Ah the glory of being between semesters, my class lectures written, and my fingers, being used to spending most of the day typing, have nothing to do!

As I was working on my puppy this afternoon, my thoughts turned to the abysmal Schnauzer grooming we’ve seen in our puppy classes recently. Please note I’m not talking about the grooming an owner does! I’m the first to encourage owners to try grooming, both for the bonding AND for the money saved. And hair grows. If you screw it up so badly no one recognizes your breed, no big deal. It’ll grow out and you can try again.

Nor am I one to discourage anybody from doing interesting things with hair. Your dog certainly doesn’t care what you do with it as long as it’s clean and unmatted and everybody’s laughing WITH her.

Personally I’ve dressed my Giants occasionally as Bedlington Terriers and even as My Little Pony now and then (this is a dog hairstyle that’s very popular with school kids).

No, I’m talking about the Schnauzer grooming turned out by professional groomers (of which I was once one) for people who are under the impression that they’re paying a professional to make their Schnauzer actually look like a Schnauzer. Today I’d like to take a look at beards.

The AKC breed standard for Giants says the head is: “Strong, rectangular in appearance, and elongated” and that “there is no “cheekiness” to disturb the rectangular head appearance (with beard)”. That’s pretty clear. Basically, a Schnauzer head should look like a brick.

The two drawings on the left (top and bottom) are bricks. Keeping the beard short like this keeps the beard-waterdish-floor problem to a near-minimum. If it’s not quite fancy enough for our babies, we add a little flair by making the ends of the beard longer (second from left, and far left in the photos below). That’s how show dogs are groomed, and the correct way to do a pet beard as well.


Second from the right in the drawing and in the middle of the photos is the most common mistake that pro groomers make – the Hourglass. This really ruins the rectangular appearance of the head. Surprisingly, there’s a reason they make this mistake. In a popular all-breed grooming book, there’s a drawing of a Schnauzer head. If you already know Schnauzers, it’s obvious that the drawing is of a head done like the photo on the left. If you DON’T know Schnauzers, the black mask under the eyes of the Mini Schnauzer (that you can see in the photo on the left) appears to be a shaved place. Which means that any groomer who has seen that book or been taught by someone who has seen that book will shave under the dog’s eyes. It’s still horrible, but at least there’s a reason.

And on the right in both the drawing and the photo is the “Gosh, I really don’t know how to do beards” style, otherwise known as the “Bouvier head”.

So how do we get the “real” Schnauzer beard?

A – the cheek is shaved, usually with a #10 blade, usually against the grain.

B – this is the key area. Do NOT shave forward off the cheek. Beside the eye the head starts to narrow. If you shave into the narrowing part, you won’t get the “brick” no matter what else you do. It’s always best to stop shaving half to a quarter of an inch before you get to the narrowing part.

C – with a comb, fluff the hair in B and C straight sideways. When the hair is fluffed out away from the head, it’s easier to see what needs to be scissored off.

Start by pretending you’re scissoring the shaved cheek, and gradually move your scissors in a straight line off the cheek and forward. Always keep an eye on the line out from the cheek. As that line goes farther and farther forward, it gradually GRADUALLY widens.

This is a Mini – a fabulous job of grooming the head. It’s difficult to do a good job of a Mini head because they don’t have the quality of skull and muzzle that the Giants do. Look at this head and think of bricks!



Don’t forget the side view! Again, start by thinking of the head as a brick, with the beard accentuating that idea.


On the left, the dog has been shaved up the throat, then scissored close to the jawline for an inch or two coming forward, and then (again, GRADUALLY) let the beard get bigger as you continue to come forward.

On the right, with no flow between the throat and the beard, you’re left with a ball of head. This is very common Mini Schnauzer grooming. Since they’re so popular, it’s easy to think this is correct.

Compare these two heads – the one on the right is overpowered by the beard, the one on the left is “Strong, rectangular in appearance, and elongated”.