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What is hand stripping? Does my dog need it? When should I start?

Updated: Oct 23, 2018

These are three of the most common questions I get when a client hears the word hand stripping. First, you need to think, what is best for the skin and coat of my pet? Every breed has different grooming requirements based on their hair type. No matter what the breed of dog, regular grooming is important for their hair health. But “regular” is different for every breed. For example, a poodle may require grooming as often as every week to keep them soft, clean and free of tangles. But for some dogs, grooming is a little more complicated because they have a wirier coat that requires a technique called hand stripping, instead of traditional grooming with a clipper and scissors.


How does it work?

Hand stripping is a unique way to remove excess hair, or undercoat, from their dog’s coat, instead of the common grooming which is clipping or cutting the top layer of the hair on a dog’s coat. As the name describes, hand stripping is done by holding the hair and pulling from the root so a new coat is able to grow. The groomer grabs the last layer of undercoat and pulled, to make more easily, they use a hand stripping knife “knife” held with the index finger and the palm of the hand. Don’t let the name of the tool scare you though, it’s more like tiny metal lice comb on the end of a wooden stick. In between the teeth of the comb is a sharper surface that helps grab the dead hair. This tool also controls the length of wiry hair we want to leave.


Breeds with wire coats are most healthy when this wire coat is removed and all that’s left is the soft coat. But when you clip a wired-hair dog’s coat instead of hand stripping it, you’re not only taking off the top layer of dead fur instead of removing it, but the coat may change over time with each clipping and become dull in texture and a different color. Hand stripping on the other hand, if done regularly, will maintain the wire coat strong and shiny.


Is it Painful?

The idea of hair being pulled out doesn’t sound painless at all, does it? But if done correctly the dog won’t feel any pain. The soft fluffy hair (in wire-hair breeds only) comes out very easily and the dogs aren’t bothered by it. The very first time a dog gets hand stripping it may feel uncomfortable just because he/she isn’t used to the feeling. We recommend that for the first time you start small and only do a small amount of hand stripping. With every consecutive grooming, you can work up to the normal amount so they can adjust and have a pleasant experience. If anything they’ll just be extra tired at the end of their appointment because it’s such a time-intensive process.


What Breeds Require Hand-Stripping?

When it comes to hand stripping, it is more about the type of coat than the breed of dog. Of course, certain dog breeds more commonly have wiry coats so you can identify them as requiring hand stripping based. Some examples of these breeds are like Bother terrier, Schnauzer, Airedale, Carrier terrier and more. The type of coat that requires hand-stripping produces two types of hair – the undercoat is soft, thin hair fibers and dense in volume, while the top coat is longer, with thick hair fibers and wiry. By removing the softer undercoat hairs entirely, rather than trimming them, you make room for the new coat to grow in. Dogs with wiry coats go through a specific growing cycle in which the hair becomes thicker and darker as it grows – if you do not remove the dead hair from the top coat it will have a negative impact on the overall appearance of the coat.


Why is Hand-Stripping so Expensive?

Hand-stripping is a delicate process and approximately 6 times longer than a regular grooming appointment. You can use a clipper and shave the back of your pet in 5 minutes when it will easily take 30 minutes to do hand-stripping in the same area. Your pet groomers also need to give your dog breaks and take their time to slowly and carefully pull the hair to prevent irritation or cuts, which can be a result of the friction or miss grabbing of the coat with the hand-striping knife.

.Basically, hand stripping is a grooming art form. Not a lot of companies train their groomers to perform it, so if you find a grooming company that does it well, stick with them! Here at Pampered Tails, over half of our groomers have years of experience in hand stripping and take it very seriously.

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