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Stripping (Trimming)
by Amy Sumners
August, 2000

I am not an expert, but I have been stripping Irish Terriers and other wire coated breeds for almost 12 years now...both for show and for home/pet maintenance. It is VERY easy to do. You may view some of my dogs in the Show Photo Album.

First, some common terminology:

  • To work: to groom, strip, pluck, or trim
  • To strip: to pull, pluck, or trim
  • To trim: to pull or pluck... NEVER EVER USE SCISSORS!
  • To card: to pull, drag, or draw the serrated edge (held either perpendicular or 45 degrees to skin) along the direction of hair growth to pull or release dead hairs and undercoat.
  • To pack: to make the coat lie densely close to the skin with all of the hairs going tightly side-by-side. Achieved by brushing with alternate strokes using a palm pad or wire mit and a horsehair or military brush or rolled towel used to collect dirt.
  • Stripping knife: a grooming tool with a dulled serrated blade.
  • Palm Pad: a flat, oval shaped rubber pad with 1/2 inch long wire pins or brads on one surface used for lifting and separating hairs on the legs (Place the pad on the coat, use a circular, massaging motion to separate the hairs then lift the hairs outward all in one motion) OR in combination with a natural bristle brush, to allign or pack the hairs on the back when finishing the grooming session.
  • Military brush: oval or rectangular natural bristle brush (bristles are 1/2 inch long, cut flat so the brush does not roll when resting on bristles) used to collect dirt and oils from the coat; packing the coat; putting a shine on it.
  • Horsehair mit: a mit made of horsehair also used to shine the coat.
  • Greyhound Comb: metal comb with two spacings of tines: fine/medium or medium/coarse. Used for face and legs.

NOTE: When carding, using a palm pad or wire mit, DO NOT apply much pressure! Do not scrape the skin! Only use enough pressure to penetrate the coat TO the skin.

Now on to stripping:

If you want to strip the whole dog at once, set aside approximately 4 to 6 hours for a typical, experienced Irish Terrier. You can go down to just the undercoat once you are adept at it. The whole dog method (for the pet dog) can be done every three to four months. The dog will be *naked* in his undercoat afterwards for about 6 weeks. And he will get *wooly* about month or so before he needs stripping again. There is no law that says you cannot tidy up the head, throat, neck, belly and butt between times.

However, if you will spend 10 to 30 minutes per day on the dog, after approximately the first three months of this regimen (kinda like working towards a great, longer haircut on yourself), he will look great all the time. Grooming will not wear out you or the dog. Make use of your television time.

If you select to groom daily, create a work schedule to groom the same area on the same day of each week. For example:

• Sundaythe face, teeth and nails
• Mondaytop of the head, ears and cheeks
• Tuesdayneck and throat
• Wednesday  back, sides and chest
• Thursdaylegs
• Fridaybutt, tail and stomach
• Saturdaybrush and play

The hardest part of learning to strip an Irish Terrier is learning the breed 'pattern' to use for him/her. Fortunately, our breed is not that complicated: body and leg hairs should be about 1 to 1.5 inches long (muzzle a bit longer); head, neck and butt should be 1/4 inch long. Look at pictures in the Show Photo Album for the 'true pattern'.

Remember, the amount of time it takes to grow after being pulled out of the skin is roughly 10 to 12 weeks for 1 to 1.5 inches in length and about 5 to 6 weeks for 1/4 inch in length. Extrapolating these dates should indicate to you that you will not work the body as often as the chest, head, neck and butt... and you will not work the muzzle as often as you work the body. So you may only work the body once per two weeks and the throat, ears, head and butt, etc once per week. Counting backwards on the calendar, it will also give you a starting date to begin working the coat for Christmas or any other special dates.

How do you tell if the coat is 'ready to come out' or if it is *blown*? If it is fluffy, stands loosely away from the body, begins to cord into dread locks or you can pull it out quickly and it comes loose easily with little force (like if they are running away from you and you grab a handful of hair), then it is ready. If when you rub the flat of your hand perpendicular to the hair growth of the coat (laying your hand parallel to the direction of hair growth), anything that 'pops out' or stands away from the body is 'ready'. It will look like a 'veil' of hair. The 'veil' is the part to pull off.

