We have received an amazing number of love letters and love texts about Hand-stripping. Mostly wondering if a clipped dog can still be hand-stripped and whether its after all, worth it.

∂ Handstripping
Handstripping is the proper way of grooming a large number of terriers. Wired coat terriers comes with 2 types of coat, the guard coat as well as the under coat. A follicle typically consist of 1-2guard coat and roughly 7 strains of undercoat. Hand stripping physically removes the hair from its follicle by pulling it out. This process stimulates the follicle and allows a new hair of a coarser texture and a brighter colour to grow out and allows the skin to breathe.

∂ Benefit of Handstripping
Healthy Skin and Coat – To maintain a healthy coat and skin on a wired coat terrier, the older hair must be removed to allow the production of new healthy hair. Without pulling the older coat out, the follicle can become irritated and clogged. Debris and Oil starts to gather at the follicles causing irritations as the new hair of a thicker texture tries to push its way through. When overcrowding of coat happens in the follicle, is unfortunately many times when fungus start to grow and yeast starts to get overpopulated.

Beautiful Colours – New hair that grows out are often brighter for whites and darker and fresher for other colours.

Protection – The harder the coat, the better its ability to repel dirt and dust, the lesser the need to shower the dog. The dog will also be protected against the sun and any other external particles including insects.

∂ What can happen to a Clipped a Wired Coat Terrier
Change in coat texture – Over time you will find that your wired terrier’s coat starts changing into a soft and fluffy or silky texture and it loses its ability to repel dust and dirt. The hair also gets finer and finer as its internal structure change because of multiple scissoring or clipping.

Change in color – Dogs that are clipped often appears duller, lighter or yellowish in colour. Often a whitening or a color restoration shampoo will be used to bring the colours back for a few days. A Westie will become yellowish or golden like in colour while a Wired Fox Terrier will become pale and white with its original brown spots losing its colour and a Norwich Terrier will look just like a Silky Terrier.

Change in Flow – A straight coat can become curly or wavy due to multiple clippings and it starts to get tangled easily.

Skin Issues – Without the guard coat to protect the dog and the undercoat to regulate the air flow and keep the skin healthy, the dog often gets dirty quicker than its supposed to. Pores get clogged if minimum carding is not done and yeast and fungus starts to overpopulate. When an infection starts, it can spread to other areas such as the ears.

Change in Volume – Your puppy may arrive with a lot of coat, but as time goes by, you realise that the coat gets lesser and lesser. Without stripping the coat, the skin loses the ability and rhythm to push a new hair through the follicles, leaving the dog with only the very basic layer of coat that will start fading.

∂ Hand-stripping Techniques

Hand-stripping as the name suggests, uses hand, or fingers to remove the coat. This is by far the most tedious way of stripping but also, the most detailed way as the groomer has the ability to remove strain by strain and at smaller areas whenever needed.

Over time, stripping knives are being developed by various big grooming brands and individual groomers to speed up the process and reduce the stress caused on hand. Different sizes, shapes, blade types, and sharpness have been created over the years to suit different groomers and their needs.

Today, the number of groomers remaining still using only hand or fingers are few. Although the results can be almost the same, stripping knives still possess the possibility of cutting a coat no matter how experienced the groomer is, and is an easier way to make a mistake and create a ‘hole’ on the dog than using purely hands and fingers.

∂ Why is Hand-stripping more expensive
One of the reason that most owners refuse to bring their dog to hand-strip is of course, the price. In general, hand-stripping can cost 1-2times more expensive than regular grooming and the frequency of hand-stripping can be more often. For example, you can clip your dog to its skin and not groom him for the next 2 months, but a hand-stripped dog will look like a mop if you do not groom him for 2 months. While the normal recommendation of grooming a dog is 6-8weeks, hand-stripping is often done at an interval of 4-6weeks.

