Among the variety of dog breeds that populate the world, you may stumble on dogs who blow their coats naturally, dogs who grow hair that needs clipped routinely and dog breeds that need hand stripping. Why do some dogs need hand stripping? Turns out, it’s a matter of how the coats are crafted in certain dog breeds. You won’t have to necessarily hand strip your dog’s coat if he belongs to any these breeds, but if you want to keep your dog’s traditional breed look and or are planning on showing your dog one day, hand stripping may become a way of life.
Hand stripping is the process of ridding a dog’s coat of dead hairs. This can be accomplished in two ways, either by using a stripping knife, a serrated edged knife which comes in left and right-handed models, or the good old-fashioned way which involves using fingers.
Unlike clipping a dog’s hair using electric clippers which just entails cutting through a layer of hair leaving the root intact, hand stripping involves pulling out every single hair from its root so that there is room for the new coat to grow in.
For the girls reading, the difference is quite similar to shaving legs with a razor versus using an epilator or waxing which involves plucking out hair from the roots.
Did you know? A dog’s wire hair reaches its maximum life span around 6 months which is when it starts to die off.
For Rough-Coated Dogs
Dogs who have a wiry coat, basically, those “rough-coated” breeds usually need hand stripping. Dogs with wiry coats generally have a top coat that is wiry and a soft and short undercoat. The wiry hairs are typically rough on the end and soft near the base. Once their hairs of the top coat have reached their maximum length, they will start dying, and thus, remain loosely anchored into the hair follicle until they’re manually removed or shed naturally.
One may wonder, what is the advantage of hand stripping dogs versus just clipping the coat? When a dog’s coat is clipped, the wiry hairs lack their rough end and therefore risk becoming soft and of a dull color, whereas the hand stripping procedure grants brightly colored hairs with a nice wiry texture. Hand stripping therefore helps remove dead dull-looking hairs of the dog’s top coat so that the dense, soft undercoat is revealed and room is left so that the new top coat can grow in. The procedure is done twice a year.
“A wire hair has a hard point, but is soft near the base. Clipping removes that hard end, and the soft, faded portion grows farther out. Stripping removes the entire hair from the follicle, allowing for a new, wiry, brightly colored hair to grow.”~Renae Hamrick RVT
Stripping entails holding a few hairs between the thumb and side of the index finger and pulling straight out using a gentle, yet firm motion. Those who are using a stripping knife will keep the hairs between the thumb and the blade when pulling out. For better traction, some people like to use chalk.
Once the dog’s entire coat is stripped, the dog remains only with its undercoat until the wiry top coat starts growing back. “Rolling the coat” is a similar procedure but it involves routinely going through the whole coat only to remove the longest dying hairs; whereas in stripping the coat all dead hairs are removed so to leave the dog with the undercoat only.
According to Groomarts, it generally takes about 8 to 10 weeks for the new coat to come and cover the undercoat.
Does hand stripping dogs hurt? Many experts in the field claim it does not as the hairs are already weakened and ready to come out, but until dogs can talk we might not know exactly how they feel about it.
There are chances that dogs who are hand stripped from an early age may find the process more tolerable. According to the Irish Wolfhound Club of America, possibly the most bothersome part of all is having to stay still in the same spot for any great length of time, however, certain areas may be more sensitive such as the ear area and the belly.
“Properly performed, handstripping is not painful to the dog and improves skin condition. It clears the hair follicles of sweat and hair secretions and promotes healthier skin.”~Karen L. Campbell
As mentioned, dogs who are hand stripped are often dogs with a wiry coat. Hand stripping can be offered by groomers but it can turn out being a costly service as it’s time consuming and requires a certain level of expertise. Many dog owners opt to hand strip their dogs at home once they master the technique. Done correctly, it shouldn’t be painful, and many dog owners attest their dogs even relax and end up falling asleep!
For those who do not wish to get their dogs hand stripped but still want to maintain a certain level of “texture,” it’s possible to rake out some dead hairs before and after using the clippers.
Following is a list of some dog breeds that are commonly hand stripped.
- Airedale Terrier
- Australian Terrier
- Border Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Dachshund wirehaired
- Dandie Dinmont
- German wirehaired pointer
- Irish Terrier
- Irish wolfhound
- Lakeland Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Norfolk Terrier
- Parsons Terrier
- Spinone Italiano
- Scottish Terrier
- Sealyham Terrier
- Welsh Terrier
- Wire Fox Terrier
- Wire-haired pointing griffon
Video of Handstripping a Terrier
- The Pet Lover’s Guide to Cat and Dog Skin Diseases, By Karen L. Campbell, Saunders; 1 edition (November 14, 2005)
- GroomArts, Hand Stripping Information Sheet, retrieved from the Web on May 29th, 2016
- Irish Wolffound Club of America, Stripping your Irish Wolfhound’s Coat, retrieved from the Web on May 29th, 2016
- Pet Place, Stripping: Reveal Your Wirehaired Dog’s Show Quality Coat, retrieved from the Web on May 29th, 2016
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