Handstripping - this is a traditional method of coat care and is suited to the wire-coated breeds like Border Terriers, and also to the silky-coated gun dogs like Spaniels. These breeds have a double-structured coat (top coat and under coat) - wire coats, we are stripping the primary wire hair and leaving the undercoat, and with the silky coats, we are stripping the secondary hairs or undercoat to reveal a shorter, smooth and shiny top coat. Hand stripping is not always straightforward for us as groomers, or for you to know the right time, or suitability of your dog for this method. Hand stripping is a lengthy process during which the dog must be physically able to stand on our table. For the majority of dogs, using the correct technique they are perfectly happy for us to pull the hair. There are a number of factors that affect our ability to carry out this type of groom:
- Temperament of your dog - there is no justification for us to strip the coat of a dog that finds it an unhappy experience, and there are some dogs that are touch-sensitive - we would need to assess the temperament to be sure that this grooming method is suited to your dog, and we feel sure that you would not want us to attempt to strip your dog, if the dog was telling us that the process was painful
- Is the dog neutered, or going to be neutered? If Yes, then it may make the strip more difficult or eventually impossible without hurting the dog (removal of sex organs changes the hormone balance and this affects hair growth cycles and the skin's ability to give up the hair). If you want us to strip a neutered dog, then we would need to have an opportunity to assess the coat before we book an appointment for this kind of groom.
- Timing of the strip - in general terms dogs of the strippable breeds have fur with a lifespan of about 6 months and it is only when the coat is approaching the end of its life span that it is ready to be pulled (telogen phase), and to try to do this before the coat is ready will hurt the dog and upset it, and the finished result will be unsatisfactory in terms of the quality of groom. Typically pet Border Terriers are stripped every 6 months for this reason, and we often struggle when owners bring them back sooner as although the dog is scruffy, the hair is not ready to be pulled because the hair is still alive. It is possible with some dogs to start a slightly different process of handstripping - known as Rolling the Coat - and this is where we manipulate the hair growth cycle by taking out about 20% of the wire hair at more regular appointments (roughly 4-6 weeks), and this enables us to build up layers of hair at different stages of growth. This is the method used for show dogs to keep their coats always ready for the show ring. If this method is of interest please talk to us about it.
- Age of dog - unneutered dogs also have changes in their metabolisms as they age, and this will affect coat quality and the speed at which is regrows - with age the coat does seem to slow down. For older dogs, there will come a point at which we feel it may be kinder to the animal to revert to clipping and this is due to the amount of time that the dog spends on the table - we will talk to you about this, so that we can plan the right approach for your dog
- Nutrition - dogs with the best coat quality for handstripping are fed on a high quality diet
Other important factors with handstripping:
- If your dog has a skin condition, or if at the date of the handstrip appointment, the dog has signs of skin irritation, then we should not attempt to strip your dog until the problem has resolved itself
- A dirty coat (not matted), is easier for us to strip - we can grip the hair to pull it out and we always strip before a bath - preferably don't bath your dog in the week before the handstrip
- Removing hair from the follicles creates slight damage to the skin which takes time to recover making the dog's skin susceptible to infection - usually a week or so to recover - with Border Terriers, we generally don't bath them for this reason (though we do use a dry shampoo to freshen them), and because there is no handscissor work to be done, it is unnecessary. For other breeds with furnishings (skirts and feathers) then they do need to be bathed before the trim. When we bath stripped dogs we use Tropiclean Oxymed Shampoo as it is designed for dogs with sensitive skins. We always rinse thoroughly with cool water. The key point to be aware of is that this method of grooming carries risk of infection which we try to mitigate against through good hygiene, correct technique, and suitable products: we will carry out this method of groom on the understanding that you accept that there is a level of risk for your dog by you authorising us to carry out this technique. Be watchful of the dog's skin health and overall behaviour of the dog in the first couple of days after the strip, and consult with your vet if the dog chews its skin or if there are any lesions apparent as this can rapidly lead to infection which is potentially very serious.
- Dogs that have been clipped in the past will be very difficult to handstrip, and in some cases it will be impossible to get the coat back to a strippable condition - if the coat is to be restored for stripping, then we will need to discuss with you a plan for remedial care
- Your Aftercare of the Dog's Coat: the dog's skin will be sensitive for a week or possibly longer. Don't apply topical flea products, bath the dog or use any other chemicals on the dog, and avoid air fresheners in your house/car. Be aware that there are many essential oils in use that are actually toxic to dogs and cats, and should not be used in the pet's home environment - at worst these products can kill, but often they cause allergic reactions such as ongoing skin irritations and sensitivities.