No, that doesn't mean taking your clothes off, it means hand-stripping breeds that are supposed to have their hair pulled out rather than clipped off. Hand-stripping dogs is an art form, and it's the correct way to groom many dog breeds. Most Terriers, Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Setters, and Springer Spaniels are stripped, as are the saddles on Afghan Hounds.

Many dogs that are show dogs are started in a staged coat, which means that certain parts of the pattern that are to be the longest hairs are stripped first, such as the dog's saddle coat. Then a few weeks later the neck is stripped, because you want that hair to be shorter. Then after a few more weeks, the head of the dog is stripped because that hair must be the shortest of all. By this time, the saddle, or back coat, has grown in, followed by shorter neck hair. Then they are maintained in a rolled coat, which entails constantly plucking the longest hairs out to maintain the pattern.

Hand-stripping dogs is time consuming, which makes it difficult to find a groomer willing to put in the time to do it — or an owner willing to pay for it — as it must be done every two to three weeks. Dedicated owners can learn hand-stripping techniques. Once you learn how to do it and can devote the time to it, a hand-stripped coat is much easier to maintain.

Benefits of Stripping Coat

There are many benefits to hand-stripping dogs. For one thing, it keeps a harsh coat harsh. When you clip dogs instead of stripping them, you end up with a softer coat because the hard guard hairs are cut down and the undercoat soon takes over, giving a softer feel to the coat. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but that also tends to make it easier for the coat to become matted. Guard hairs have shine to them and undercoat hairs do not. It also tends to keep skin problems, such as Schnauzer bumps, at bay. By keeping the hair pulled out, it clears the hair follicles and the dog is less likely to end up with plugged hair follicles and seborrhea. Another benefit is the coat will retain its natural dark color if it is stripped instead of clipped.

The groomer shows how to strip the coat using a stripping knife, a tool with a serrated edge to grip the hair.

Stripping and Clipping

In the photo above, notice that the groomer's thumb is holding the long hairs she wants to pull out, and using her entire arm and not just her wrist, she pulls the hair in the direction of growth and pulls out the coat she wants to remove. It will grow back coarse and dark in a few weeks. This dog is a combination of hand stripping and clipping, because he comes on an eight-week basis. If the owners want to keep the dog in a hand-stripped coat, they need to come in more often. Carding and some hand stripping will leave this Scotty's coat with a harsh texture that would normally be lost by clipping alone.

Many Terriers have an undercoat, or pajamas, under the wiry coat. A complete strip of the wiry coat is referred to as taking the dog down to his pajamas.

Does It Hurt?

Hand-stripping dogs should never be painful. If the coat is ready for stripping, it will come out very easily with just a gentle tug.

Dogs that are hand stripped regularly don't mind the process. However, if a dog has been clipped her entire life and you suddenly begin to hand strip her coat, it will not pull out as easily and you may have great difficulty getting the coat into shape. It's always best to start stripping a dog's coat from puppyhood.

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