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Giant Show Grooming

A Basic How to Show Groom your Giant



  • Table and grooming arm
  • Cold air high volume blower
  • Hot air human hair dryer
  • Harsh grooming powder
  • 8 " Straight scissors
  • 8 " Curved scissors
  • Quality pair of thinning scissors
  • Cheap Volumising Mousse (Heat activated preferred)
  • Clippers with a #15, #10 and a #8 blade
  • Slicker Brush or good pin brush
  • Quality 8" or 10" comb
  • Terrier / Harsh Coated Breeds Shampoo
  • Classic Stripping Knives (Fine and Coarse) 






This document is based on the fact that you have maintained basically your dog's coat and preparing for an upcoming show. Basic meaning your dog's jacket isn't too long. 

As  I said this is a basic how to and to try to get you started in the right direction, Grooming varies from country to country with styles of dog's and styles in grooming but I personally love the typical presentation of the American Giants with their sharp terrier style grooming and fuller coats types with body and leg furnishings. This once again isn't a document arguing the pros or cons of the more correct type of coat it is simply a document for the new or novice groomer to use as a guide.

If you are in doubt seek advice from your breeder or an accomplished groomer but you need to commit time, ongoing effort and always remember if you make a mistake the hair will grow back !!!!! Eventually :)


The Start and other bits:

Over the years I have been involved with Giants I have met and gotten to know some truly awesome groomers and I have learnt that everyone treats and grooms their dog's differently and as such you will need to try and experiment with what works best for you and your dog's, coat type, structure etc does make a difference to what you do but remember if you have a question ask someone !!! most people will help you and when you find someone who will ...Your dog will look a lot better for you asking, trying and experimenting.

Preparing the dog's jacket:

What we are trying to do here is get the dog's jacket worked down and flat basically removing excess undercoat and long jacket hair. (The undercoat will grow back quickly usually within a week or two depending on the coat type)

Set your dog up on the grooming table and put the grooming noose on him / her.

Have your harsh grooming powder and a bristle bush for applying it and pat your brush in the powder (I have my powder in a square lidded Plastic container) loading it up and start brushing it against the lay of the coat so it penetrates all the way down to the skin..

Now this is the only time I use my Coat King,. I pull the Coat King though the dog's jacket to help break up the undercoat only, You will find that doing this ONCE all over the jacket will make it easier to work the jacket. I have seen people use them and only them for grooming their dog's and what it does is soften the texture of the coat. (you have to remember it has cutting edges on it and it cuts both undercoat and outer coat) 

Now initially with your Classic coarse knife work small sections of the dog's jacket until you have gone over the dog completely and can see that most of the undercoat is gone (this will take time and its like everything else you do .. good preparation work is the key).

(Hint) You will find holding the dog's jacket in your hand and making the skin tight will make it easier, short strokes and all over evenly..

(Hint) The knife has to be held at 90 degrees to the coat and the flat of the blade pulling back towards you in the direction of the lay of the hair.

(Hint) I use the classic face knife for the loin as its beautifully shaped for that area.

What you will notice is the undercoat is coming out and your dog's jacket will lay flatter and tighter to the body. :) we need to work this and the areas that kick up etc and to keep that jacket looking tight and flat.

After you have removed most of the undercoat push the dog's hair up against how it normally  lays on the dog  (in over words stand it up) and you will notice that some hair is longer, using the McClelland knife, grab the long hair between your thumb and knife and pull the hair straight out in a nice clean movement..

(Hint) You should see the hair after its been pulled out and it should be straight and it should have hair past where the edge of the McClelland knives edge is .. This is showing you that the hair has pulled out and not simply been cut.

Work all the areas of the coat until you are satisfied that the long hair has been pulled out, leaving your dog in a much shorter and tighter jacket then you started with, the ideal is to do this over a month to 6 weeks and slowly work the jacket back.

This is a great way to keep your dog in a nice jacket for extended periods for showing, areas that kick up, twist or curl should be worked down with the knife then hand striped over time till the kink, curl or twist is eliminated, once again use common sense and do this over a period of time so your dog doesn't have a hole in its jacket where you have pulled out all the hair.

Now don't worry about the harsh grooming powder in the coat it will slowly work its way out and it keeps the dog's skin clean and healthy. Come wash day blow the jacket out with your cold air blower before you wash.

(Hint) Do the coat work a few times a week, this truly makes it an easy task to maintain the coat.


Some people clip their dog's a week before a show, some people will clip on the day of the show, find what works best for your dog by experimenting but typically the harsher the coat of the dog the longer before the show you will need for the clipped areas to come back in but also remember the more often you clip the dog the less white spotting  will occur so its a good habit to do it regularly.

Now starting with the head use a #10 blade and go from the corner of the eye to the corner of the ear and clip down. This will leave a line (between the eye and ear) as you can see in the below drawing but blend that in with the thinning scissors and make it a smooth transition.

