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  • Writer's pictureLucka Zabkar

My way of grooming schnauzers

Updated: Mar 21

The English version of the article "Rolling coat ali za dobro dlako šnavcerja se je vredno potruditi"

After over 30 years of living with schnauzers, I am convinced that everyone who owns a schnauzer should be at least roughly acquainted with the characteristics of a wire coat and the requirements for maintenance of such hair. That is exactly why we have been organizing workshops at our breed club. The idea was born several years back quite logically for two reasons: we saw too many dogs who deserved better and more, and because we learned that just occasional visits to a dog groomer cannot give the same good results as if the owners also take care of the coat regularly at home.

One workshop is not enough and is too short in terms of time, but still provides participants with the most essential information to start working on their dogs alone, to experiment, and find the best way to work for them and their dogs.

When talking about a proper schnauzer coat there are no shortcuts. Good schnauzer groomers have invested years and years of work in their excellence, usually without any outside help. Therefore, they are usually breeders of schnauzers who work with the same breed all the time and know that the tidiness of the dog and the good condition of the coat contribute to higher values ​​of their dogs. Working on a schnauzer is special, hugely different from other breeds. There is also no “official training program” for schnauzers. That is why there are very few dog groomers who can cope well with this challenge. As an average owner will have his schnauzer groomed in a grooming salon only periodically, the best solution is that the owners also take care of dog coat at home regularly.

I am not a groomer. Sometimes I help my friends with their schnauzers but have never, not even once, charged for my work. Grooming schnauzers is my big passion. I do not claim I am good or better or worse than others. Nevertheless, I am sure I am damn good in rolling coat but need a lot more to learn especially when it comes to styling. There are several years of hard work behind me, and numerous good and bad experiences, from which I learned the most. I learned the most from the dog shows, especially from the first world show where I competed with my dog. There you will find no forgiveness for mistakes, no matter how big or small, especially on big shows.

The first third of my schnauzer period was crowned with my complete ignorance of correct grooming. However, I was immensely lucky that my first schnauzer came at the very beginning into the hands of an experienced old groomer who was known for exclusively hand stripping schnauzers. Later, over the years, I gradually began to groom the dogs myself with the precious help of an excellent groomer, who had been preparing my dogs for shows for many years. When she stopped working, I was forced to start working entirely on my own, and because my dogs were in a period of intense showing all over Europe at the time, there was no opportunity for experimenting. So, I kicked off my independent “grooming career”.

And now to the essence of this article: I sincerely recommend to everyone who has the will and desire to do good for his/her dog, to learn, work, work systematically, and, if possible, work on the principles of "rolling coat". This technique is also the most dog-friendly way for schnauzers.

In the following, I will briefly describe the schnauzer's coat, what happens if we do not remove the undercoat and how to work on improving their coat.


The schnauzer's coat consists of a stronger topcoat and soft undercoat. Topcoat goes through different growth phases and as it grows, it becomes thicker and darker (changing the thickness, hardness, also color on the same hair at pepper salt dogs - it also grows in layers of different lengths). Such a so-called wire coat requires special and regular maintenance (removing undercoat, plucking dead topcoat), otherwise it will become blown, matte, softer, and tends to tangle.

Topcoat hair growth has 4 stages:

1. ANAGEN - the hair follicle enters the phase of active growth.

2. CATAGEN - the hair stops growing, the outer root attaches to the hair.

3. TELOGEN - hair is dormant, does not grow, or tends to fall out.

4. EXOGEN - hair falls out and a new hair begins to grow.

Shortening the hair by cutting (shaving with a clipper, cutting with scissors, damaging the hair due to improper use of a stripping knife, etc.) leads to a deterioration in the quality of the hair and thus the typical appearance of the dog. It reduces its natural ability to cool the body.

Another serious consequence can be:

• some topcoat hairs can start to grow back (into the skin),

• we may see areas where the hair does not grow at all,

• in some dogs, the undercoat starts to grow faster than the topcoat,

• the undercoat gets tangled into a dense layer.

Cutting may sooner or later lead to certain skin problems.

At I found a scientifically proven serious consequence for the health of a schnauzer if the undercoat is not removed or if the dog is shaved:

A: Hair after removing undercoat (practically without undercoat):

Cold air reaches the dog's skin and easily circulates and cools the dog's body, the dog's topcoat reflects the sun's rays:

B: Hair with moderate undercoat:

The flow of cold air between the hair is significantly hindered and when the undercoat begins to grow even more, it is blocked. The undercoat absorbs the sun's heat, creating a risk of the dog overheating.

C: Hair with an overgrown undercoat prevents any flow of cold air and strongly absorbs heat from the sun's rays. The heatstroke of a dog occurs very quickly.

D: The hair is cut/shaved. Cold air circulates over the skin, but the sun's rays penetrate the skin, and, regardless of the thin layer of hair, overheating occurs. Dog skin has only 6 to 10 layers (for comparison: human has 16 to 20 layers) and sunburns are highly likely.

The schnauzer's hair should not be shortened by cutting! It is important, that the undercoat and mature topcoat in the EXOGEN phase is removed. This encourages:

• growth of good hard topcoat hair with the right texture and the typical pigmentation,

• the coat better repels dirt and water,

• topcoat grows in visible layers.

Cutting hair leads to

• fluffy, curly hair,

• softening of hair,

• loss of color – pigmentation,

• excessive hair loss.

To groom schnauzers properly it is important:

• to know the basic techniques of combing out the undercoat and therefore you should have one fine and one coarse stripping knife that will sit well in your palm; you will comb the undercoat on the whole dog’s body and head, always in the direction of the hair growth (you use a coarse knife first and then repeat the same with a fine one until all the undercoat has been combed out);

• that you have a strong hand and fingers to pull out the longest topcoat hairs for a long time; a rubber finger condoms, latex gloves, or chalk (strip grip powder) for better grip might be of big help;

• that you use a grooming stone to rub the whole dog at the end and thus remove some of the remaining dead topcoat hairs that you overlooked, and also some undercoat;

• that you have an accurate picture of your dog in your mind, knowing all the dog's shortcomings and advantages (as by removing the undercoat and topcoat we also make the silhouette of the dog);

• to work regularly every week.

These are the basics of the rolling coat technique, of which I am an ardent advocate. Using it in practice means the dog will always be in the best condition, his coat will always be optimally long and thick - unlike when the dog is groomed only by a groomer occasionally.

It is important to know:

• The appearance of the coat might look worse at the beginning of using the rolling coat technique but will soon improve until it will reach and maintain the best possible condition.

• The best possible coat, which can only be achieved with this technique, does not happen overnight. It takes several months for the entire hair growth to "fit" into the right cycle.

• This way of working requires discipline. If you do not work regularly in the same (shorter) periods of time, the coat will quickly deteriorate due to too much dead hair. This delay prevents the growth of new hair as there is not enough space for it in the skin. The coat will become slightly less dense in the upcoming weeks. We don't want that, do we?

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