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  • Writer's pictureLucka Zabkar


Updated: May 27

Shnauzer's coat comprises a not-too-dense, soft undercoat and a wiry top coat. Such a coat was developed to protect the robust body from extreme external influences and enable the dog to survive even harsh weather conditions, remaining healthy and functional. His owner (a farm master) didn't have time to care for his coat, so he appreciated that Schnauzer "restored it himself." This was made possible by the demanding conditions of the Schnauzer's life. The coat was short to medium short rather than long, and mature hairs that stopped growing easily fell out. The relatively short topcoats enabled dogs to maintain just the proper density of the undercoat by rubbing their bodies against sand, dirt, wood, or any other kind of objects. If Schnauzers weren't like that, they probably wouldn't have survived until today because they wouldn't be helpful to their masters, who probably wouldn't breed them anymore.


The standard (FCI or AKC) also lists the described coat as a "goal," as it is a precious attribute that should be nurtured and protected and is one of the fundamental characteristics that defines the Schnauzer.

Some accuse me of advocating stripping too strongly. I am asking why, for God's sake, someone decides on a Schnauzer and then makes out of him something that a Schnauzer is not and does not deserve. Out of ignorance and vanity? Maybe. In particular, I don't understand why someone shortens the beard and eyebrows. Because a beard gets knotted? Even human hair gets knotted if not combed! Some clip also eyebrows because "they block the dog's view" !?!? But the view is blocked by the messy stop between the forehead and the muzzle, not by well-groomed eyebrows. I would ask these people, especially those who clip their dogs entirely, why they decided on a Schnauzer. Entirely clipped Schnauzer "transforms" into a "Pinscher" (in appearance, since their anatomy is identical). So why don't they go for a Pinscher?


I would like to add that clipping/scissoring the mustache and beard is, at least in many European countries, defined as animal torture because, together with normal hair, their thicker sensory hairs are cut. These sensory hairs are a kind of dog's radar system and a very sophisticated sense organ, which, to a considerable extent, helps the dog to perceive the environment or detect objects approaching him.

Critics that I insist on pulling too strongly are often based on the idea that stripping is needed only for show dogs. Nonsense! Each Schnauzer deserves stripping to stay healthy and beautiful. Of course, there are acceptable exceptions. Maybe the dog is very old or sick, maybe the coat is utterly unsuitable for pulling due to genetics, or perhaps it even has such a perfect coat that we can't destroy it with occasional clipping (yes, such dogs also exist, thank God, although there are not many of them).


I know from experience that clipping a Schnauzer's hair leads to an undercoat that overgrows the skin almost entirely while the top coat is practically gone. The coat is no longer straight and snug. It looks blown and curly. When it rains, it absorbs raindrops, and the dog gets "a Dalmatian pattern." The color of the coat is lost, i.e., pepper salts may turn into a uniform steel-gray color. To the touch, it resembles a plush.

I also clipped my miniatures almost forty years ago. I had no idea how much I was endangering their health. I didn't understand what was happening with their coat and even thought it was a consequence of living indoors. Now I know better why they panted in the still relatively mild spring sun! Due to the complete overgrowth with the undercoat, I exposed them to the severe possibility of heat shock (terrible!).


Unfortunately, I had no one to warn and stop me from clipping then. Nowadays, we have breed clubs, the internet, and many other resources to ask and learn if only we are willing to.


Today, our Schnauzers are mostly family members. They are still perfect working dogs, marvelous companions, and excellent personal therapists. Still, since they no longer live in the demanding conditions they once did, we are solely responsible for their well-being and must help them.   


Regardless of whether your Schnauzer is a pet or the most famous show dog (all should be pets in the first place!), he deserves the proper coat care. I urge all who clip their Schnauzers to reconsider their way of maintaining dogs. Remember that a "nice and quick haircut, done by a clipper" has nothing to do with the health and welfare of the dogs but rather with the ignorance of the owners and groomers. From my experience, I also know that not many groomers know the "story behind a Schnauzer coat."


But I am glad that more and more individuals are appearing daily who have clipped their schnauzers and would now like to improve their coats by stripping. Many do not know if they can do it, are looking for help, and know there is no guarantee of success.


How can you try starting stripping after having your pet regularly clipped?

I certainly disapprove of stripping to naked skin, although such extreme measures are sometimes necessary. Such measures are usually the result of prolonged neglect of the dog, unfortunately even with some successful show dogs. They might have been maintained only during the show season and then neglected, but shows are approaching again... What a human vanity and indifference!


How would I try to improve the coat of a clipped Schnauzer?


1.  When the hair on the body is still very short, I would start by rubbing it with a stone, keeping in mind that the undercoat has probably overgrown the skin and there is a very modest amount of topcoat, if any. Top hairs would probably not be able to be identified because the whole coat would be in one unified layer due to clipping. I would also try combing out the undercoat with a proper knife, always working toward hair growth. I would work gently as such skin is without adequate protection. I certainly wouldn't like to accidentally damage the skin, and I would leave some amount of hair to protect the dog. Depending on the condition of the coat, the procedure would probably be repeated at least once a week. Even long-dead top hairs would reliably fall out with the described procedure. Gradually, space would be created on the skin to form new follicles, hopefully enabling new hair growth.

2.  I would regularly repeat the above routine until the individual top hairs would grow to a length of 3 or 4 cm (maybe even more, depending on the hair of the particular dog). Then, I would start pulling only the longest ones, which would fall off easily, with my fingers. This way, I would try to provide a basis for the gradual formation of several layers of top coat. Before every stripping of mature top hair, I would comb out the undercoat with a suitable tool. I would end each procedure by rubbing the whole body with a stone.

3. I would succeed if the hair could be partially repaired in half a year to one year! If not, I would know that the hair is unsuitable for stripping. I would stop pulling and continue clipping because pulling out hairs that are not mature and do not fall off easily hurts the dog and is pointless.


 Each individual Schnauzer owner must make their own decision. It is his responsibility to find information or professional help. In the past, we have never had as much help as we have today.


Some of my colleagues who listened to me take great pleasure in grooming their Schnauzers today and are very proud of their coats for a reason. Some don't have time and, therefore, find an experienced groomer they trust. There is also a minority that is convinced that stripping means only much too expensive and time-consuming unnecessary torturing the dog.


Anyway, everyone should decide for himself. I am determined to do it my way. Despite the occasional criticism of my "stubbornness," I will continue to defend stripping steadfastly.


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