(Hint) I find using the thinning scissors upwards into the hair works best for blending those lines.


                             Head                                                    Front                        Rear

Next go from the bottom corner of the ear and in a gradual curve (Creating a curve enhances the arch in the neck of your dog) work your clippers down to the breast bone of the dog. (See Pic Above)

From the lines you now have on your dog's head you need to take the hair off the cheeks of the dog's face,. you will need to work your clipper towards the beard of the dog and as you get close lift the beard and clip in under the beard slightly.

(Hint) The reason we clip under the beard is that we want to retain as much length on the beard as we can, but we need to take out some of the underbeard.

(Hint) Whilst the beard is lifted, clip from the corner of the mouth towards the muzzle for about 1/2 " and take out that hair above the lip, this will stop the beard flaring when the dog's mouth is open

The head poses some interesting points on the dog .. The ideal is to make the dogs head look as long as we can, you will need to take many things into consideration with regards to eyebrows, eye shape and colour. I personally brush the eyebrows outwards before I cut them ..

On the under jaw of your dog clip about 1/4" forward of the corner of the mouth or to the little mole you will find on your dog's under jaw.

 Carefully clip the ears, use a fine blade ( the higher the number the closer or more hair it removes) I use a 10 or 15 blade to minimise the risk of cutting the ear leather. You will need to use a pair of straight scissors to trim around the outside of the ear, use your finger and thumb and grasp the outside edge of the ear and CAREFULLY and slowly trim the hair.   

Now to the rear of the dog, clip the underside of the tail and the anus and down the inside of the back leg, remember not to far down, use the picture below as a guide. ( I typically use a #10 blade on the fuller coated dog's and a #8 on the more harsher coated dog's)

A good guide for width on a Giant is to clip to the swirl marks on the sides of back legs. 

With all your clipping work you will need to typically go over all the areas of transition and blend them in with the thinning scissors. What the desired affect is to have a dog that looks like the hair grew that way.

To total wash or not to wash ?:

My own personal experience, I have met some people who wash their dog's totally the week or a fortnight before the show and others who will only wash the dog's furnishings for the show, the reasoning for this is that washing does soften the coats. I typically do not body wash my dog's jacket if I am showing my dog's but all the dog's have their furnishings and beards washed the day before the show and then again at the show prior to going into the ring. There are always exceptions to this rule.. eg:  Dog rolls in or has something in its coat.

If you do wash the dog's jacket remember to use your cold air blower to dry your dog's jacket !!  Blow and always brush the jacket in the direction of the lay of the coat. (what you are doing is training the hair to lay flat and stay flat).

Use a good quality Harsh Coat Breed Shampoo and remember to wash it all out and when you think its washed out wash it out again to make sure.

(Hint) I have found a great shampoo here in Australia called White Pride ( I don't know if its available overseas) I have found it really blackens and takes out any redness from sun bleaching and doesn't seem to take away a lot of texture.


I do the major work the day before the show to get the basic outline and major scissoring work done and then redo it at the show .. I find this basically leaves minor touch up work at the show, now while your dog's furnishings are still wet  get the cold air blower and semi dry the furnishings (Blow in the direction you want the air to go eg: up on the legs) then get your volumising mousse and get a dab of it and spread across your hands and work it into the dog's front legs making sure that its spread evenly and lightly though the hair, do the same with the belly furnishings and rear furnishings, I also apply it to the dog's beard and eyebrows whilst they are wet and basically let that air dry and while I am working on the dog's other areas and just go back every now and then with the comb and continue to work it in the position I want the eyebrows and beard to stay in  The reason for the mousse is to hold the hair were I want so I can scissor the furnishings etc. .

I then lay a towel or a chamois over the dog's jacket while I am  working on the furnishings, I normally lay it along the dog's back so it covers from the neck to the tail and it overlaps over the sides of the dog (this will help lay the jacket flat and tight)

(Hint) Lay a slightly moist chamois on the jacket at a show prior to going in will flatten the coat beautifully.. It has to be only very very very slightly moist.

The Front Legs are the place to start. Have your dog set up on the table, noosed and with a normal hair dryer on a low heat setting and a slicker brush start blowing and brushing the hair up (you really need the hair standing up) I continue to work from the bottom of the foot up to the top of the leg and then go to another part along side of where I have dried the hair and work it up as well .. continue on till you have both front legs dry. You will see that the dog's hair typically will hang out past the body outline .. what we do then is cut and blend  the hair down to make it level with the body just like FIG 1 below.

Why ? so there isn't any hair flapping about or breaking up the dog's outline, we want smooth lines and a natural look to the hair meeting the body jacket and once again I find that when they have too much hair on the legs they look like they have borrowed their big brothers pants and it looks quite disproportional.

