Hand Stripping


Hand Stripping the Norwich Terrier Coat

Hand stripping a coat, in dog terms, is to pluck (or strip) dead hairs from the skin. If you don’t hand strip the coat it simply grows long and eventually falls out. Hand stripping the hairs speeds up an otherwise natural process. Done correctly, it is painless. The key is to only pluck a few hairs at a time. Pet owners find that doing this once in the spring and again in the fall keeps their Norwich looking clean and tidy. A show dog needs significantly more frequent “shaping”.

What needs to stripped? Of course, what needs to be stripped are the longer dead hairs. You can identify them by their length, usually in excess of an inch (2.5 cm). On red dogs they are often a lighter colour, especially on the face. Still not sure? If you have a latex glove put that on and run it down the back of your dog. The hairs that raise up from the static are the hairs that need to be stripped. This short clip shows the finger stripping method without any assistance of tools.

Beginners also comment that they can not seem to get a hold of the hair or that the hair slips out of their grasp. First, the hair does need to be long enough and ready to be plucked. A latex glove or a rubber finger thimble (finger clots) may be a useful aid to grab the hair.

The key to painless stripping

  • Always pull in the direction that the hair grows.
  • You must support the skin above where you are stripping. I can not stress this enough.
  • Pull only few hairs at a time. Then comb and look again to see how much more needs to come out.
  • Pull only few hairs at a time. Then comb and look again to see how much more needs to come out.

Using A Stripping Knife

Stripping knives do strip more hair quicker. For the beginner, more often than not, you will make a hole in the coat because the knife takes so much hair. However if your intention is to remove the entire top coat then a stripping knife will make short work of it.

Brand preference of stripping knives boils down to what feels comfortable in your hand. Different brands also have different blade sizes ranging from “coarse”, with the widest teeth size, to “medium”, “fine” and “extra fine”. The finer the blade, the smaller the teeth, the less hair it pulls. A coarse blade is generally for quickly removing the whole coat. A fine blade is for the face, paws or sensitive areas.

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There is also a technique to using a stripping knife, regardless of the brand. Done incorrectly, you will cut the hairs rather than pluck them. A Norwich’s hair is banded. That means that there are bands of colour on each hair. If you look at a hair you will see that the darkest part is the tip and lightest is at the root. So if you inadvertently cut the coat the most brilliant colour is gone.

How to use a stripping knife:
  • Like in hand stripping, support the skin with your other hand, just above where you will use the stripping knife.
  • Grasp the top coat between your thumb and the knife blade.
  • Pull, without twisting your wrist or the stripping knife, in the direction the hair grows. Twisting the knife, or flexing your wrist will cut the hairs.
  • Look at the sample you pulled. You should see the whole shaft of the hair … otherwise you did it wrong.
  • Work on a small area and start with pulling only a small amount.

Using stripping knives is an art because different knives in the hands of different groomers accomplished different things. The video shows in just a few strokes of the stripping knife, the entire top coat is removed.

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Updated 02/03/13

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