Ella is not my first wire haired dog, she is in fact my third, but it wasn’t until now that I took the time to find out what hand stripping was. I had always assumed, for some unknown reason, that this grooming technique was accomplished by removing dead hairs with a special comb…which makes zero sense when the name of the act itself has the word hand in it.
By now you’re wondering, if this process takes so long, why not just shave her? In the past I shaved both Miley and Ari, and although not a professional groomer I was content with their appearance. For Miley I liked the way she looked cut – and Ari’s coat left untouched gave her a bit of a razorback that was so rough I hated the texture of it. What I didn’t know then was that shaving them was potentially damaging, or at least altering, their coat.
I never saw a change in Ari (but I also only shaved her around twice a year and never very short) but over the years Miley’s coat grew softer and lighter in color. I thought it was due to her aging, but was in fact the result of being shaved every few months for 10+ years.
Fast forward to Ella, whose coat is so unique that I didn’t want to chance losing any of her coloring. She also sheds very little and I love her texture, but she too was getting the razorback – although instead of it being one strip down the middle I felt like it was her whole coat.
Since it was a long process and I was inexperienced we drew it out over several days and in about three to four 30 minute sessions, with an hour break in between. As I said, Ella wiggled a bit, but with my trusty treats she didn’t do too bad. I did cheat by trimming her legs, belly, and tail by hand. Her tail was by far the most difficult as I didn’t want to strip the entire thing short and was forced to attempt to blend it.
All in all I’m pretty happy with the result, although I'm noticing some longer belly hairs in her after picture I missed. I’m pretty sure I’ll do it again in about six months, when I can’t handle the ridge any longer!