Handstripping Dogs – What is it and why is it necessary?

Maybe you’ve heard of handstripping before. Or perhaps you’ve just adopted your first Terrier or Wire-Coated breed and you’ve been told to strip their coat.

So what’s all the buzz about?

what is Handstripping Exactly?

Handstripping is simply pulling dead and loose hairs directly out on your dogs coat. This applies specifically to wire coated dogs. And we can do this with our hands or with the assistance of tools.

By removing these hairs we are encouraging the growth of new, healthy hairs to take it’s place. New hair growth will be naturally wiry and textured – which is exactly what we want.

Terrier breeds are natural hunters. Thick, wiry coats were designed protect them while they hunt, dig, or chase through bush and forested areas.

Old and dead hairs would naturally be pulled out during this process.

Most terriers have retired from hunting and spend their days as loving pets. Therefore, we are assisting our pets by manually removing the hairs ourselves.

Often times new owners of wire-coated breeds will unknowingly damage their dog’s coat by clipping or shaving it.

Why is handstripping better than Clipping / Shaving?

Textured hair only grows in when the previous hair is removed completely (from the root). Cutting or clipping the hair leaves the root in place, and new hairs grow in soft and ‘wispy’.

Soft hair is not ideal:

  • It creates a nightmare of mats and tangles that are difficult to manage.
  • Your dog’s coat may lose it’s natural color and appear faded or grey.
  • Soft hairs retain bad odors and become difficult to clean.

Often times new owners of wire-coated breeds will unknowingly damage their dog’s coat by clipping or shaving it.

will handstripping hurt my dog?

This is the first and, understandably, the biggest concern of most of my new handstripping clients.

The answer is no. It does not hurt, nor should it cause any pain or discomfort.

Many of my client dogs fall asleep during the process.

Wire haired dogs go through a natural cycle in which hair growth reaches a maximum length and is ready to be removed. We usually call this a “blown coat” At this point, the hairs are easily pulled out and cause no discomfort.

Technique is also important for comfort. We must be aware of sensitive areas, how to properly use our tools, and understand when and where to stop.

Which Dogs Get Hand Stripped?

Any dog with a wiry coat that is easily removed can get hand stripped. This includes most Terrier breeds, as well as some sporting or hound breeds. Many mixed terrier type dogs from southern areas also have a ‘strippable’ coat. 

Based on AKC standards, here are the breeds that are hand stripped. 

F = Fully stripped 
C = Combo – Stripped and Clipped / Scissored 
R = Rustic

Herding: 

  • Belgian Laekenois – R

Hound:

  • Dachshund – Wirecoat – F
  • Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen – R
  • Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen – R
  • Otterhound – R

Toy:

  • Affenpinscher – F
  • Brussels Griffon – F

Sporting:

  • German Wirehaired Pointer – F
  • Italian Spinone – R
  • Vizla – F
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffon – F/R

Terriers

  • Airedale Terrier – F
  • Australian Terrier – F
  • Border Terrier – F
  • Carin Terrier – F
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier – C
  • Glen of Imaal – R
  • Irish Terrier – F
  • Miniature Schnauzer – C
  • Norfolk Terrier – F
  • Norwich Terrier – F
  • Parson Russell Terrier – F
  • Jack Russell Terrier – F
  • Scottish Terrier – C
  • Sealyham Terrier-  F
  • Welsh Terrier – F
  • West HIghland White Terrier – F/C *some choose to strip the skirts, this is more proper but not always possible.
  • Wire Fox Terrier – F

Working

  • Giant Schnauzer – C
  • Standard Schnauzer – C

Misc

  • Portugese Podengo – F

Can my mixed breed be hand stripped?

This is a very common question and a difficult one to answer. 

If you’re able to determine if terrier is in their lineage then there is a good chance. 

Feel the texture of their coat; if it feels wiry and bristly, that’s another good indication. 

Next, pull a tiny bit of hair from the jacket and read your dog’s reaction. Your dog should not flinch or show discomfort.

If the dog seems comfortable, pull a test patch in a discreet spot (underneath along the ribs, or on the base of the bum), and wait a few weeks to see if it grows back. If the new hair growth feels wiry and textured, that’s a good indication they are to be hand stripped.

If you’re still unsure then feel free to contact me or post on the Facebook group with some pictures of your dog. We may be able to give you further guidance.

Difference between Stripping and Carding

Put simply:

Carding is the removal of undercoat.

Stripping is the removal of guard coat (sometimes called top coat).

We can use different tools or techniques to address each layer of coat.

So why do we card in the first place? Carding removes the bulk of loose hair to make stripping much easier later in the process. It also allows the coat to lie flat for a nice smooth finish.

How to start handstripping At home

Finding a groomer in your area that’s proficient in handstripping can be difficult. And if you do find one it can be very costly.

Many owners choose to begin learning handstripping themselves as a result.

There is definitely a learning curve – which will require your research, practice, and patience.

If you’re ready to jump in I’ve made the process much simpler with my online course – the handstripping masterclass. We start from the very beginning and then walk you through the entire process.

  • All the “Do’s and Don’ts”
  • All the best tools for the job
  • The entire hand stripping process explained in detail
  • Step-by-step how I hand strip dogs from beginning to end
  • How I earned award winning grooms in a short time

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