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Spinone Education

GROOMING is defined here as basic cleaning & upkeep of your Spinone. The correct hard textured coat will need only a minimal stripping, combing and occasional bathing. The incorrect coat will require more. Whether you have a hunting dog, show dog, or family companion, your Spinone should be groomed regularly to the look of the breed. The following information is a guide for all Spinone owners, as to how the dog should be maintained.
A clean dog is a healthy dog.


1. Comb out all the dead hair you can before bathing. Use only a Harsh Coat Shampoo and rinse at the skin level. Ordinary shampoo contains conditioners which are oils. Any oil will soften the coat and so will not rinse well. Towel off the dog and allow to air dry. [use waterless shampoo between baths to spot clean. Use one part water to one part Listerine for the same purpose and to treat skin abrasions.]

2. Clean the ears: Apply ear powder in the canal and ‘pluck’ a very few hairs at a time out until they are all out. The powder makes it easier for you to remove the hair and more comfortable for the animal. Forceps can be used, but be careful. Once all the hair is out, use a cotton ball with ear cleaner to clean out all the wax. Apply an ‘ear drying cream’ to help keep the ear canal dry and prevent yeast infections. (You can also use a #10 or #5/8 blade clipper to shave around the ear opening and inner flap—so there will be more air flow to the canal.

3. Cut the toe nails and file the edges. Use a blunt end scissor to trim the hair under and around the pads (be careful).  You can also use #10 blade and shave the pad area of hair—then apply ‘Bag Balm’ to the area. Use Quick Stop if you cut the nail too short and it bleeds.

4. Comb the dog starting with the wide tooth comb, and again with the closer tooth comb, and finally with a fine flea comb. Use thinning scissors to remove any ‘mats’ & trim around the eyes so they are visible, the ‘tuft’ of hair in front of the eyes and eyebrows.  Trim the end of the tail and any hair that hangs down under the tail. Trim around the ‘privates’.  Comb the ear leather hair straight out from the edge and trim it evenly around the outer edge to the length of the coat or 1 to 1 &1/2 inches.

5. The correct harsh coat needs only slight shaping with a stripping knife and you are done.  Do not be afraid to remove hair—it will grow back.


Shampoo - Harsh Coat (also called Terrier or Protein), Waterless/Self-rinse Shampoo, Ear Cleaning Solution, Ear Powder, Ear Drying Cream, Quick Stop - for nail trimming, Listerine Mouthwash, Cornstarch Baby Powder, Buy Harsh Coat Shampoo over the Internet or by catalogue and save. Buy it in the gallon size if you are going to do your own dog baths.  Even if they do not say so, these shampoos can and should be diluted 3 parts water to 1 of shampoo (some are 5 to 1).  Mix only what you will use right now.  Wet the dog, work the shampoo into the coat starting at the head and working toward the tail.  Rinse at the skin level. Be sure to rinse thoroughly. Buy and keep some Waterless or Self Rinse Shampoo in a spray bottle for between bath clean ups. (This shampoo is not dilutable).  You should spray the area to clean, lather up the shampoo and towel off the excess.  In place of Waterless Shampoo, you can use Listerine Mouth Wash straight or diluted 1 part water to 1 part mouthwash. This is also an excellent disinfectant for cuts and abrasions as well as a healing agent for hot spots and insect bits. 


1. To remove oil in the coat - use 1 part vinegar to 1 part water as a final rinse after the bath. This will remove residue from the hair follicle.

2. To reduce beard stain - mix the juice of one lemon with a little dishwashing detergent and work into the beard. Let stay in for 15 minutes and rinse well.

3. If you ever use Flea Shampoo - be sure to put mineral oil in the dog's eyes and try to keep the shampoo out of them.  Flea Shampoo has to sit in the coat for 5 - 15 minutes and can harm eyes.


Nail Clipper & Nail File, Pin Brush, Curry Brush, Fine & Coarse Combs, Very Fine Flea Comb, Basic Stripping Knife, Thinning Scissors, Regular (blunt end), Scissors.


See Figure 3
Electric Clipper with #4F, #5F, #7F, #10 and 5/8 Blades, #2 Clip on Comb (2 Guard), Rubber Fingers (office supply), Forceps, Pumice Stone, Shedding Blade.

Weather you call it stripping, plucking or carding, you are removing dead hair and shaping the coat.  Regular stripping will improve the coat and is the only method you should use with a show dog.  It is however, also a wonderful way to maintain the hunting dog coat so that it shedds field debris.

