by Karen J. Brittan

stripping equipment


Classic Products Stripping KnivesIf 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!


New Classic Products Stripping Knives

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.

Can. Ch. Britmor Phoenix in a prime stage-stripped 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.



First determine where the transition is between the neck and withers. This first week is the correctional week so that any dips in the topline can be filled, but I find that most dogs will benefit from this, particularly with the neck area and the dip behind the withers. Once I figure out where these stripped areas should be, I find it easier to part the coat down the spine (if the dog's coat is long enough) to help center these correctional areas. I determine where the transition is between the neck and the withers by running my finger down the back of the dog's neck. Dogs with great transitions might need to have their heads/necks pushed back a bit to make this determination a bit easier. I part the coat from the occiput down to the withers, and start my inverted V centered on the back of the dog's neck, about halfway up the back of the neck. I gradually expand this V down to where it ends (as shown in the photo) just above the dog's withers. Pointing out spot on spine where vertebrae change direction.The base of this V should be about as wide as the top of the shoulder blades. Stripping this area first helps to improve a dog with a poor shoulder transition, but it will also help to lengthen neck and "move" shoulders further back on the topline of a dog with a good transition area, thus helping to shorten its topline a bit.

Next I find the spot along the dog's spine where the vertebrae change direction, and which usually causes a slight dip in the dog's topline behind the withers. Three correctional patches completed with overlapping hair scissored shorter to avoid irritating stripped areas.Once I figure out where the stripped areas should be, I often find it easier to part the coat down the spine (if the dog's coat is long enough) to help me better center these correctional areas. I start stripping directly over this natural dip, and widen my stripped area to about the size of a fist or a lemon. The size of this area will depend on the size of the dog... larger dog, larger area. (Dog pictured is about 12-3/4" tall so her patch is a bit smaller.) As I enlarge this area, I watch for the topline to begin rising in front and behind along the spine. I don't want to start stripping "uphill"; the idea is to fill in the dip.

Finally, I strip the area immediately in front of the dog's tail. This area is about the width of the dog's tail and goes almost to the dog's hipbones (but not up on them).

WEEK TWO: This is the major body portion of the dog.

The neck is widened this week.Here is a side view of the widened neck area.

First, I widen the inverted V that was done at the base of the dog's neck last week, and go up the back of the neck to the occiput. I don't strip down onto the withers very far... just a few hairs at the base of that V so that I won't have a growth line in a few weeks.

Mia's back, Week 2.Lexus' back, Week 2.

Next I start widening around the "lemon", being careful not to go too far forward up onto the withers, nor too far back into what will be the "football". I use a comb to part the hair and get the lines fairly straight. The "football" is about as wide as the "lemon". I can tell from last week's work that Lexus on the right is growing coat faster than Mia on the left. (And I had a bit of a problem with Lexus this week as I discovered that she had nearly a 3/8" of coat growing under that long stuff and I had to pull that separately; it sort of messed up some of her lines a bit.)

Mia's side, Week 2.Lexus' side, Week 2. The forward part of this section starts just behind the dog's elbow and goes straight up and over the top of the dog and ends behind the opposite elbow. The bottom line of the body starts just behind the elbow, and goes down almost to the dog's front nipples, and then rises in a gradual straight line toward the area where the rear leg meets the loin.

I gently fold the front of the furnishings on the rear leg under the dog's inner thigh and strip down the front side of the thigh to the dog's stifle. From there I make a nice curved line to the back of that leg, ending at the top of the Achilles tendon, as I try to give this entire leg line a nice curved look to it so that the dog appears to have plenty of angulation. If this line is made too straight, the dog's rear angulation will look straighter.

Mia's rear, Week 2.Lexus' rear, Week 2.

I strip those legs back to the cowlick line that is going down the back of the legs, and never strip into the silver parts of the dog.

If this isn't scissored a bit where it hangs over the stripped areas, it will make the dog itch like crazy.
And finally, I must once again trim any hair that is hanging down over the dog's skin. I thought I had done a good job on both dogs, but had to re-scissor hair on Lexus's upper left side as she started scratching and made a bit of a sore spot there. Here is Mia's football before I trimmed around its edges so that she wouldn't start scratching and biting at herself.... the entire piece is actually only as wide as what you see at the top of it!

WEEK THREE: This week the dark hair (top) of the tail is stripped, and the "football" is reduced by about half. Remove about a 1/2" (a finger width) around the entire oval of the football.

The skin is starting to darken from the previous strippings.Lexus is growing in much faster than Mia.
The V down the back of the neck is widened a bit, and the hair over the withers is carefully removed, while a 1/2" strip is removed from the back of the shoulder pattern going down toward the elbows. This week the difference between the rate of hair growth on Mia (left) and Lexus (right) is really noticeable! (and I am still pulling some short hair from Lexus). If I strip Lexus again, I will have to pull her down more like every 5-6 days rather than once a week because she is just growing too quickly for this time span.

The pattern goes around the sides of the shoulder blades.