To help pull the hair without pain for the dog and with a better grip for you, use R-7 Ear powder, Billiards (hand) chalk or Rope chalk for rock/mountain climbing. A little on your fingers or dusted onto the coat will help to grip the hairs and make them come out easier and faster. Be sure to brush/wipe it off the dog completely when finished with your session.

If it hurts the dog, you are pulling too many hairs with each pull. You do not want to pull too many hairs at once! Or, you are not supporting the skin by letting it tug with each pull of the hair. To support the skin, hold the skin above the area being stripped so that it stays taut against each stroke of the knife. Or, you are working a sensitive area: the chest, butt and throat are commonly the sensitive areas where you will want to go a little slower after you have developed some speed in your stripping ability.

Always support the skin by holding or gripping it with the non-stripping hand above where you are stripping to keep it taut. To grip only a few hairs at once, *lift* the hairs with your thumb or fingers by brushing the tips against the direction of hair growth before gripping. Grip only the tips of the ones that stand up and then pull... quickly. The closer to the skin that you grasp the hair, the more hairs you will pull out. Pull ONLY in the direction of hair growth! With practice, you will get faster with this combined motion. You want to pull from the shoulder not the wrist: do not twist or flex the wrist as you pull. Keep your elbow and wrist stiff. Pull with a 'swinging' motion of the whole arm.

Grooming the Broken Haired Terrier by Arden M. Ross, a pamphlet available from the Airedale Terrier Club of America, $7.50 US, is excellent; but it is not to be read in one sitting... you should read, pluck, read, pluck etc. It is also available through Dogwise Dog Books

I think the section of the book that says to pull every 4th hair is explaining how to start a rotation of a coat. You want to pull 1/4 of the quantity of hairs in that spot, move to another spot and repeat until the dog is done. Then every two or three weeks repeat the whole process. Eventually you have a coat growing in under every coat ready for stripping. Of course, you must work the pattern by working the head, neck, ears, tail and butt more often since they should be shorter; and you must work the legs less frequently to get them longer. Do not use scissors on the legs or face!

I DO NOT advocating the use of clippers for our lovely red Irish Terriers as they will not be red for long! Clippers are not the way to go if you want a rich color and proper texture of coat on your dog. But, if you are 'dead set' on clippering the dog, I would suggest you purchase an Oster Golden A5 (2 speed model) along with #10, #7, and #5F blades. Shave in the direction of the hair growth. The head, ears (take care not to cut the ear leather), throat, stomach, privates and butt should be done with the #10... the neck with the #7, and blending into the back is done with the #5F. The legs can also done with the #5F or scissored into shape.

For the record: Irish Terriers CAN be stripped out after they have been clippered, but it will take about 6 months to get the color and texure back! If you are stripping a dog that has been clippered: Let hair grow to at least 1 or more inches long. Use chalk or ear powder for each pull!!! Make sure you are PULLING the hair out of the follicle and not breaking it off (there should be some length of hair beyond the edge of the strippng knife --- or fingers if you are only using your fingers to pull the hairs --- when you are still holding it after pulling it out). Fingers often work better on clippered coats, allowing you to pull instead of breaking the hairs.

Do not expect to get all the hairs stripped out in one session. A better, easier, or more effective way to start pulling a clippered coat: use the powder/chalk and put finger-covers (used by accountants to turn pages) on your fingers and thumb, then strip the hairs... do not use a knife. The dog will look patchy for the first two or three strippings after he has been clippered, but eventually you should be able to get the coat right again. For the first couple of stripping sessions, you can use the clippers, with your #7 blade, during this stage ONLY to even out the remaining coat left on the body after stripping away as much as you can. For the first stripping session, pull the legs and face down to next to nothing (thinning out about 1/2 the quantity of the hairs) and trim edges with scissors to even up. Three weeks later, pull 1/2 of the remaining hairs on legs and face, repeat in 3 weeks, repeat in 3 weeks etc...

And, 'No Dr. Well-pet, Jocco does NOT have a skin allergy/condition/problem.'  Roll Eyes (Sarcastic)

Happy Stripping!

Amy Sumners

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