By Malissa Diener
I confess…I am a stripper. I know, shocking as it may seem, I love to hand strip, roll coats, pluck and twist. Whew, feels good to confess that I use a stripping knife and stripping tools a lot in my grooming, and sometimes even on non-terrier breeds!
I know, it’s so scandalous. But yes, I am that kind of groomer girl, the kind that strips on the side to make extra money.
I am going to try and convince you why you should be a stripper, too. I know, you managed to stay away from it this long. So why should you? People will talk, but you will make more money, you will gain a larger and different clientele, and it will absolutely make you a more in demand groomer/stylist. Remember, not everyone strips so you may be looked at differently by your fellow groomers/stylists. They may talk about you behind your back and be a little negative about the new “reputation” you have gained. But once you strip, you can’t ever go back. It becomes your go–to secret weapon on a variety of grooms.
Some people are natural pickers. You know who you are, as I am among you. You’re the person who picks at their scab. You’re the pimple popper; the one friend that says, “Oh let me get that black head for you”. You can get such a soul cleansing satisfaction from tweezing, plucking and messing with yourself or others. This also transfers into our grooming. I am a plucker, a picker, a popper and a stripper. There it is, and I get a total euphoria from it.
So, what is hand stripping? Most pet groomers don’t offer it or use most of the tools to do it. I personally think it is a lost grooming art like scissoring. But here is the official definition on hand stripping a dog’s coat via Google:
Hand–stripping is the process of plucking the outer guard hairs once the coat is “blown”—the top coat is pulled out using fingers or a stripping knife.
Don’t panic—it sounds worse than it is! The knife is not used to cut but only to pull the hair out, held between the thumb and forefinger. Technically Google is correct in the above definition. Remember, I said technically. Now let’s get untechnical and let’s get real. Most groomers say they don’t strip because:
- It is a technique reserved for show dogs only.
- It is painful to the dog and causes them distress.
- It is only for wire haired coated breeds/Terriers.
- No pet owner wants their dog stripped, they don’t even know what it is.
I am going to debunk these four myths:
1. Show dogs are not the only dogs that get hand stripped. There are plenty of pet owners that want their dogs to look like the breed standard (or as close as we can come to it) and they want the coat to retain its natural texture, color and overall look. I have hand–stripped pure bred dogs and mixed breeds—didn’t matter to me. What did matter was that I was able to maintain the integrity of the coat and give the customer what they wanted in an overall style for their pet.
I talk to my customers about what I call a Pet Strip. We discuss what they can maintain at home and what they want their pet to look like and how often they want to have the pet groomed. Yes, I charge more for the service, but it is all rolled into my total grooming price for that particular dog and the services it needs.
2. Pain is NOT involved in stripping the coat. If you hand strip at the right time, the coat will release from the follicle easily. If you are causing pain or discomfort while doing it, you are doing it wrong. Easy as that. Skin must be pulled taut, coat should be dirty (if doing a full, true strip) and you can use things like ear powder to help get a good grip. There are about a million different YouTube videos on how to do a hand strip, so I won’t go into instructions here. But I have taught the seminar to pet groomers and they are always so amazed at how easily the coat releases once they get the technique down. If you are a picker, then you have found heaven on a grooming table once you learn to strip.
3. Stripping is not just reserved for Terrier breeds or wire coated breeds. However, they do get this technique used more than the other breed groups. Some other breeds are Spaniels, Setters, Hounds and more. I have used my stripping tools on Collies, Samoyeds, Aussies, (yes, double coated breeds) Pugs, and every kind of mix that I feel the tools will improve the quality and overall look of the coat. Remember, you are using tools. A hammer is just not for getting nails through a board. Be creative and become a thinking groomer. Don’t always just reach for the clipper.
4. Most pet owners don’t know what stripping is. The beauty of it is, they don’t have to. But you as a professional groomer/stylist should. It is your job to help them decide on what is best for their pet according to their lifestyle, budget and what appearance they want the dog to have after being groomed. Factor in those things. Yes, we must educate our clients with the knowledge that the more a pet is groomed the better it is for the pet. However, budgetary restraints limit this for many people. In turn, we must try to find a happy medium and healthy way for the pet to stay well–groomed with in their budget.
I have never in all my years grooming had a person tell me they didn’t like what we agreed on in a pet strip groom. I make it a point to take notes, and be very clear as to what the instructions are on what the customer wants for the pet. I don’t ever let them get away with the “you’re the pro do what you think is best”. Best for who? Me, the dog, you, the mailman? That is a statement no one leaves my salon saying to me. This is your dog, so it is your responsibility to take a moment and figure out what is best for it, what you want it to look like, what you can afford it to look like, and what you can maintain in between grooms. My job is to help you determine these things so I can do my job to the best of my ability. If you leave it up to me, your dog is going to be colored and Asian Fusioned, possibly glitter tattooed and looking like a drag queen. But hey, that’s my personal style, it may not be yours. They need to stay and talk with you.
Take a class if you can on this lost art. Watch the videos online, read about it on the AKC breed groups pages. Educate yourself. My personal favorite stripper is an amazing groomer by the name of Sarah Hawks. Check out her site: www.dogworksbysarah.com. Sarah hosts classes around the world, has DVDs and more available to learn from her expertise. She is amazing.
Get out and go to the dog shows. You don’t have to be a show groomer to appreciate a well-groomed show dog. You can talk to the handlers and owners, get some questions answered, watch them groom and see the tricks they use to make their dogs look amazing. We all want that. We want the dogs that go out doors to look amazing also. We also want to look amazing to our customers. We want them to say to their friends and family, “Oh Scrappy’s groomer is amazing! She does show dog techniques on Scrappy and that’s why he looks so great.”
People love to brag about their dogs, so include yourself in the bragging, and do a groom that is brag worthy. Have your clients telling their friends and family, “Hey did you know Scrappy’s groomer is an amazing stripper?” You know that will get peoples’ attention! ✂