Terrier Group:                      
•  Airedale Terrier                            
•  Australian Terrier
•  Border Terrier
•  Cairn Terrier
•  Dandie Dinmont Terrier
•  Irish Terrier
•  Lakeland Terrier
•  Miniature Schnauzer
•  Norfolk Terrier
•  Norwich Terrier
•  Parson Russell Terrier
•  Scottish Terrier
•  Sealyham Terrier
•  Welsh Terrier
•  Wirehair Fox Terrier

​​​​Hand Stripping 101

The Coat King is one of many “rakes” available.

This Wire Fox Terrier has been clipped his whole life, so he’s lost almost all of his color, his coat is soft and curly, and mats very easily.

Remember that if the hard coat is cut rather than pulled out, the soft base stays in the follicle, so a new wire-tipped hair does not grow. The soft bottom part left over from the clipping will continue to grow a while. If the dog’s coat is continuously clipped, the coat stays soft as the downy undercoat and the soft base of the wire hair from the old top coat is all that is seen.

The hairs shown here are the harsh coat of an Irish Terrier that was ready to be pulled. You can see how each hair has three colors to it: On the left side, is the thin, faded look at the base near the dead root. At the end of each hair (seen on the right), is where all that thick, deep-red color comes from.  If you cut this hair off, you’ll lose not only the beautiful red color, you’ll also not encourage new coarse hair to grow in its place.

Many mixed breeds also look marvelous when hand stripped to bring out their natural wire coat.

Between clipping and hand stripping, what will keep the coat wiry?

Hand stripping maintains a proper wire coat, while clipping makes it soft and ruins the texture. Without the outer wire coat, the coat color will change and fade out.

What is Hand Stripping?
Hand stripping is a technique used on wire-haired or "rough-coated" breeds. It involves pulling out the dead coat by hand, rather than cutting the hair with clippers. This allows a new “harsh” wire coat to grow in.

Doesn’t pulling out the hair hurt?
No, it does not hurt the dog. Many dogs even enjoy it. Some might not like it, but it is not painful when done properly. Wire hair is not attached like our own hair, or like the coats of other breeds of dogs. It releases from the follicle much more easily.

My dog is just a pet; should she be hand stripped like show dogs?
Absolutely, if it’s important to you to maintain the proper breed look and color of the coat. It is very hard to imitate that look on many wire-coated breeds if you clip them. However, it will do no real harm for pets to be clipped if you don’t care about that look.

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 strip them several times to get the wire coat growing properly again. 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 beforehand, and use carding tools like a Coat King or pumice stone weekly to “card” the coat. This takes out some of the clipped dead coat to try to stimulate some new harsh hairs to grow.

This Wire Fox Terrier is a show dog we saw at a recent conformation show. He has always been hand stripped so he’s kept his deep, vibrant color.

In most cases, this will also cause the coat to fade out and change color. For instance, an Irish Terrier will lose the deep-red color; the coat can fade to a washed-out looking brownish-tan. A Wire Fox Terrier will go from having beautiful black-and-brown patches to being almost white, with faded grey-and-tan patches. Here’s photos showing the difference:

Why does clipping the coat ruin the wiry texture?
To answer this question, it’s important to understand that a dog’s hair follicles are very different from a human’s. With human hair, there is ONE hair for each hair follicle. In a harsh-coated dog’s hair follicle, each follicle has several soft undercoat hairs, and one hard hair. When you’re stripping a dog, you’re pulling out that one hard hair and leaving the shorter, soft undercoat hairs. The hard hair is meant to be pulled out. It must be pulled to allow a new hard hair to grow. Remember that this hard hair comes out very easily with just the slightest tug and with NO discomfort to the dog, because the root of that hard hair has shrunk as the hair grows too long.
Think of it much like a child losing a baby tooth: As the child grows older, the baby tooth root starts shrinking so the tooth gets looser in the gums. Pretty soon, the child’s tooth is so loose it can be pulled out easily so the new adult tooth can grow in. It’s much the same concept with harsh-coated hair on a wire-coated dog.
The big difference is that, as long as the harsh hair remains in the follicle, no new harsh hair will grow. So if a dog with a wire coat is clipped, those hard hairs are never pulled out by the roots as they need to be, so the follicles will not grow new wire hair. With each new haircut where no stripping or carding is done, the follicles will soon stop producing any hard coat at all, so all you’ll have are the several soft undercoat hairs growing. Those soft undercoat hairs usually have little color and tend to tangle (mat) up, which is why a clipped coat usually has a faded color to it, and tends to mat up easily.
Also, each individual wire hair does not have the same deep color and thickness all the way through. Each hair has a hard wire point, but is semi-hollow down to about the undercoat level. It is very soft at the base and only lightly anchored in the follicle as it grows out, which is why they pull out easily.

