Help! My Dog was Clipped Instead of Hand Stripped

Before we get started, let’s do a quick review…

First, you should check out my blog post: “What Is Handstripping? and Why Do We Do It?

That will give you some good background information on why hand stripping is important.

But here’s a quick refresher:

  • Hand stripping is the process of manually removing hairs from a dog’s coat.
  • This process is painless when done properly.
  • By completely removing hair roots we encourage new healthy coat to grow in.
  • If hairs are cut or clipped, the hair root remains, and new hairs grow in soft, lose their color, and are difficult to maintain.

I also have a list of dogs that should get hand stripped.

But the gist of it is most wirehaired and terrier breeds can get hand stripped.

(Left) A dog that had been clipped for several years. (Right) The same dog after several hand stripping sessions

So what’s the big deal? Why can’t I clip my dog?

As I explained above, when the hair root remains it will grow back improperly. Your dog’s coat will become soft and “stringy”, and they will lose their trademark “bright” look.

Their soft hairs lead matting that is difficult to comb out and keep clean.

It will retain a lot of the “bad dog smell” that terriers shouldn’t have. This is due to oil build up in a coat collecting dirt that would normally repel it.

Their natural bright and rich color will fade significantly.

Eventually your dog won’t look at all as they should.

Finally, at a certain point hand stripping is no longer possible as it will become painful.

This dog’s legs had been clipped. You can see a difference in the coat that had been hand stripped vs. areas that were clipped. The stripped portion has more texture and thickness, whereas the clipped section is thinner and soft.

I Think My Dog Was Clipped – What Now?

Some owners unknowingly have their wire haired dog clipped when their hair gets too long, when they should have been stripped.

Likewise, your groomer may unknowingly clip your dog. Or worse, clip instead of hand strip and hope you won’t notice.

If you suspect your dog has been clipped here’s a few things you can do:

1. Some Clipping Is Okay!

It’s not unusual for pet dogs to recieve some clipping on their chest, belly, neck, and feet.

In fact, I often encourage it as these areas can be uncomfortable to strip for some dogs and can take a long time.

If the entire body has been clipped (head to toe) then we may need to investigate further.

2. Discuss With Your Groomer

Before moving forward, check in with your groomer to see if there was a reason for clipping.

  • Hand stripping may have been too uncomfortable for your dog.
  • There was a medical need to clip instead of strip, such as hot spots.
  • The groomer may have misunderstood and assumed you wanted a “strip down” with a short blade (clipped).

3. Check If Your Dog Has Been Clipped

To the untrained eye, it’s difficult to tell the difference when they leave the groomers.

Here’s a few tell tale signs that clipping has happened.

  1. Look for lines left behind from a clipper.
  2. The hair is all the exact same length and perfectly trimmed (very difficult to do with hand stripping).
  3. The groomer was complete in under 1 hour (hand stripping often takes 2 to 5 hours depending on size).
  4. After several weeks the hair grows in soft and their natural color is dilluted.
Before and after of a Wirefox Terrier that had been clipped. Their natural color had faded and coat was soft.
(Left) Faded and soft coat due to constant clipping.
(Right) After 1 year of hand stripped the color and healthy hairs have returned.

What To Do Now?

Firstly, if you’ve been paying for a hand strip and your dog is getting fully clipped, and you’ve spoken to your groomer and no solution was found, then it’s time to find a new groomer.

Second, we need to make sure it’s not too late…

Point Of No Return

When we follow a regular stripping schedule with good technique, the hair is easily and painlessly removed.

However, clipping does not remove the hair root, and after several months it becomes difficult to remove. And in some cases, painful.

When the hair becomes too uncomfortable to remove, we have reached the point of no return.

Obviously we don’t want to harm our dogs. At this point you’ll have no choice but to keep clipping.

Testing If It’s Too Late

Here’s a simple test to see if we’ve reached the point of no return.

Using your fingers, pinch a few hairs and pull them out in the direction of growth.

Start with a few hairs on the side of the shoulder or the ear. You can also try the side of the neck.

Did your dog flinch, yelp, or jump?

Then it may have been too uncomfortable and you should stop. However, if they seemed unphased, we can try other parts of the body.

Pull a few hairs on the head, neck, back, and bum. If it doesn’t seem to be causing any pain or discomfort, you should be able to comfortably have your dog hand stripped.

After a few pulls take a closer look at the skin.

Is it pink or blue, tight, and looks relatively normal? or a slight redness? That’s ok! 

Do you see a rash, dark red splotches, or even blood spots? That’s not good, stop! You can’t strip your dog.

Get Your Dog Hand Stripped Properly

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of trained groomers who can hand strip.

And since this is a specialized skill that often takes multiple hours, it’s not uncommon for groomers to charge hundreds of dollars for a single session.

In this case I might recommend you learn to hand strip your own dog. And that’s for two big reasons:

  1. You can take comfort in knowing your dog is recieving the proper care.
  2. You will save a lot of money.

If you want to learn yourself, here’s what I recommend:

Get your dog professionaly stripped once or twice, then try it yourself.

You’ll see exactly what your dog should look like after a full hand strip. And your dog will be accustomed to the process.

But how do you learn to hand strip like the pro groomers?

Before and after of a hand stripped leg and bum on an Airdale Terrier
Before and after of a properly hand stripped leg and bum on an Airdale Terrier

Learning To Do It Yourself

When I got my first wire coated breed I struggled to find a single person who knew how to hand strip.

Likewise, when I tried to learn myself, there was very little resources out there. Hand stripping felt like a closely guarded secret.

That’s the reason I started these handstripping guides. I wish these resources had existed when I was starting to learn.

If you want to learn how to hand strip – then take my FREE hand stripping crash course where I’ll show you step-by-step how to get started.

Get The Free Hand Stripping Crash Course:

Hand strip video training taught by Katlin:

  • Learn the tools and techniques to start hand stripping.
  • Avoid these common mistakes that everybody makes when starting.
  • How to make sure your dog is safe and comfortable.

In this video guide I’ll walk you through how to safely and comfortably start hand stripping your dog at home.

I’ll also go over the tools and techniques that I personally use every day.

Picture of Katlin Primrose

Katlin Primrose

​​Katlin is certified master groomer with over 10 years of experience, a registered veterinarian tech assistant (working in emergency, exotics, and general practice), and has won multiple awards in the show ring with her dogs at AKC and CKC.

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