Stripping: Reveal Your Wirehaired Dog's Show Quality Coat
Renae Hamrick, RVT
Do you have a wirehaired dog, such as a Schnauzer, Airedale, or Cairn Terrier? Do you love his bright wiry coat and want to keep it looking that way? If you have the time and are strongly dedicated to keeping your wirehaired dog's coat well-groomed, then stripping might be for you.
What is Stripping?
Stripping is a grooming process that removes old, faded hairs from your dog's coat, leaving room for new wire hairs to grow. Stripping can be done using only your fingers, or you can use a tool, such as a stripping blade. Stripping may feel odd to your dog the first few times, but it is not painful. If introduced slowly and patiently, many dogs learn to enjoy it.
Stripping vs. Clipping
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.
Stripping is necessary for wirehaired show dogs to maintain them at breed standard. If you are not concerned about your dog's appearance being specific to his breed, then basic clipping is an easier, less-expensive grooming technique, which is perfectly okay for a wirehaired dog.
If you have been clipping regularly and the coat has become soft, it may be possible to restore the wiry coat with several stripping sessions.
Not every groomer offers stripping. Be sure to call around and inquire before scheduling your dog's stripping appointment. Be specific when asking for a strip cut, because it can also be a term used for close shave cuts!
Expect to pay significantly more for a strip than a basic clip, because stripping is a time-consuming, tedious task.
Can YOU Strip Your Dog's Coat?
Stripping is a challenging grooming technique which is more difficult to perform than it appears. If you are considering trying this grooming process, talk to a professional groomer or your veterinarian for some advice. Your local pet store may offer a book or video on stripping.
You can strip with only your hands, or you may prefer to purchase a stripping knife or comb to help you with this process. Wearing latex gloves or sprinkling ear powder (with rosin) on the hair may help your grip.
Below is a basic explanation of the process.
Hold a few hairs between your thumb and the side of your index finger. If you are using a stripping tool, place the handle in your hand, and grip the hairs between your thumb and the blade.
Using a firm but gentle motion, pull the hairs straight out in the direction they grow. Do not twist your arm or wrist. The hairs should pull out easily. Continue this process over your dog's entire body.
You can strip the whole outer coat in one session, which takes several hours and may leave the dog with mostly undercoat for a couple months. Another option is stripping in sections, or "rolling the coat". Rolling is the process of removing the longest hairs and leaving the rest for a couple weeks, then repeating the process. This allows there to always be a new coat growing.
A Simpler Method
If you prefer clipping as your wirehaired dog's grooming method, but would still like to try to maintain a wiry coat, try stripping a little just before the clip. If you use clippers, use clipper coolant to avoid "clipper burn". This can occur from the clipper blades getting too hot from friction of two pieces of metal rubbing against each other.
Follow up by "brushing" your dog with a pumice stone once a week after the clipping. This will remove old hairs and stimulate new wire hair growth.