Why is it so expensive? Firstly, hand-stripping is a skill that is losing its legacy. Not many groomers knows how to do it or take the effort to learn the technique properly. While scissoring a poodle into a teddy-bear cut gives you an immediate result, hand-stripping often takes months before it starts showing its beauty. It is a very niche skill, thus explaining the price. Secondly, instead of using a pair of scissors to create the desired look of the dog, your groomer has to use his hands to pluck the hair a little by little, it requires a lot of time and a lot of energy. While a professional groomer can finishing scissoring your messy dog in probably less than 45minutes, a hand-stripping groomer, no matter how professional he is, cannot finish stripping an overblown westie in 2hours. Its simply, not possible.

∂ My Dog is a Pet
The other reason why owners do not hand-strip their dog. It has been passed down for years that pet dogs do not need to be hand-stripped. As we previously briefly mentioned, a breed standard is there for a reason, the correct way to groom a wired coat terrier is by hand-stripping. Before concluding that a Westie is a type of dog with sensitive skin and plenty of skin issues, I urge you to recall if you have been grooming your dog the proper way. To date, we have not met a Westie that has been hand-stripped since puppyhood having skin issues, except for very specific allergic issue such as the detergent. Skin problems can happen when your dog is 1 or when your dog is 10, age does not matter, as soon as the follicles get clogged, you will start having trouble. Any wired coat terrier when bred properly, should have a coat that is strippable, even if its a puppy-mill dog, the dog should still be given the chance to take on the proper grooming way.

When a wired coat terrier starts having skin issues, the first few thing owners conclude is that their dogs are allergic to food, have an yeast infection, a fungus infection, allergic to pollutants. First of all, only 10% of allergic dogs have food allergy, unless you have done a proper diet elimination, your dog may not have food allergy at all. Secondly, any infection that occur can be because of the inappropriate grooming you have done on your dog. Lastly, a hand-stripped dog should have the ability to protect themselves from external pollutants.

Therefore, is it the terriers that are prone to skin problems, or that they have been misunderstood?

∂ Common Hand-stripping Problem
A few owners who come to us telling us how they have been sending their dogs to strip but the coat is not getting better. Here is one of the most cruel, but common truth. Many dogs do not like their head, neck, butt, legs, hands to be plucked. Hand-stripping these areas take more effort than other areas. While its not painful, it is slightly uncomfortable to them and that is totally normal. What many groomers can do, is that they can use a thinning shear to thin these areas down. When you pick up your dog, your dog will look well groomed and neat, but months later it becomes obvious that the hair is not getting thicker and its losing its texture.

Many owners cannot tell the difference between a coat thinned by a thinning shear and a coat that is hand-stripped. If you find that your dog is not getting a thicker coat after months of stripping, its time to speak to your groomer and request for stripping, ONLY stripping.

We do not cut our dogs’ coat unless they are going for show. even if its just trimming, it can change the coat texture slightly. If you visit the groomer often, and do not mind a slightly scruffy look, let them know to not use the shears too often.

∂ What if my dog has been clipped
Hand-stripping a previously clipped dog can be done. It takes a lot more time, but it is possible to return some of the coarse texture to your dog’s coat. However, the returning of undercoat can be impossible as the original layers have been destroyed and I doubt any groomer will be able to separate them again. Hand-stripping a clipped dog can improve the dog’s coat texture and give it a healthier skin, but remember, it takes months sometimes even years. Do not give up.

∂ Carding
Carding is often mistaken as hand-stripping. Carding is removing the dead undercoat while hand-stripping is removing the top coat. If you have dog that has been clipped its whole life but still has a very thick coat with beautiful colours, then you have your groomer to thank. By carding the coat, even if you are about to clip it, will pull out some of the dead coat and the undercoat. This allows the skin to breathe and some new coat to grow. For a Westie, it promotes better skin health, for an Irish Terrier it preserves some of its beautiful colour. Carding is a very simple technique that all groomers should do before clipping or scissoring. If for any reason, you are unable to have your dog stripped, carding is something that should not be ignored. The next time you visit the salon, request the groomer to card the coat even if your dog is a pet.

We hope that this answers most of your questions about hand-stripping. If it doesn’t, feel free to drop us more love letters.