The coat has two kinds of hair. The outer or guard coat usually consists of coarser fewer hairs while the inner coat is made up of many more, shorter hairs. The hairs on a dog’s coat stop growing at a pre-determined length at which point they ‘die’ and are pushed out by new hair growth. The dead hair is ‘shed’ as the new growth comes in on ‘drop coat breeds’ (that is the term for a dog that naturally looses or sheds coat) Some breeds shed twice per year (usually spring and fall), some breeds shed slightly throughout the year and some breeds do not shed their coats at all.  The Spinone can fit all these conditions – some do not appear to shed, some shed a little all the time and some appear to shed a lot once or twice a year. (It is believed this difference is because of the other breeds used to bring back the Spinone after WWII – many old writings on the breed will say they do not shed).  The vast majority of Spinoni shed.  Some of it has to do with the environment, some the dog’s health and some the genetic programming of the coat. 

Why strip the coat?  Why not shave it down?  Stripping maintains a Spinone’s natural harsh coat texture and color.  Leaving the dead hair on the dog promotes matting and lessons the dog’s ability to keep body heat regulated and perform his function.  A stripped coat is harder; is dirt and water repellent, and does not mat as easily as an un-stripped coat or electric clippered coat. (Another way to groom a dog’s coat)  A properly stripped coat will lie flatter and stay flatter even when longer, than a clippered coat, which will get softer and thinner over time, as new growth comes in.  A Spinone coat that is not ever stripped will appear thinner and softer as well. So stripping makes the dog look better but more important helps him function well as a hunting companion.  You can strip a dog successfully using just your fingers but it is much easier on you and the animal if you invest in some basic stripping tools.

This is not really a knife as the 'blade' is not usually sharp. It is a piece of metal with grooves in the blade to catch and pull hair; it is the number of grooves and thickness of the 'blade' that can make the knife appear sharp. A stripping knife acts as an extension of the fingers to improve your grip on the hairs you are pulling out. You should start out with an inexpensive stripping knife that fits comfortably in you hand and does not feel sharp. Expensive is not always better. The knives I use the most cost about $8 each and fit the contour of my thumb. Blue is Coarse and Red is Fine. Coarse is used for the majority of body stripping.  Fine is used for the small areas like head, ears and shaping. 


You can use ear powder, white chalk powder but the most cost affective is Cornstarch Baby Powder. The powder makes the hair come out easier and is more comfortable for you and your dog.

Two rubber fingers from the office supply store can be used with the powder in place of the stripping knife. All you really need is powder, the rubber fingers, and strong arms to hand strip a dog.


1.  Stripping out dead hair: Apply and work a small amount of powder into the hair in the area you wish to strip. Stretch the skin taut with one hand and place a few hairs between your thumb and the stripping knife.  Lock your wrist immobile in a straight line from your arm (do not move your wrist – it must be stiff and motionless) To properly strip move your arm only from the elbow or shoulder. Pull in a rapid and straight motion in the direction the hair grows and close to contour of the dog.  MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember is to keep the wrist rigid and not use a twisting motion. Dead hair will come out easily while live coat will not. The dead hair being removed does not usually bother dogs.  If the hair is hard to pull out – it is alive. You may still remove it and this is where the powder will help the most and also help ease the discomfort, if any, the dog may have. Pull rapidly in the direction the coat grows.  Grip only a few hairs and keep your wrist immoble.

2. Shaping the coat. Shaping a coat is nothing more than breaking the hair to the length you want.  Place a few hairs between your thumb and the stripping knife and rotate your wrist and pull at a 90-degree angle to the coat. This breaks off the hair but leaves it attached to the animal.  Shaping is done to give the dog the look of the breed. Spinone should have eyebrows but the forehead should be flat; they should have a beard but it should appear to be balanced with the square look of the muzzle. The trademark ‘fan’ in front of the eyes should be visible but shortened to see the human like eyes the breed is known for.  MOST IMPORTANT - take only a few hairs at a time and remember to rotate with a twisting motion of the wrist. Rotate your wrist to 90 degrees and pull to shape the coat. The dog should have no problems from the stripping.  Keep in mind the dog should be clean before stripping.  However, it is not a bad idea to spray after stripping with the Listerine mixture in order to cut down the risk of skin irritations or a staph infection.

1.The Mars Stripping Rake design works best for me. If you order a Stripping Knife from a catalogue and it is 'sharp' to the touch when you get it, rub sand paper across the tips to 'dull' it up. You do not want it sharp, especially if you are a beginner.

