Many of you out in the world of dog ownership have some lovely wiry-coated puppies. These coat types need some very special care in order to maintain that beautiful rich color and texture. Most terriers, some sporting dogs and even the occasional poodle mix have this coat. The best technique for grooming this coat is hand stripping.
Hand stripping is the process of manually pulling out the dead top coat. This allows for the fresh coat to grow in. A dog’s hair follicle is made up of one thick guard hair and many soft undercoat hairs. The undercoat is a fluffier texture and more dull in color — this is the coat that is forming dust bunnies all over your house! A process called carding will remove this soft coat and is especially necessary on the terrier so the follicle does not become clogged. The thick guard hair is what is pulled when hand stripping the coat. This can be done by hand plucking or with a specially designed stripping knife.
As a terrier’s hair grows, it will become thin and lighter colored at the roots. This is how you know it is time for it to be pulled. Most dogs will grow an entirely new coat every 6 weeks. When all of the wiry coat is pulled at one time the dog will be left with only a short layer of undercoat. I call this their PJs. The dog will look a little funny for a bit but the outer coat will grow back quickly. This process can be repeated every few months for the easiest maintenance of the terrier coat. In order to get a consistently nice, rich coat on your dog they will need much more consistent work. Many dogs need some pulling done every week or two in order to have a thick, vibrant coat. This can be a bit daunting for many schedules, including your groomer, but the end result is very impressive and worth the work.
So if it is so much work why even bother, right? Well, besides the bragging rights of having such a beautiful dog walking through the neighborhood, there are other perks. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the terrier will not blow its coat without the help of stripping. If the coat is not manually removed, the hair follicle will become clogged; this causes an excess amount of oil to grow on the skin. Your dog can suffer from irritation that can lead to more advanced problems later. The harsh coat is also a natural dirt repellent. The terrier coat was designed to repel water, dirt and debris when they used to hunt vermin. The natural oils in the wiry hair help keep the water from soaking into the coat and keep the skin dry. The wiry texture will allow dirt, burrs and whatever else they may find to fall out of the coat easily.
It is not easy finding a groomer that will even consider hand stripping. The process requires a lot of knowledge of the coat and skin. The groomer must be able to recognize the growth stages of your dog’s coat in order to decide what hairs to pull and when to pull them. If your groomer does not hand strip or your dog has been clipped most of its life already, being sure to remove the dense undercoat will help combat the effects of the clogged follicle.
Many people believe that the hand stripping process is painful. Since the coat that is being removed is already dead there is no pain associated with the process at all. When done incorrectly, mainly if the wrong hairs are being pulled, this can be uncomfortable for the dog. A knowledgeable groomer will know how to properly introduce your dog to hand stripping. After they become accustomed to the routine most dogs will take a nap on the table.
Hand stripping is not for everyone and can be very costly. It is important to know that the option exists and I encourage all owners to at least ask a groomer about the possibility of hand stripping on their dogs. The results really are incomparable to the clippered cut.