If you ever see these (coarse/fine) knives (I've only been able to locate them at dog shows), BUY THEM. These Classic "Royal's Select" are inexpensive, round, red plastic, extremely comfortable in the hand, and they work like a charm. They are my absolute favorites, and I am told that they are being discontinued. (It figures....) *I have now seen what appears to be the same stripping knifes in black on the Internet; give them a try!
I finally found the "new improved" versions to my favorites at the local dog shows, but I didn't like the feel of them in my hand as well as the round-handled ones.
Why strip a dog at all? A Miniature Schnauzer must be stripped in order to be shown in the conformation ring. Beyond that, stripping encourages a dog's natural coat texture and color. Once a dog is clippered, the coat begins to soften and often the color will lighten to the point where it no longer resembles the dog's true genetic color. A stripped coat is harder, is dirt- and water-repellent, and does not mat as easily as a clippered coat. A properly cared for stripped coat will lie flatter, and so can be left to grow longer, than a clippered coat, which will get fluffy, and often curly, if left to grow too long.
In order to strip a dog successfully, all one really needs is the ear powder, the rubber fingers, and a strong arm. I prefer using a tool, such as the Dr. Scholl's Contour File, as I find it a bit easier on my body. Stripping technique is simple. Puff some ear powder onto the area to be stripped, rub it into the coat, and while stretching the skin taut with one hand, begin pulling small amounts of hair with the thumb and index finger, the Dr. Scholl's Contour File, or a stripping knife (make sure the knife is dull so that there is less tendency to cut the coat or the dog's skin). The skin can also be pinched between the thumb and index finger while pulling small amounts of hair with the other hand. (The small bits of hair are always trapped between the thumb and the tool being used, be it a stripping knife or an index finger.) It is most important to keep the wrist rigid and to NOT pull the hair out with a twisting motion, as this will cause the hair to be cut, rather than pulled. The dog should be bathed either before stripping or immediately afterwards in order to cut down the risk of a staph infection starting up in any broken skin, either from the stripping itself or from the dog's scratching. If the dog's skin seems irritated, a medicated shampoo may offer some relief. Usually, though, the dog will have no problems.
The most important thing to remember when stripping is to pull from the shoulder, keeping the arm fairly immobile. Stripping is a very repetitive action and can easily cause (or aggravate) carpal tunnel if done incorrectly. Be careful not to twist the wrist. ALWAYS keep the dog's skin taut when pulling as the hair will come out easier, and always pull the hair in the direction that it is growing, for to do otherwise will be painful to the dog.
The coat should be blown, or dead, when stripped. This can be determined by gently tugging on the coat and seeing how easily the hair comes out. The blown hair will come out quite easily, while a coat that is more "alive" will not. Pulling out a live coat can certainly be done, but may be more painful to some dogs; pulling a dead coat should not bother the average dog.
The coat is generally stripped in sections due to the fact that the coat grows at different rates on different parts of the body. The head and front are the last areas stripped as the hair grows the quickest in those areas. Most people strip the sections down to the skin, leaving the dog "bald" (and I do mean BALD as a baby's behind), while some pull only the guard or top hairs, leaving the undercoat to be pulled (in sections) 5-6 weeks later. This second method is most effective on those dogs that carry very heavy undercoat, but does make for a bit more work. In the salt and peppers and black and silvers, all of the darker areas of the coat are stripped, leaving the lighter creamy-white areas untouched (these areas are clippered, usually with a #10 blade), while on the blacks, the entire dog should be stripped in order to maintain the black color.
Some dogs will grow coat quicker (or slower) than average, but usually the stripping is begun about ten weeks ahead of the first show. If the dog should need what is called "correctional" stripping (filling in any dips in the topline), that would start one week prior to beginning the regular stripping. The sections are usually done one week apart, but some dogs grow coat so quickly that their sections need to be done something more like every five days. (In a dog like this, it would be advantageous to have more sections, such as along the shoulders and neck area.) If too much time should pass between sections, there will be growth lines resembling terracing in the coat. If the next section cannot be stripped at its proper time, a small half inch area around it must be done in order to have the sections blend smoothly.