2. Only use Cornstarch Baby Powder - the other kind is not good for the lungs if breathed in.

3. An inexpensive 'pumice stone' used for cleaning a BBQ grill or removing dead skin on your heels will also pull out hair very well - use the same as a stripping knife or just pull it over the coat.

4. Tools called Furminators are nothing more than a stripping knife on its side and they work well to pull dead hair.  Shedding blades also do this work. You can also use your stripping knife like a comb to pull loose hair to cut down on shedding.

In grooming a Spinone for the show ring, nothing should be done that detracts from the breed's unique characteristics or rustic look. Always hand strip.  Spinone with a wiry tight coat will take only minimal stripping and shaping.  The ‘crimped’, or medium harsh coat, will need more hair removed.  There are two choices:

1.  To ‘roll the coat’ - that is remove a small amount of hair on the dog every day so the dog always appears ring ready.

2. Letting the coat grow for several months and doing major stripping when it gets too shaggy looking.

The head requires the most work. The top of the head from back of the eyebrows to the base of the skull should be completely stripped close.  Blend into the neck coat.  Strip out the throat area down to the breast bone and take down the ridge of hair under the ears on the neck. Strip the downy hair on the insides of the ear, outside should be shortened too.  Blend the eyebrows back away from the eyes and clean down the cheek area.  Shorten the ‘fan’ in front of the eyes. (eyebrows and fan can be hand shaped or you can use thinning scissors)  Thin the beard as well, to balance the head.  It should appear square. Trim the hair around the ear leather but make it look natural.  Trim the end of the tail hair off.  Take off any long hair at the elbows and under the belly and under the tail.  There should be no ’feathering’.  Two areas where the dog may have more coat than needed are at the shoulders and hips.  Use your judgment to take out the excess hair but balance those areas with the rest of the dog. The bottom pads of the feet should be trimmed of hair but around the foot should be left natural.  When you finish grooming, your Spinone should look natural.

Yellow:  Strip close (shave if a pet)

Blue:  Remove excess hair & blend in

Orange: Neaten up longer hair by hand or with scissors

[Use thinning scissors to thin out & blend in long hairs]

You can not fix a bad coat, but you can make it look better.  A longer, softer coat will mat easily and will need to be shortened to look good and be more easily managed.  You can spend a lot of time hand stripping but the easiest method for you and the animal is to use an electric clipper.  Shave the top of the head from back of the eyebrows to the back of the skull and down to the ear attachment with a #10 blade.  Shave the inside and outside of the ear leather.  Use a thinning scissors to blend in and shorten the eyebrows, cheek area and neck. Trim evenly around the ear leather leaving 1 inch of hair. You should shorten the beard as well.  Use a #10 or #15 blade with a 2 guard to go over the rest of the dog. This will take the coat down to about one and a half inches.  If you want it shorter—use a #4F or #5F blade without the guard. This will need to be done about every 4 months.  If you have a correct harsh coat but it is too long - Follow the same steps to keep it in order. Use this method for pets only.

The Spinone does not have a double coat like the many breeds do.  Their insulation comes from their thicker skin rather like a seal's blubber.  However they do carry dead coat that needs stripped or combed out. This will happen more in the Spring and Fall.  Their grooming does not require the constant care that many of the double coated breeds but you still must strip them out.  All dogs (except the hairless) shed. There are breeds that they call "non shedding" like the Poodle and Airedale. The fact is that they do shed but the hair will mat and not drop. So in comparisons to some of the other double coated breeds, the Spinone do not shed in the same great amounts.

The odor from most dogs, not just Spinoni, will come from their ears, lip folds and under their collar.  The collar smell comes from it not drying underneath and souring.  This can be avoided by pulling off the collar once a week or so and cleaning it.  Believe it or not the ear smell is the most common dog smell.  It comes again from lack of cleaning or infections.  A moist wipe or warm soapy wash cloth every few days or even once a week can clean that odor.  The infections usually come from moisture not drying (yeast), heavy swimmers, humid areas and sometimes ear mites. 

Lastly the lip folds. Certain breeds have these big hanging lips. Some drool some do not depending on the shape of the lip fold.  The Spinone and many other hairy dogs have the lip fold and a beard.  When they eat and grub in the mud they can have clumps in their beards.  There is a very simple solution to this.  Use a rag with warm water and Listerine (1/4 cup Listerine 3/4 cup warm water) then wipe them out. At the same time, clean the ears. 

We would like to thank Sue Moen for permitting us to use her information on grooming the Spinone.  We would also like to thank Carol Sheridan for her contribution to this article on grooming.