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What is hand stripping?
Hand stripping is a technique used to shorten your dog’s hair instead of clipping it with a clippers or thinning it with a scissors. With this technique you take a few strands of hair at a time and pull it out of the hair follicles, removing it completely. It can be compared to waxing in humans, or the way woman sometimes uses tweezers to pluck their eyebrows. Your movement comes from the elbow rather than the wrist and hairs are pulled in the direction of the hair growth, never ever in the opposite direction.
The theory behind hand stripping.
When you shorten your dog’s coat by plucking the hairs from out of the follicle, you remove the hair completely and when a new one grows back, it grows back exactly the same as the old one. As undercoat sheds naturally with the seasons (you can read more about undercoats and their functions in our article about caring for your double-coated breed) it is really only the top coat or guard hair that gets removed with hand stripping.
When you cut the top coat or guard hairs with a clipper, you “damage” those hairs and each time they grow back, they grow back softer. In humans this is observed just the opposite way around; when you wax your hair growth is finer and softer and shaving cause stubble and hard hair after some time. So this will make sense to understand that shaving and waxing has different effects on the re-growth of a hair. By cutting a dog’s hair the hair will continue to grow softer until there is nothing really but woolly undercoat texture left and none of the coarse guard hairs.
Why do people hand strip then?
Hand stripping is done mostly in animals used for shows and dog competitions to preserve the natural look and feel of the coat. Dog breeds gets judged on the breed standard, so if a dog is suppose to have a coarse coat and comes to a competition with a soft coat, he or she will be penalised. Besides being a purist or a show owner, there is no other real reason why people should consider hand stripping their dog. If you have a dog as a family pet or household companion, there is no need to put yourself and your dog through this.
Is hand stripping suitable for all breeds?
The simple answer is no. Hand stripping is exclusively meant for preserving the coarseness of a coat. So if you have a soft coated dog there is no reason to hand strip that dog.
Does hand strip hurt?
If it is done incorrectly yes. The right technique has to be used which involves taking only a few strands of hair at a time, not clumps. It also helps if it is done at a time when the coat is ready to be pulled so it comes off easier and don’t have to be removed with too much force. This is known as waiting until the coat is blown. Another consideration is to do only a little bit at a time, and not the whole body in one go. You should also not bathe your dog directly after hand stripping as all the hair follicles are left open which is sensitive and susceptible to infection. A little bit of stripping at a time is a lot more comfortable for your dog and when they get use to it from a young age can even come to like the attention.
Considerations when you decide to handstrip
Having this done professionally is a lot more costly than a grooming session with clippers. It is time consuming and a professional groomer has to charge accordingly. Not wanting to increase the cost, owners who make use of professional grooming services tend to bring their dog once every couple of months and have it all done in one go instead of a little at a time. This can cause terrible skin reactions.
There is very little point in trying to rehabilitate a coat that has been clipped before with a clippers. The rule of thumb is that once a coat has been clipped, it is ruined.
Male dogs that get neutered have their hormones removed and this interferes with the texture and growth of a coat. There is no point in attempting to hand strip or continue to hand strip a neutered dog.
Some dogs have a better level of enduring discomfort. You should start from a young pup to get your dog use to being pulled at for long stretches at a time. If your dog gets annoyed or stressed out, or show severe skin reactions after a stripping session, he or she may not be suitable candidates for hand stripping.