First stage in a very simple, basic pattern with no corrections for topline begins behind the occiput with a narrow, inverted "V" coming down the back of the neck, widening gradually and passing over the shoulder blades, and then running down the sides of the rib cage to about even with, but behind, the elbows. (If the dog has a poor neck set-on, the "V" area in front of the shoulders can be done as a correctional stage a week before the first stage. It should be started about half-way up the back of the neck and expand down in an inverted "V" ending just above the withers.) Continue along the sides in a straight but rising diagonal to where the loin meets the rear leg, making sure to leave some hair fringe at the base of the loin so as not to make the dog appear to have a tuck-up. This lower side line should go down to about 1/4" above the dog's nipples. Place one hand at the front of the rear leg and gently fold the leg fringe toward the inner thigh. The remaining hair on the outer thigh is then stripped following a straight line down to the stifle and then curving rearward to about two fingers above the hock or the top of the Achilles tendon. The tail is left for the following week.
Second stage is the sides of the neck (to about the cowlicks running down the sides of the neck), the remaining shoulder area, and the tail.
Third stage is the head, including the cheeks and ears, and the front of the dog.
HINT: Sometimes the hair from the unstripped areas hangs down over the bare, stripped areas tickling the dog and making him itch and scratch. Carefully scissor off some of this overlapping hair so it will not be so irritating. Be careful to leave enough length to grab the following week. Do watch to make sure the dog is not scratching at the bare areas, especially up around the head and neck, as he can make himself raw in a very short time. A temporary coat of sorts can be made from the leg or arm of an old pair of longjohns with just a couple quick snips of the scissors. Using the leg or arm opening for the dog's head, cut a couple holes for the front legs, and shape the back half to suit its occupant (boy or girl). When done properly, this protective coat will fit much of the body and go all the way up the entire neck.
The coat will begin to break through the skin in about four weeks, although the undercoat will have already begun to make an appearance. Start going over the coat lightly (again keeping the skin taut) by rubbing it with the Dr. Scholl's Contour File or a fine grooming stone. (I find the fuzz comes out fairly easily when I do this in the laundry tub once or twice a week with a fine grooming stone while shampooing the dog. Be sure to have a strainer in the drain to catch the hair if you do this!) As the hard top coat begins to break through the skin, switch to a coarser grooming stone, but, as always, be very careful not to irritate the skin when rubbing. The purpose is to try to eliminate some of the soft undercoat so that the top coat will not be crowded out by the faster-growing undercoat. As the coat gets longer, bathing of the body should stop (this will be around 5-6 weeks), and more pressure can be applied when raking out the undercoat, and the grooming stone can eventually be replaced by a fine, and later a coarse, stripping knife. The coat should continue to be raked out on a weekly basis in order to keep the undercoat under control. (Raking is done by dragging the stripping knife through the coat in such a way that it catches the softer undercoat. Again, the skin is kept taut.) Raking will tend to bring up dander, so after each session the coat is sprayed with witch hazel and brushed with a flat bristle brush or a hound glove. This brushing also cleanses the coat, since the stripped areas of the dog are never bathed once the top coat breaks through as water will soften the coat.
Once the coat begins to come "in", the head, front, and sides of the neck need to be pulled lightly once a week with the stripping knives in order to keep these areas maintained. The coarser knives will leave the coat longer than the finer blades. (The face stripper would be used on the ears and the cheeks.) These parts of the dog grow so quickly that, if neglected, they will begin to look untidy by the time the body of the dog is the proper length. Regular maintenance for the stripped coat is to rake through it once a week to keep the undercoat under control, and to shave the clippered areas every couple of weeks. Clipper work should always be done a few days before a show.
This stripping pattern is a very basic one; there are as many stripping patterns as there are people to strip them. No one pattern is any better (or worse) than another as long as the desired result is achieved.
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