Clip vs Strip: Is It Ever Acceptable to Clip a Double-Coated Breed?

Ask the Grooming Tutor

By Michell Evans

“Hello there. I’ve just been reading through some articles on double-coated breeds. While I understand that you cannot shave these breeds, what is your opinion on clipping or trimming the coat? 

Some of these have harsh outer coats and I’ve seen videos of groomers clipping the outer coat. Is this correct or should the outer coat be left alone? Also, if it’s clipped, will it grow back to the original length and then stop growing again? I’m a trainee groomer trying to make sense of it all.”

Hi Natasha. This is a very confusing issue for new groomers. There are so many factors to consider when making the choice to trim the outer coat or not. Your question is breed and/or coat type specific. Cutting the outer coat is perfectly acceptable on some breeds and coat types and not on others. To make things even more confusing, it may be acceptable to cut some areas of the body and not others.

If you show your client a picture of a hand–stripped Wire Fox Terrier (WFT) and a clipped WFT, they will almost never choose the picture of the clipped dog. They bought a WFT because they wanted it to look like a WFT and clipping them makes them look more like a poodle mix.

There is a point at which the coat is ruined by clipping and will never look like it is supposed to again. It requires a long, expensive, uncomfortable, and in most cases, unnecessary rehabilitation of the coat to make it look like a WFT again. Most likely, the client was never given the choice, they simply took their puppy to the groomer and the groomer shaved it. 

There is no equivalent to this for humans, because if a stylist ruins your hair, it will grow back in a matter of time and look the same. In the case of the WFT, the change in the coat due to clipping is permanent. It is the groomer’s responsibility to educate the client about their options. In many cases, the owner will still choose to clipper instead of hand–strip, but at least they know the consequences of that choice. Pictures are the best way to show them the difference. 

If you choose to educate your client, it is likely that you will be introducing the client to something that they have never heard of before. Why did the breeder not educate them about hand–striping you might ask? Because there are almost no groomers who know how to do it. 

If you get a new WFT as a client over about two years of age and the coat has completely gone soft from clipping, there is really no point in having the conversation with the owner. Shaming them at this point for not knowing what the groomer should have told them in the first place is not a good way to build a trusting relationship. You could, however, tell them about hand–stripping so that they will know for their next dog. It has been my experience that people who own Terriers tend to own several of them throughout their lives, one after another, or sometimes two or more at a time. 

If you are not willing or able to learn how to hand–strip, at least know the groomers in your area who do and offer your clients the choice. It is the responsible thing to do.

Here are three reasons why you would not hand–strip a breed that is supposed to be hand–stripped: 1) You do not have the skill or you are unwilling or unable to do the work, 2) the owner does not wish to pay the added cost of hand–stripping, 3) the dog comes to you already clipped beyond the point of repair. 

Similarly, Pomeranian owners will ask for a summer cut, “Boo cut” or teddy bear cut. They do not realize that this coat may never grow back the same—or at all. It is so unfortunate that the owners are never informed of the potential consequences. Often the owners will still choose to shave their dogs despite warnings, but at least they are making an educated choice. The consequences may be slightly less drastic if you trim the coat, leaving a few inches rather than shave it completely down, but both types of trimming can have a permanent effect. 

WFTs and Pomeranians are two of the most extreme cases that we see in the grooming salon. The looks of these two breeds can be dramatically and permanently altered by groomers undenounced to the owners. Many blousy double–coated breeds may suffer the same fate as the Pomeranian, including Australian Shepherds, American Eskimo Dogs and Golden Retrievers, to name a few. If you get a new client in your salon who has been shaved and its coat is ruined, be gentle in telling the owner. Again, shaming them for something that they did not understand does not help anyone. 

In the case of double–coated breeds with jackets or patterns like English Springer Spaniels or Cocker Spaniels, it is correct and virtually harmless to trim the outer coat. Often groomers incorrectly shave the pattern. The proper technique is to card the coat so that much of the undercoat is removed and then hand–strip and trim the outer coat to create the pattern. This very rarely has long–term negative effects on the coat. Shaving the coat, on the other hand, can cause irreparable damage.

When discussing the grooming with your clients, try not to use phrases like “show groom “or “show trim”. They will almost always come back with, “Oh he’s not a show dog, he’s just a pet”. Try instead to use terms like “proper trim”, “correct techniques”, “modified techniques” or “alternative techniques”. Keep in mind that using the phrase “show grooming” only refers to the most correct way to groom that breed. Many pet owners who never intend to show their dogs still want them to look like the breed is supposed to look.

Your question about the how the coat grows back is tricky because there are multiple factors that determine whether the coat grows back to its original length. Genetics, whether the dog has been spayed or neutered, age, breed and coat type can all play a roll. If all goes well, the coat will look like it was never trimmed. 

I hope that helps. Keep doing your research! — Michell ✂️

Have a question you want Michell to answer? Please send questions to [email protected]