Show Grooming

by Joan Anselm

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

A well groomed dog feels and looks healthy: nutrition, conditioning and training are all an integral part of the the total dog. Grooming the Giant Schnauzer is both a technical and individual problem and certainly difficult to generalize about. On the end of the spectrum there are dogs with hard bristle‑like hair and no undercoat ranging to dogs with only a soft wooly undercoat. I will concentrate on the correct coat as described in the Standard.

"Hard, wiry, very dense; composed of a soft undercoat and a harsh outer coat which, when seen against the grain, stands slightly up off the back, lying neither smooth nor flat. Coarse hair on top of head; harsh beard and eyebrows, the Schnauzer hallmark."

A young puppy should be accustomed to standing on a sturdy table while being restrained: a collar and leash connected to an arm. Make the sessions short and sweet. Once serious grooming begins, the dog will be emotionally prepared.


  • Strip the body about 12 weeks before the date of the dog show. The coat must grow to a length of 2 inches. All hair grows at various rates. Keep a record of your stripping dates, particularly if you are working on more than one dog.
  • Strip the neck about 10 days after the body.
  • Stripping procedures ‑ Work with just a few strands of hair at a time, pulling them out by the roots. This can be done with thumb and fore‑finger, or a dull blunt toothed (no cutting edges) stripping comb and thumb working with a stiff wrist and jerk of the lower arm. Baby powder sprinkled on the area will minimize the slipperiness of the hair. A warm hot bath to the hair will also make it easier to pull out. Bandaids are helpful on the blistered fingers! The reason for stripping is to speed up the process of removing the dead hairs, thus giving room for the new growth. If the outer coat (guard coat) is slow in coming in then either rake with a Stripping knife or clip away the undercoat.

  • At the same time, 12 weeks, groom the head. Strip the top, clip areas designated, blend sharply cut areas with thinning shears. If an error is made, there is time to cover it up in the next 12 weeks. The head must be worked on regularly. Study pictures of any Schnauzer and try to form a clean, natural appearance. The head viewed from the front should form a rectangle. The hair will not usually fall exactly where it should: use the 12 weeks to train its direction. Mustache wax is helpful.
  • Use a #15 blade on the head when clipping. Use a #10 blade on the neck below the collar and on the rear.
  • Keep teeth clean. They will need scraping about every 3 months depending upon the type of diet. Ask your dentist for his old dull scrapers.
  • Trim the nails every week. Long nails can shift the weight of the dog to the back of the foot which in turn puts an added strain on the pasterns. It would be a shame if your dog was structurally sound, beautifully groomed but a poor mover...
  • Stand back and take an objective view of your dog. Set the dog in a show position and take a polaroid picture. Mistakes will show up. Most likely the furnishings need to be taken down.
  • When clipping the rear, use the cowlick as your boundaries. Blend the stripped hair with the clippered hair by using thinning shears. All steps must blend with one another on the final stage.
  • The underline of the body must be trimmed so that it forms a straight line slanting somewhat towards the front legs. This Is one of the trickiest spots to get correctly. Place the dog in a show stance on the table and comb the hair forward. Gradually repeat, using thinning shears and comb to work from back to front until you have a straight line. The amount of slant will depend upon the shape of the dog and the amount of hair available. If properly executed, it will be an important part of the balance of the dog.

  • About 10 days before show time, clip the front and rear with a #10 blade. Use a #15 on the cheeks and throat about 4 days before and do the ears, inside and out, 1 day before. Keep area under the tail close, trim hair from between pads, pull hair from inside the ears where the clippers can't reach. Using scissors, cut hair from around the feet but don't be tempted to make the feet smaller looking than the columned leg. Watch at the shows for the Terriers and observe how they are presented. The approach in many instances can be applied to the Giant Schnauzer.
  • Beginners -leave your scissors at home and enjoy the show. First of all, the lighting is usually not adequate, nor is your hand steady. Spend your time washing the furnishings, towel drying and gently combing, allowing about an hour for the preparations. Wipe off the body with a towel, clean the crusts from the eyes, clean area around the genitals, relax and enjoy yourself!
  • None of this information will be useful to you unless the dog has furnishings to trim, comb and shape. These precious hairs must be pampered with oil (Alpha-Keri) to keep them from breaking off: They must be kept clean and should be combed daily. Remove foreign objects immediately.
  • The coat can be rotated for many months on many dogs by raking out some of the undercoat, enough to keep the outer coat from standing on end. Pluck sparingly every day. Some coats will begin to look motheaten after awhile and it this happens, withdraw your entry and begin the stripping of the entire coat. Don't show your dog unless it is looking its best.

A Note About Pepper & Salt Coats

by Cathy Robins

 As a devotee of Pepper and Salts, I'd like to point out that we have some different approaches. The hairs of a true Pepper and Salt are agouti (ah-goo-tea) in pattern, i.e. banded in black, grey, white and, occasionally tan. See illustration. In addition, undercoat colors differ.

One dog may have a dark undercoat, another pale. If, in stripping a Pepper and Salt, we allow too much differential in hair length, we will not only have a textured difference, but a color difference as well. I had this lesson brought home to me when I tried to make the tuck up of a Pepper and Salt extra short. It looked like she had a hole in her flanks! I usually strip body one week, flanks, thighs and tail the next week, and neck and shoulders the following week.

Clippering on Pepper and Salts is particularly tricky and should be restricted to less-banded areas where a tiny variation in length of hair will not leave a spot of different color. This means, do not clipper any area except cheek, throat, belly, underneath the tail and the rump. Leave the top skull alone unless you are a genius with clippers. Strip it. It will last longer and look better! I think blending, such as on neck line and al the rump, may be a little more tricky and important in pepper and salts.

Most pepper-salt Giants have moderately to very hard coats. It is seldom necessary to strip them bald if the groomer or owner has been diligent in brushing and raking. Many have extremely hard, easy care coats (as do quite a few blacks) which can simply be rolled. ..loose hairs plucked out as they appear. With dark undercoats (and in some black Giants with pale undercoats) one must be careful in plucking the outer coat or too much of the undercoat will show as a contrasting patch. This may also happen in a black Giant with deficient undercoat...the pale blue grey skin will show through! 
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