Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How to Strip a Terrier

Trooper, the old man, then in retiremen and now dead.

The trick to stripping a terrier's coat is to to wait until the dog's coat has blown and is really ready to come out. One good indication that this has happened with a Border Terrier is that the hair at the shoulders will naturally "part" as can be see in the picture below.


You will need only two tools to strip a terrier.  Most of the job will be done without a tool at all -- you simply use your fingers, grasping small bits of hair and pulling "with the grain." 

The hair should come out fairly freely, with a light to medium-strength tug.  Work slowly, plucking a little at a time, and scratching the dog behind the ears as you do so, and perhaps taking a little break to play ball.

The picture below shows the dog half stripped, with the left side left long, and the right side getting down to the reddish undercoat on this dog.

Somewhere along the line on this half coat, I would have switched from pure fingers to a stripping knife.

A stripping knife is really just a saw-toothed tool that looks a bit like a butter knife with serrated teeth, or else a very stiff hacksaw blade. The tool is made to help make it easier to grasp hair, and the teeth are designed to do a little light cutting as they pull. Most stripping knives are too sharp from the factory and need to be dulled with a rope. A lot of different kinds of stripping knives are sold, but I get the medium, and generally the cheapest, and I am done with it. I have used Mars and McClellan's in the past and they have worked fine. I have never used any of the new and weird things developed for pet owners -- dematting tools, miracle combs, or looped curry combs of the kind frequently sold in pet stores. Stripping knives are the tool to use, and they are almost never found in a pet store as pet terriers generally do not need them, as most are scissored.


If you are new to stripping terriers, be very careful using a stripping knife. It is very easy to "pull a hole" in a coat and it will take a long time for the coat to fill back in once that is done. It's far better to begin by pulling 85% of the coat with nothing by your fingers. If the coat is really ready, fairly large chunks of hair will come out pretty easily. Go slow and let the dog rest between sessions if it looks like it is getting irritated. There is no reason to do it all in one day, especially if this is your first time, your hands are not too strong, or the dog is not very cooperative.

After stripping down the coat, I generally scissor the vertical ruff at the back edge of the legs and trim any rough lines a bit with scissors, including around the pads, the back vent, and underneath near the privates.  I am talking about very little snipping here.  Terriers are to be stripped, not clipped, unless you want a soft coat. 

If you scissor a terrier coat it will get soft and stay soft.  Some people prefer that, and it's generally done that way for older dogs in retirement, but a working dog is stripped. Having said that, a working dog is NOT stripped down to its underwear all-year-long as is done in the show ring to hide improper soft coats.
The more-or-less finished product.
I do not strip my current dogs, and I find most working terriermen do not do too much stripping either -- they are either getting smooth-coated or lightly-broken coated dogs, or else their dogs have sufficiently harsh coats that they are "self-stripping" in the sense that the harsh hairs grow brittle and snap off on their own.

What is the purpose of stripping? 

Good question! 

For my Borders, who worked in the summer, it was a way of keeping them cooler. That said, a true digging dog is bathed rather frequently and combed out pretty often too.  Theorists will tell you this is not true, but theorists never wash mud, dirt and blood off a dog on a regular basis, never treated a bite wound, and have never combed out a billion seed ticks hiding in a coat. A true working dog (and by a true worker I am not talking about a three-holes a year dog) is getting a lot of practical coat care from a human, and it is also seeing a lot of wear underground against rock and root, to say nothing of above ground with briars and brush.  So yes, working terriers are stripped, but generally this stripping is done on a rolling basis as a part of their working life.  A stripping knife may never be seen (or seen rather infrequently) because the dog has a stripping life and so a stripping knife is not much needed.

1 comment:

2Neos said...

Thank you for this post. I was looking up a particular terrier breed and was unfamiliar with the term “stripping” while reading about their care. Your post was extremely informative and the photos are excellent.