The best way to scissor the legs is in a downwards direction for the front legs (this leaves less scissor marks) and basically first off you turn the leg into what would look like a 4 sided post, and then slowly round off the edges off till your leg is as seen in the below FIG 1. If you feel unsure about what you are doing then use your thinning scissors as they are less dangerous on hair in the hands of a beginner but leave a great finish on the leg. Remember small slow cuts with scissors in the direction of the natural lay of the hair.

(Hint) Things to be aware of with the front legs .. Make sure you take the hair off the elbows (the area on the back of the front leg that tucks into the body) this seems to be an area a lot of people seem to miss and when their dog's move all you see is the elbow hair flapping and giving the illusion that the dog is out in elbow.

Be careful how you trim around the foot and don't turn the foot into an shape resembling a rectangle with round ends .. you want the leg blending down into the foot .and it to be circular to look at .. it all has to look natural and blended, the rounded scissors are great on the feet.

(Hint) To accentuate the chest of the dog you can make sure the furnishings are shorter on the front of the leg .. now to make the dog look shorter in body, keep more hair on the back of the front leg ..  But try to make it look balanced always!!!!

Also remember that the dog needs to be naturally standing when you are scissoring, it is no good if you trim the legs and you have put the dog in a position it wont be standing in normally. If your dog has feet that turn in or out, is a short, tall, fat or thin dog all these things need to be compensated for when you groom  your dog  EG:  If you dog's foot toes out you would leave extra hair on the inside of the foot and give the illusion that the foot is where it is supposed to be.

Same again with the amount of hair to leave on the legs ..if you have a very thick set dog then keeping  their leg furnishings longer will make the dog appear bigger still so you would take more hair off to balance the dog .. if you had a leaner dog to make the dog appear thicker you would leave more hair on .. but make sure the dog looks balanced..

The Sternum is also an area that needs attention . as you can see from FIG 2 (In front View and highlighted in black) we basically keep some extra hair from the breastbone and run virtually 2 lines down to the inside of the front leg. and keep the hair in between the 2 lines, it nearly forms a triangle roughly in shape.. Now from the side get your curved scissors and carefully cut the hair to accentuate the pro sternum of the dog, you will need to adjust this depending on how much pro sternum your dog has and work the hair down so it looks like a natural progression into the underbelly furnishings as seen in FIG 3.


                                 FIG 1                     FIG 2                                FIG 3

The Underbelly and Rear Legs

From the Australian Breed Standard ( I believe most standards are similar)

"BODY - Chest moderately broad and deep, reaching at least to height of elbow rising slightly backward to loins."

Now what can we do to achieve this and accentuate the look on the dog .. Basically keep the chest hair a bit longer on the front  and tuck it up a bit more severe into the loin .. This creates the illusion of the dog having a deeper chest and does make it look more stylish. You will find that using the curved scissors works great on the underbelly and use them upside down .. a lot of people have problems with straight scissors and angle them wrongly and take out too much hair at an incorrect angle  so try the curved scissors or use your thinning scissors :) A LITTLE AT A TIME !!!!



The area of the loin is quite important .. you need to join the underbelly line to the rear furnishings. You need to have a curved look as seen in FIG 4

(Hint) You can even leave more hair on the top front part of the rear thigh and move the loin curve forward slightly to give the dog the appearance of it being shorter in back and shorter in the coupling with the bonus of  the thigh looking thicker.

(Hint) If you have problems trimming the rear furnishings or following the curve of the leg or doing the curve of the loin for a pretty rough and ready way to do it is to pull the dog's leg straight back and then you will be presented basically with a straight line to trim.

The Rear Legs looking from behind should be filled in and balanced (see FIG 5 below) nearly forming an "A" looking from the rear  . To achieve this you will need to brush up the hair (Use the mousse, hair dryer and slicker brush) on the inside of the rear legs to stand the hair up and the same on the outside filling in the 2nd thigh etc to create two filled in columns  then scissor the rear to give the dog a nice clean look through from behind...    All this will be a little trial and error  as each dog will be differently built and move differently and you will need to compensate for your dog's features.. but the best thing to do is do a little get someone to move the dog and then do some more if need be. Just remember the rear legs just like the front legs must be in the dog's natural stance position.!!!!



The hock area looking from the side is a very important area that can help the outline of the dog .. If your dog doesn't have much angulation in the rear you can help the look by leaving more hair at the back of the hock , it must follow the natural line of the rear leg looking from the side .. You will also have a shorter looking hock which is quite desirable (You are making the hock appear to be back further then where it is) and also the illusion of a better turn of stifle (more angulation). So as this stands if you have a dog with too much turn you could decrease it by keeping the hock hair very tight.


This is a works in progress document there are still areas to be finished and expanded upon :)

If you have any comments or questions please email me - your feedback will be welcome

Here are some wonderful examples of grooming and something to aspire to.




© Copyright 2003