I loathe being involved in controversy, and may be inviting some with this post, but I am feeling bold so am going to jump right in. True confession... I strip pet terriers. I know groomers who think this is a stupid idea. Some think this because they don't understand stripping and how it affects hair regrowth on terrier (and other harsh) coats. Some think that stripping is painful and mean. Others think it's dumb because they consider it be a waste of time stripping a coat on a dog that is not a show prospect. So, here are my thoughts on the topic.
If a customer has a terrier with a decent coat and they want their dog to retain proper coat texture and color, I am happy to offer what I call "pet stripping." This is NOT show grooming for terriers, or keeping a coat in rolled condition. Are we clear on this? NOT SHOW GROOMING. It is merely using techniques that allow the pet to keep some semblance of a proper coat, on a pet grooming rotation. Show coats are worked on far more often, (usually weekly) than the average pet.
Let's talk a little bit about stripping verses clipping. When you clip a coat, you are removing an even layer of the tips of the dogs hair. There is some evidence that this can alter the dogs shedding pattern, so that old, dead coat remains in the follicle for longer than it might if it were left to it's own devices. This means that often the coat loses its rich, true color, because you are clipping off the most colorful part of the hair, and because the stuff left behind is often dull. The coat texture also changes, and becomes softer, because the guard hair has been clipped and the soft, duller colored undercoat is exposed. When you strip the coat, you are pulling the dead guard hairs out of the follicles, encouraging new hair to grow. If the dog has a proper coat for its breed, that new hair will have rich color and crisp texture.
Here is an example. Meet Toffee. She spent the first few years of her life at a breeders house. I am not sure if she was shown, but the breeder does show her Scotties and strips them herself for the show ring. Toffee had been stripped and not clipped previously. When her new owner got her she had recently had a litter of pups, and had been spayed. She had not been groomed for a long, long time. She looked like a shrub on short legs. This picture shows her after I have groomed her twice, at 6-8 week intervals. The "before" shot shows her 7 weeks after her last visit with me. Still a shrub, despite my previous efforts. Trust me, I took a LOT of hair off during those previous visits, but she still needed more work.
After a bath, dry and brush out, I did normal clipper work to tidy up her paw pads and potty area. I also clipped her ears, cheeks, and under her throat. I used a 7F blade, against the grain on her cheeks and throat, and a 15 blade on her ears. I brushed her "jacket," (back coat) so it lay as flat and smooth as possible, and brushed and combed her furnishings. Then I used Coat Kings to "muck out" a lot of dead under coat. If you look at the hair pulled from the coat with a Coat King, you should be able to see the small root at the end of the hair shafts where it was pulled from the follicle. The roots are very small, because the hair is dead, but if you don't see them, it means your tools are cutting the coat and not pulling it out. This time I also used the Andis deshedding tool, which I just bought after reading Debi Hilliey's review of them here:
I have to agree with her. MAGIC. Well worth the small investment, (it is under $20.) After I had pulled out gobs and gobs of dead coat with these tools, I used stripping knives to pull out more of the guard hairs on her jacket and tail. I also used them to card out even more undercoat. I trimmed up her ears, beard , and eye brows. I rounded her feet with scissors. I shaped up her tail a bit where there were straggly hairs, even after I had hand pulled a lot of coat there. I used a combination of a stripping stone and a fine stripping knife to remove more coat from the top of head. I was happy to see that there was quite a lot of new, deeply colored, harsh coat coming in on her head, in her eye brows, and in her jacket after my previous two sessions pulling dead coat. Please note: pulling out dead coat is NOT painful to the dog. I have literally had dogs fall asleep when I am stripping them.
I spent about an hour and half working on her coat. In case you are curious, my fee structure for this kind of work is this: I charge my base price for the groom on that breed if I were doing a typical clipped cut, then add $1 per minute for the time I spend removing dead coat by hand. Toffee's new owner and I were both delighted with how she turned out this time.
She is a work in progress, but is looking more and more the way a "proper" Scottie should. I have to share a little secret with you here. This was a FUN groom. It is enjoyable to see a coat going from looking blown and dull and crummy to seeing it come in rich and fresh and harsh. I enjoy exercising skills that I do not use every day, and new tools, to create a look that pleases both the pet owner and ME! >grin<
I have about 10 dogs that I use "pet stripping" techniques on. People drive several hours to have me perform this service, and don't blink when I tell them the fee. If you would like to learn more, check out this excellent blog by Barbara Bird. There is a lot of information available on breed specific sites, as well.