The process of "hand stripping" a terrier coat refers to plucking the dead hair from the skin. One literally pulls the hair out. If left to its normal cycle the hair would eventually reach two to four inches in length and die. Rather than shedding the dead hair tends to linger. It does not break off but eventually falls off at the root. If the dog were to rub on something the hair would likely come out. In effect, stripping hair speeds the natural process of shedding. Regular stripping of the coat greatly reduces itching in this breed. Done correctly, stripping is painless. Of course, care must be taken to not strip too much hair in one stroke. You should pull only as much hair as the dog will tolerate without signs of distress. This will vary from part to part of the coat -- with throat, ears and rear end being more sensitive than the back, legs, back of neck and head.
The finger method of stripping is best for beginners, as you learn the process. If the coat is blown (dead, and ready to be plucked), it will come out easily. Grasp the strands of hair between thumb and index finger. Pull in the direction of the lay of the coat. With this technique, you should pull only the longest hairs -- do not grab deeply into the coat -- and work the coat down by stages until the desired length and shape are achieved.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for beginners stripping a coat is determining what is dead hair and what is not. The longest hairs, two inches or longer, are the dead hairs. You can also see a lighter colour variation in the hair. The lighter hairs are the dead hairs. In preparing to strip your terrier do not bath your dog as you will not be able to get a good grip on the hair. If you find that you can not grip the hair to strip or pluck it here are two suggestions:
- Try using a latex glove or plastic thimbles on your fingers to grasp the hair.
- Grooming chalk on your fingers or on the coat area to be stripped will give you a better grip on the hair.
Here is how to use a stripping knife. Grasp the hair between your thumb and the knife. Hold the knife perpendicular to the dog (note illustration) and grasp the hair as close to the roots as possible, trapping the hair between the stripping knife teeth and your thumb and pull in the direction of the lay of the coat. Use an arm and shoulder pulling movement, not a wrist action. If you flex your wrist, you will cut rather than pull the hairs with the knife. Compare the hairs being removed from the finger stripping and knife stripping. If you are plucking, the hair is of uneven length. If you are cutting, the hair will be even in length. You want to pluck, not cut! Remember to work a small area at a time until the entire outer coat has been removed. The key is to remove the longest hairs, only a few at a time. Use a steel greyhound comb to comb the area. Take it slow as you learn to use the tool. All beginners make holes because of too aggressive use of the stripping knife. Practice makes perfect.
Remember: ALWAYS support the coat/skin with your free hand while stripping. You do this by putting your free hand in front of the stripping knife to hold the skin and coat in place.
Hand stripping a terrier coat is an artistic endeavor and just as an artist utilizes many brushes when painting, this same may hold true for the groomer and stripping knives.