Shaggy to Chic Dog Services: Hand Stripping
Hand stripping is the process of pulling or plucking out the dead outer guard hairs of wired-haired or “rough-coated” breeds by hand, using fingers or a stripping knife, once the coat is "blown" rather than cutting the hair with clippers. This allows a new “harsh” wire coat to grow in. It sounds worse than it is. It does not hurt the dog. Some might not like it, but it is not painful when done properly. Wire hair is not attached like our own hair or breeds with other types of coats. Many dogs even enjoy it. For pet dogs we can clip or scissor the tender spots so it isn’t uncomfortable for them. The knife is not used to cut but only to pull the hair out, held between the thumb and forefinger. When it’s ready, that dead coat is easily removed. Using a gentle touch, the groomer maintains a steady rhythm and works the coat a few hairs at a time, keeping the wrist locked and pulling in the direction in which the coat grows. Sometimes chalk or rosin powder is used to help the groomer maintain a firmer grip.
When a coat is overgrown or is in one layer, it usually needs to be stripped right down to the undercoat layer or "underwear" (the thinner, softer coat), leaving the dog looking somewhat naked until its new outer coat grows in. It may take 8 to 10 weeks before the new wire coat comes in and is long enough to cover the undercoat. If hand-stripped at regular intervals, the groomer can “roll” the coat so that only the longest top hair is pulled out while the new coat is coming in underneath, avoiding that “plucked chicken” look.
Clipping the coat can ruin the wiry texture. Each individual wire hair has a hard wire point, then is semi hollow down to about the undercoat level. It is very soft at the base and only lightly anchored in the follicle which is why they pull out easily.
Hand stripping maintains a proper wire coat and preserves the natural look of the pet while clipping the pet makes it soft and ruins the texture. Without the outer wire coat, the coat color will change and fade out. Cutting the hair takes away the structure of that hair. This is particularly true when cut below the undercoat level, but even just cutting off the tip breaks the structure.
If cut, the soft base stays in the follicle so a new wire tipped hair does not grow. The soft bottom will continue to grow awhile. If the dog is continually cut, the coat stays super soft as the soft downy under coat and the soft base of the wire hair from the old top coat is all that is seen. The coat color will fade. Sometimes, black hair turns to grayish blue or brown. Once a wired hair coat has been clipped, it may soften to the point where hand-stripping is no longer an option.
Whether clipped or hand-stripped, the coat can also be “carded” with a pumice stone, fine clipper blade, or a special tool known as the FURminator, pulling the coat in the direction the hair grows, thinning and de-fuzzing it in the process.
While Hand-stripping preserves the natural look of the pet (if not showing your pet) thinning shears can also be used to thin out the coat, trim the face-framing “ruff” and remove stray hairs near the eyes. Clippers may be used in the sanitary areas, ears, and parts of the face and head to save time and money and for the comfort of the pet.
Not all groomers hand-strip since it is time-consuming and very labor intensive. Among pet groomers, to ‘strip’ a dog means to shave it down to the skin. So, 'a strip’ is VERY different from ‘Hand Stripping’. Hand stripping is very labor intensive and expect to pay a lot more--at least double--what the clipping price would be.
Whichever grooming method you choose, be sure to keep your pet well-brushed at home to prevent mats and tangles from taking over between trips to the groomer.
Will hand stripping restore a coat's wire texture if my dog has been clipped?
Yes, but sometimes it can be difficult if a dog’s coat has been clipped many times. You often have to let them grow out several months and strip them several times to get the wire coat growing properly again. Sometimes after only one clipping it comes back fine but do not count on it. The longer amount of time the coat has been clipped, the more months it will take with diligent stripping to get the coat back to it’s original correct texture. But it can be done in most cases!
If clipped is there any way to help keep the coat hard?
If you must clip, hand strip a little before and use a pumice stone afterwards weekly to 'brush' them, this takes out some of the cut dead coat to try to stimulate some new hairs to grow.
Do you have to strip to the undercoat?
Is there a way to have a nice wire coat when they are freshly hand stripped? Sometimes you have to strip down to the undercoat, in particular when they are pretty long. This is because all of the wire coat is one length and ready to come out. But sometimes the coat is in layers, either produced by 'rolling' the coat or new coat coming in from natural shedding. This often means bringing the dog in more often to have the coat rolled rather than completely stripped.
What is rolling a coat?
Rolling is having part of the coat come in new in layers so that you can strip off the longest hair, and always have wire coat. This is done by pulling only about the longest third of the coat, leaving the rest for a week to two weeks depending on the dog, and then repeating until there is always new coat coming in underneath. This can be started when they are grown out with a blown coat, or when a new coat is just past perfect. Not all dogs can be 'rolled.'
So if stripping is pulling out the coat with your fingers, what is it called when a stripping knife is involved?
It’s really the same thing. For the purists, stripping is all done by hand, but many groomers use a stripping knife. It all gets the same results!
What is a stripping comb?
Just another term for stripping knife.
Is Knife or 'hands only' stripping better?
If a stripping knife is used properly, it works as well as pulling the coat only with fingers. Despite the name 'knife,' it is never used to cut the hair, only to help grip it. Only if the knives are too sharp or the wrong motion is used is the dog’s hair cut.
My groomer said she would also 'rake' my dog’s coat and I should do this at home too. What does that mean?
Raking is using the stripping knife, a clipper blade or a piece of pumice stone to rake though or 'comb' the undercoat. This pulls a lot of dead undercoat out and also helps the new coat come in. We also do this when in the wire coat is in to take out some of the undercoat leaving the jacket even 'harder.'
I think I’d like to get my Terrier hand stripped now. How can I tell when the coat is ready?
Bring your pet into the salon. We will be able to tell just by looking at the coat and touching it whether it’s time or not. If it is not quite ready, we will be able to tell you when to make the appointment to have your dog stripped at the proper time.