This Airedale, “Remedy,” is not hand stripped. A great deal of time is spent before his bath going over him with several different raking tools to keep his color and his coat as hard as possible. He is clipped and his legs hand-scissored after he is dry.

The back half of this young pet Irish Terrier has not yet been stripped, so it is easy to see the difference here between the new hard coat on his front half (that was growing beneath the older blown coat), how it lays nice and tight against the skin, and the old coat, which is much longer and stands up looking all disheveled when it is ready to be stripped.

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Here are some common tools used for hand stripping.

Pictured are five different stripping knives, two sculpting stones for detail work, and rubber “secretary fingers” for better grip when hand plucking. There are several other stripping tools available; each groomer uses the ones with which he or she is most comfortable.

Hand stripping really makes a phenomenal difference in the coat of your rough or wire-coated breeds.

If you have any questions about hand stripping, please feel free to call Kaila at Royal Paw Spa: (831) 227-4738

**The information on this page was provided by Wendy Rodriguez of TLC Grooming.

Giving the royal treatment from nose to toes

Is a knife or “hands-only” stripping better?
If a stripping knife is used properly, it works as well as pulling the hairs 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 coat cut.

My groomer said she would also “rake” my dog’s coat and I should do this at home, too. What does this mean?
Raking is using the stripping knife, an undercoat rake (like the Coat King shown in the photo earlier), or a piece of pumice stone to rake through 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 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?
As the harsh coat is growing out after a strip, it gets longer and longer until the root of the hair grows weaker. When the coat is ready to be pulled, you’ll notice the coat doesn’t lay tightly against the dog’s skin anymore, and will stick up if you run your fingers backwards through it, against the lay of the coat. If you’re really not sure, take your dog to a groomer who does hand stripping. They’ll 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, they’ll be able to tell you when to make the appointment to have your dog stripped at the proper time.

What breeds are usually hand stripped?
Breeds from many AKC groups are stripped:

Sporting Group:
•  German Wirehaired Pointer
•  Spinone Italiano
•  Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Hound Group:
•  Dachshund (Wirehaired)
•  Ibizan (Wirehaired)
•  Irish Wolfhound
•  Otterhound
•  Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen (PBGV)
•  Scottish Deerhound

Working Group:
•  Giant Schnauzer
•  Standard Schnauzer

Toy Group:
•  Affenpinscher
•  Brussels Griffon

Are other types of coats hand stripped?
Other coarse-coated breeds like the Bouvier are also hand stripped. Many other coats are maintained with stripping or carding, sometimes combined with using thinning shears, the “saddle” on the Afghan Hound or English Cocker Spaniels, for example. And there are many mixed breeds that have wire hair that look marvelous when hand stripped.

Do all groomers hand strip?
Many do not, since it is time-consuming and very labor-intensive. Question the groomers in your area, and tell them you want your dog plucked or hand stripped. Make sure that they understand what you mean by “stripping.” Amongst pet groomers, to “strip” a dog usually means to shave all the dog’s coat off close to the skin when the dog is too matted to groom. So “a strip” is VERY different from hand stripping! Also, expect to pay a lot more--at least double or more--what the clipping price would be.

Eek! I just had my pet hand stripped and now she looks naked and is very soft. How long will it take to grow back?
If the wire coat is only stripped every three months or so, the entire coat will be grown out, or “blown,” and all of it must be stripped out all at once. When this coat is in one layer for pet dogs, pulling it all leaves them in their “underwear” (the thinner, softer undercoat) until a new wire coat comes through. You will see that new harsh coat growing in within a few weeks.

Do you have to strip to the undercoat? Or there a way to have a nice wire coat when they are freshly hand stripped?
Only when the coat isn’t stripped often enough does it have to be pulled completely, right down to the undercoat. It is much better to have the dog come in every couple of weeks so that the groomer can keep the coat rolled.

OK.... What is rolling a coat?
Rolling is having part of the coat come in new in several layers so that you can strip off only the longest hair, and always have a wire coat underneath. This is done by pulling every tenth hair every couple of weeks. For three layers, every third hair is pulled, leaving the rest for a couple of weeks or up to a month 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, and it takes dedication for the owner to bring the dog in on a regular schedule so the coat can always be maintained. The good news is that a coat that is rolled often does not take as long as hand stripping the entire dog each and every time down to its “underwear,” so it would cost less for each visit. Also, with a rolled coat, your dog would always look terrific with a nice hard coat, with lots of color laying tightly against the skin, rather than looking overgrown and bushy, then being stripped naked.

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. Stripping is pulling out the old dead coat, whether it’s done with a stripping knife, a stone, or one’s fingers. It all gets the same results!

What is a stripping comb?
Just another term for stripping knife.