Handstripping the Border Terrier

By Brittney Valle

In a previous issue, we covered preparing the coat to begin the handstripping process on a Border Terrier puppy. For the second installment, we are spotlighting a handstrip on an adult Border Terrier in the grooming salon. This will cover pet strips that you can offer your clients every day!

When you are beginning your handstripping journey, it is important that you find a mentor to teach and guide you in the right direction. Many times people will say they don’t want to learn how to handstrip because they don’t have the market for it or their client base won’t support it—anyone who handstrips will tell you that clients will come out of the woodwork for someone who can properly offer the service. Proficient handstrippers have clients that will drive for hours to see them because they can’t find anyone that understands the techniques or can properly execute it closer to them.

Begin this handstripping session by carding the dog all over, as covered in December’s article. 

Fig 1) Before you begin stripping, it is important to inspect the coat and determine how many layers you have on the dog. You can achieve this by pinching the back coat and rolling it up. Holding the coat this way allows you to see the shorter layers underneath the topcoat and will give you a great idea of what your outcome will be.

Fig 2) After determining how many layers you are starting with, begin stripping behind the occiput and pull in the direction of the coat growth. Be sure to pull straight back to ensure you pull the entire hair and are not breaking the coat. Be careful not to flick or bend your wrist as you pull. One solid movement from the elbow and shoulder is best.

Fig 3) Every few pulls, check the hair you are pulling for breakage. Examine the whole shaft and make sure enough have root bulbs on the end of the hair. This is how you will know you are stripping properly.

Fig 4) Continue pulling the coat in the direction of the growth, exposing the shoulder and pulling back over the barrel of the dog. Use your off hand to pull the skin taught as you strip.

Fig 5) Here is a great depiction of what the dog will look like when half is pulled and half is not.

Fig 6) Continue by pulling the dog’s other side in the same manner.

Fig 7) Pull the leg hair by continuing to follow the direction of coat growth. On this particular dog I like to pull from the front of the leg and wrap it around to the back of leg. This helps maintain a neat and tidy look on the pet strip.

Fig 8) To get a tidy look on the underline of the dog, pull the belly hairs straight down towards the ground. If this coat is soft from not being pulled, it can also be taken off with thinning shears on a pet dog.

Fig 9) Pull the hair of the tuck up and the front of the back leg forward toward the center of the dog.

Fig 10) The tail should be stripped into a carrot shape, wider at the base and tapering out at the end.

Fig 11) Strip the neck and throat areas of the dog very tightly. The “flat work” of a stripped dog is usually taken very tightly and staged in before a show. Pet dogs don’t typically come in often enough to maintain a rolled coat, so this can be one of the trickier areas to pull on a pet as clients don’t often like for any area to be pulled all the way down to the skin. I pull this as tightly as I can without showing skin.

Fig 12) Strip the top of the head following the direction of the coat growth. This particular dog I stripped towards the tail and then from top skull down the sides of the cheeks toward the ground.

Fig 13) Finish pulling the cheeks by pulling from corner of the eye toward the opening of the ear.

Fig 14) Strip out the small hairs right in front of the eyes by gripping a tiny portion and pulling out and away from the face.

Fig 15) Strip the beard out from the root in the direction it grows (in a circular motion, all the way around the muzzle).

If you were to bathe the dog on the day of its groom, this would be the point where that could be done. It is important to use a shampoo designed for harsh terrier coats. A lot of groomers will also do a “terrier” bath on the handstrip dogs and wash furnishings, rear and beard—only doing a full bath when absolutely necessary. This helps preserve the natural oils in the coat and helps the coat lay closer to the skin.

Fig 16) On the pet strips, use thinning shears to scissor around the feet to get a natural appearance.

Fig 17) You can also clean up around the eyes, muzzle and head with thinning shears on a pet dog.

Fig 18) Use a fine-toothed comb or a boar bristle paddle brush to check and make sure the stripped coat is lying flat all over the body.

The most important thing to remember when handstripping a pet in your salon is to find a great mentor who can help guide you in the right direction. Ask questions and take lessons—this is not a skill you can learn in a seminar room. You have to practice it and have firsthand knowledge and the feel of the way the coat pulls to learn. Once you are proficient in the skill, clients will flock to you! Having the knowledge to answer questions and steer your new clients in the right direction for their individual needs is invaluable. ✂

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