Grooming Basics: All About Hand Stripping

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When it comes to keeping your dog’s skin and coat healthy the best thing you can do is groom him on a regular basis. It’s kind of obvious, but it’s true. For some dogs, regular grooming means little more than brushing a few times a week. For other dogs, however, grooming is much more complicated and taxing. Some dogs have a coat that requires a specific grooming method called hand stripping. This is a complicated process and one that isn’t necessarily something that every pet owner can master (hey, that’s what professional groomers are for, right?). So, what is hand stripping? Can you do it yourself if your dog needs it? Spoiler alert: With the right preparation and training, of course you can. All of the answers are below. So keep your eyes glued to this page and scroll away to learn more.

Related: Why You Should Start Grooming Your Puppy From An Early Age

What is Hand Stripping?

Hand stripping is a type of grooming method that dog owners use to remove excess hair from their dog’s coat. The most common method of dog grooming is clipping, this method involves the use of a pair of electric clippers which cut or shave the top layer of hair on a dog’s coat. The difference between clipping and hand-stripping is that not only is hand-stripping done by hand, but it removes coat from the root (not just the top layer) so a new coat is able to grow in. Each time you clip a dog’s coat instead of hand stripping, you are just taking off the top layer of dead fur rather than removing it from the roots. As a result, the coat may become duller in texture and color with each clipping, which is why many people consider hand stripping to be preferable. Is it an ideal solution for every dog? Of course not, it all depends on the dog and the coat. For some dogs, it’s not just the best solution, but the only one as well.

What Dog 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 have certain types of coats, so obviously you can identify some breeds that require hand stripping based on their breed alone. That’s just not a universal truth. The type of coat that requires hand stripping produces two types of hair: the undercoat (which is soft and dense) and the top coat (which is longer and wiry in texture). The process of hand-stripping involves removing the dead hairs from the top coat by pulling them out from the roots rather than simply trimming them down. By removing the hairs entirely, you will create 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. That’s why this process is so important for dogs that have this very specific style of coat that is tricky to work with.

Related: Understanding Your Dog’s Special Grooming Needs

Some of the breeds that have a coat that requires hand stripping include (but are not limited to):

Tips for Hand Stripping Your Dog’s Coat

Hand stripping a dog’s coat can be tricky if you don’t know how to do it. So, before trying it for yourself, it is recommended that you have a professional groomer show you the proper method. To hand strip your dog’s coat, you should place him on a stable surface (like a counter or grooming table). It may also help if you have someone to hold your dog in place if he is nervous about being up high. Take a few strands of hair and grip it between your thumb and forefinger, then pull gently in the direction of hair growth to remove the hair. If your dog’s coat is ready to be stripped, the hair will come out easily and it will not cause your dog any pain. While it may seem strange to quite literally pull your dog’s hair out and you may worry about causing him distress, this process is completely natural and painless provided that it is happening at the right time. For example, you may need to strip your dog’s coat more frequently in the summer than in the winter and it may be best to strip it in sections over a period of several weeks rather than doing it all at once. Much of this will depend on your specific dog and his specific coat. There are few hard and fast rules here, so you will need to monitor his coat and act accordingly.

Some Additional Hand Stripping Info and Helpful Tips

When talking about hand stripping, pet owners tend to have a lot of questions at the beginning, especially if they are new to this type of grooming and they are hoping to do it themselves rather than simply going to a groomer to get the job done. We get it. This can all seem a little intimidating. There’s good reason for that. Hand stripping needs to be handled with care to work effectively. However, if you go into the process knowing what you are doing and what to expect, it doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing task. Having questions and concerns is important. That’s why we are here to alleviate your concerns and provide some answers.

For example, one of the most commonly asked questions about hand stripping is how often it needs to be done in order to keep a dog’s coat beautiful and healthy. Generally, you can hand strip your dog’s coat every four to six weeks, but if your pet’s coat grows rather slowly, you can probably wait as long as eight weeks before hand stripping the coat again. It all depends on the dog and his coat. Essentially you want to give the coat enough time to renew itself, and you want to let the layers grow in so that they are uniform. While that may sound difficult to identify, after a few rounds you’ll start to notice fairly easily when your dog’s coat is ready for another round of hand stripping.

Other people ask about bathing their dogs prior to hand stripping the coat. Simply put, it isn’t a good idea to bathe your pooch before you hand strip. The bath will end up softening your pet’s skin and fur, and when that happens, the coat will become more challenging to hand strip. Plus, it will be uncomfortable for your poor dog. You want there hair to be as dry and brittle as possible before hand stripping. This will bother make the process easier for you and less uncomfortable for you dog.

After you have hand stripped your dog, if you want his coat to be on the shorter side, you can scissor or clip the fur down further. However, some grooming experts don’t bother with this step, as it could end up changing the flow and the texture of the animal’s coat, thus making it harder for the coat to be able to do things like repel water and dirt. It’s probably healthiest to let the hair grow in naturally, however, some people are more interested in styling their dog than grooming. In that case, clip away. Just do so with caution.

Another question often asked about hand stripping a dog’s coat is in regards to the steps involved. Generally, you can divide the hand stripping into three different sections. The first section would be the dog’s jaw line, ears, cheeks, and head, as well as the area down the neck. The section section would be the dog’s sides and his back. Finally, the third section would be the legs, eyebrows, and beard. Sometimes it might be easier for you and your dog to divide the hand stripping process across three separate sessions that focus on each of these three separate sections. Other times, it might be best to do it all in one epic hand stripping session. Either way, it’s best to divide the job into those three separate sections to make the process a little easier and more organization.

Remember, when hand stripping the correct way, you need to pull the hair out in the direction of its growth. If you are hand stripping a wire coated canine, he will have releasing hair follicles that will allow the hair to come out surprisingly easily. It is also worth noting that hand stripping can be time consuming, not only while you are learning how to it, but also once you have the routine down. For this reason, you might decide that rather than doing it all on your own at home, you will let your dog be hand stripped by a professional groomer who has loads of experience and can make the grooming session as quick and comfortable as possible for your pooch. However, when it comes to deciding whether you want to take a DIY approach to hand stripping, it really is up to you and your dog.

Ready to Give Hand Stripping a Try? Just Be Patient

Grooming is an essential part of being a dog owner and it is a task that can be challenging with certain breeds. With a little training, you can take care of most of your dog’s hand stripping needs yourself to keep him looking and feeling his best. This is an important responsibility as a dog owner, but also a tricky process. There’s no shame in leaving this grooming in the hands of a professional if it seems too daunting. However, if you wish to hand strip your dog’s coat yourself, hopefully we’ve demystified the process enough to make it seem less intimidating.

Do you have any tips for hand stripping your dog at home? If so, we’d love to hear them. Please leave your tips in the comments below.