. The whole thing was a dragon," Gieczys said. "I went to my instructor and said, 'What is this?'"

Because of the corporate environment, Gieczys wasn't able to train at work in creative-grooming techniques, so she began exploring it on her own, buying an instructional DVD made by top creative groomers and experimenting on her own dogs.

"I played with it, and I found what worked and what didn't work, and now I teach classes," Gieczys said.

She also began competing at animal expos around the country in creative grooming and show grooming. She's won several awards, though she's yet to score top honors, which would put her on the cover of "Groomer to Groomer" trade magazine and earn her a spot on Groom Team USA.

"I'm a competitive person. I always like to be better than everyone else in my profession," Gieczys said.

Gieczys said she knows most of her customers will seek her out for traditional animal grooming, with only about 15 percent coming for some sort of coloring or tattooing and around 5 percent seeking full-over dying and creative styling.

However, she's happy to introduce people to the more creative animal styling, she said, usually through such incremental approaches as dying ears or tails, using temporary dyes or putting on a tattoo.

Just about any color or type of dog can be styled in some way, Gieczys said, and whether or not a dog can be creatively groomed usually depends on its personality and its ability to sit still through the process.

"We try to make the personality of the dog come out," Gieczys said.

Outgoing dogs usually do well with creative grooming, Gieczys said, because they generally receive a lot of attention in public, but that attention also can be good for a more reserved dog.

"Sometimes if you have a shy dog and you give them some color, it can help them come out of their shell because people come up to them," she said. "It's positive reinforcement."

Gieczys has built Designer Paws to show her personality and to feel like a spa, with bright decorations and hanging chandeliers in the lobby. Windows look in to the grooming area from the lobby and an outdoor seating area so people can keep an eye on their pets, if they choose.

The salon can accommodate dogs of any size, and a separate room has been built for cats so they're not distressed by the presence of the dogs, Gieczys said.