Q: I recently got a Westie and I heard that hand stripping helps to maintain her wired coat. Is this painful for the dog? Can I do it myself? How else can I groom her?
A: Hand stripping involves pulling out the dead outer coat of a wire-haired or rough-coated breed by hand, as opposed to clipping the hair with a pair of scissors. This allows a new harsh wire coat to grow out. Dogs with wire coats like the Westie require hand stripping to achieve the proper texture for their breed standard. When done properly, hand stripping should not hurt your pet and may even be enjoyable. However, be wary of pulling out your dog’s hair in tender spots so it doesn’t make them uncomfortable.
While it is possible for you to do it yourself, I would advise you to consult a professional groomer who specialises in Terrier breeds before attempting to do so. Inexperienced owners who do not know how to hand strip their dogs may end up damaging the coat and injuring them.
If you are not intending for your dog to participate in shows, hand stripping may not be necessary. You can still maintain a healthy and neat coat by clipping your Westie’s fur. This usually makes the hair softer and thicker. As long as you stick to a regular routine of brushing and combing your Westie’s fur, you should have a happy and healthy dog.
Take note that restoring your Westie’s coarse coat in future may be a challenge if you choose to clip her fur now. Groomers will typically advise you to let the coat grow out for months and have it stripped multiple times to obtain the right texture. Generally, the longer you clip her coat means the longer you have to wait for it to get back to its original harshness. But it can be done in most cases!