The Character And Care Of The Giant Schnauzer Coat

By Catherine Hale Robins

Reprinted from What You Should Know About The Giant Schnauzer, 5th Edition 1988

The hallmark of all the schnauzers is the striking combination of a keen expression framed by beard and eyebrows. The coarse, stiff whiskers and hard rough coat called for by the Standard indicate the inquisitive, bold, ready character of the Giant Schnauzer. No other AKC recognized working breeds have a coat quite like that of the Standard and Giant Schnauzers. This wiry, slightly oily coat is efficient protection against rain or underbrush. The cashmere‑like undercoat serves as insulation and padding. Both layers are essential to a correct coat ...the longer, stiff, slightly shiny guard hairs and the shorter, almost wooly undercoat.

Although many Giant Schnauzers are shown with long, silky furnishings atypical of the breed, excess coat is not correct and is a nuisance to the person who wants a police, tracking or herding dog. Even for the family pet, a profuse, soft coat may mean frequent and expensive trips to the dog groomer for clippering and combouts to prevent matting. A harder coat, while perhaps not as spectacular, will be far easier to maintain with only regular brushing and judicious use of fingers and stripping comb... and it is the correct coat for the breed.

GIANT SCHNAUZERS DO SHED! Dependent on their health and environment, some hair is lost year-round. Once or twice a year the dog will "blow" its coat ...that is, the old coat will loosen to make room for the new coat coming up beneath it. At this time, for the health of the coat, a complete hand‑stripping, or plucking is necessary. As a result of its limited shedding, a Giant is not suitable for those allergic to dogs.

Stripping out a Giant Schnauzer's coat is neither mysterious or difficult. It is the only acceptable way to prepare a coat for the show ring. Historically, stripping was done gradually, by hand, as it still is in many terriers...the groomer merely plucked loose or irregular hairs from the coat as they appeared, a very simple process with a true wire coat. Today, with the average coat somewhat softer and more profuse, a stripping comb or knife is used to provide a broader grip on more hair, speeding up the process. Also, most of the coat over a large area is removed. The hair is still not cut. The dead hair is pulled from the body with a firm, non‑twisting movement in the direction of the growth of the coat. Most dogs seem to relish rather than to resist this attention. To accommodate the different rates of growth of the hair on the various parts of the body and to produce the shorter head and neck hair in combination with the longer body coat, the dog is stripped in sections over a period of three to six weeks. Dogs with a strong new coat coming in beneath the old will simply have a very short coat in various areas during this period. Other dogs with a less dense or softer coat may be downright bald and need protection for the skin in the form of lotions and coverings.

Clippering the coat with electric clippers is quick and easy... but it can destroy the character of even the best coat by changing its texture and color. The guard hairs are tapered.. .thinnest at the base, next to the body, thicker toward the tapered tip. Clippering usually removes only the top two‑thirds of the hair, leaving the soft slender base of the shaft. This alone softens the coat. Also, clippering does not remove the dead hair, but leaves it (including the undercoat) where it perhaps mechanically impedes the new coat, and may cause dramatic change in the dog's color if the undercoat is of a different color than the outer coat.

Clippering is frequently used to trim the sensitive areas around the tail and belly where close shaves are desirable for sanitation. The cheeks, ears, and upper throat may also be clippered. If a pet dog has a very soft coat and owners are too busy or inexperienced to go to the extra effort to groom it properly, then clippering maybe better than having the dog's coat so shaggy and matted that it resembles a small bear!

A puppy, from its first days with you should be accustomed to regular sessions on a grooming table. Go easy, make it fun, and use this time to teach the dog to accept handling of mouth, ears and feet. Brush vigorously, pluck out loose puppy coat, and perhaps accustom the pup to the sound of electric clippers. Your pup will need experienced attention by five to six months. Ideally, the pup's breeder will show you how to strip out the pup's coat the first time. If this is not possible, try to locate a knowledgeable breeder of Giants or Standard Schnauzers. You will learn as you work. Study your dog and good photographs of properly groomed Giants. If you feel you must clipper, locate as a groomer someone who shows Schnauzers so that your dog doesn't end up with one of those terrible haircuts given so many pet miniature Schnauzers by careless or ignorant groomers. If you do clipper, please use a stripping comb to rake the coat lightly to remove some of the dead hair!

A NOTE ABOUT PEPPER-SALT COATS: The pepper-salt coat is often confused with two other types of coats. Some Giants, born wholly black, fade with maturity to an allover blue-gray. These dogs are not pepper salts and this is not a color allowed by the Standard. Other Giants may have a very pure black black coat with a sprinkling of white hairs. Usually these hairs disappear with maturity or can be easily stripped out. Pepper-salt pups, on the other hand, are born mostly blackish, but with pale feet. As the pups mature, the black puppy coat becomes increasingly skimpy, revealing the pepper-salt coat coming in beneath it. A pup which lacks pale feet, muzzle or spots over the eyes and a pale coat appearing beneath the black by weaning age is almost surely not pepper-salt. Pepper-salt hairs are "agouti"...that is, body hairs are banded in combinations of black, grey or white. The tip is often black, then there are one or more bands of another color down the hair shaft to the base. As in a good pepper-salt Standard Schnauzer, a black mask must be present, the feet usually silvery or cream-colored, and the undercoat may vary from pale cream to dark grey. 
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