Lexus is growing in much faster than Mia.What is different about this pattern is that it accentuates flat shoulder blades or corrects for shoulders that are not as flat as they should be. It is rather hard to describe what I did, but basically the forward part of the pattern this week goes around the sides of the shoulder blades.

Mia from side, Week 3.Lexus from side, Week 3.It is easier to see on Mia (left) that the remaining base of her V line is following the slope of her shoulder blade. It looks like I removed more hair here on Mia than I did on Lexus, but Lexus is really a much smaller, more feminine, dog than Mia, and you cannot see that from these photos.

Mia's stop is stripped during Week 3.Lexus' stop is stripped during Week 3.

The last thing I did on these dogs was to strip out the stop between their eyes. That could be done when the head is done, but I like the hair on my stops a little bit longer so that they look less steep. The top of this stripped area ends just below the brow bone.


Mia's back, Week 4.Lexus' back, Week 4.

This week remove the remainder of the "football".

Mia's side, Week 4.Lexus' side, Week 4.Remove the sides of the shoulder blades, going down to two fingers above the elbow. Do not strip into the dip that is just above the elbow, or side of the leg.

Widen the neck area, starting at the top of the V, and take it just below the base of the ears, across to the cowlick that goes down the sides of the neck, and continue that line straight down to the outside of the lighter marking that goes across the dog's chest.

WEEK FIVE: So this week one can either finish up all the stripping or one can drag it out for one or two more weeks, depending on what one wants to do.

This is the week that the front of the dog should be done, but the head can either be done, too (as I did with Lexus), or it can be done the following week or even two (leaving the head for two weeks is the *only* part of the dog that can be done with this time gap). On a black or black and silver, everything should be stripped that is black, but on a salt and pepper, the ears and cheeks can be clipped instead of stripped as those areas tend to get sore on some (lighter-skinned SPs) when stripped. Darker-colored SPs would look better stripped out initially rather than only clipped.

Side view of final stripping. Top view of head stripping.I start with the front and go around the throat and chest markings. Next I do the top of the head, the top of the ears, and down into the cheeks if the dog will let me (very sensitive area). The cheeks should be done because it will help to keep that area dark on the darker-colored dogs.

All lines are identical to those on my primary grooming page on clipping.

Front view of head stripping before clipping and scissoring.

The eyebrows start at the dog's browbones just above the eye sockets, and one should *NEVER STRIP FORWARD BEYOND THAT POINT!*

All stripping is now done, unless one chooses to lengthen it out for another week or two. Just remember that the head MUST be done AT LEAST six weeks before any show or there will not be enough hair on it yet. Now it is time to proceed to the clipping and scissoring.

Here are some additional photos of Lexus and what I did with her.

The chest and throat are clippered. The cheeks are clipped and the ear edges scissored.

The chest and throat are clippered, along with the cheeks. The lower line on the front of the chest should match the side line that is two-fingers above the dog's elbows.

The ear edges are scissored.

The rear is clippered. Clip and scissor the rear line of the back leg close to accentuate angulation.

The rear is clippered, and the rear line of the back legs is trimmed close to accentuate angulation.

The cheeks are clipped and the face scissored.Grooming is finished on Lexus' head.

Scissor work is done on the head.

The coat is in, but the dog needs some serious grooming.
FIVE WEEKS LATER: As I mentioned previously, Lexus grows coat quicker than most, so the average dog wouldn't be in long-enough coat to show yet (and the other bitch I was stripping is still more undercoat fuzz than hard coat at this point, still needing 2-3 more weeks of coat work to be showable).

So Lexus' furnishings are bathed, conditioned, and blown dry, the coat is raked, and I pull some longer hairs off the sides of the neck, the front, and I do more stripping on the top of the head and the ears to keep them short; basically, I keep those areas "rolled". I check the topline, and pull some hairs here and there over the withers and the football area to get the line that I want. I repeat the clipper and scissor work that I did a few weeks earlier (butt, belly, cheeks, front, and ears), and then I scissor the legs and underline. Thinning shears are used to blend all the clippered areas with the stripped areas (ie. the cowlick down the sides of the neck).

The ears are blended into the topskull. The stop is carefully blended into the topskull.The base of the ears is carefully blended into the topskull, as is the stop area. I make an X over the stop area with the thinning shears as I blend, going from the inside corner of one eye to the inside edge of the opposite eyebrow.

The goal is to make all blended areas look like they grew that way naturally.

The edge of the topskull is squared off.The eyebrows should rise no higher than the topskull.The edge of the topskull is squared off by laying the thinning shears along the cheeks, and the tops of the eyebrows are carefully blended so that they rise no higher than the topskull. They should look like an extension of the topskull.

Also make sure that the topskull looks perfectly flat. When the ears are pushed up and forward, hair sometimes needs to be thinned just in front of the inside edges of the ears.

Excess rear leg hair is thinned so that it blends into the thigh; the rear line is cleaned to show angulation.The finished rear showing 'straight columns of support'.The upper portion of the rear leg is thinned so that it blends into the thigh; this hair should not "poof" out when looking at the dog from the rear, especially when it is moving away, and that rear line along the back of the leg is cleaned to show angulation.

When seen from the rear, the dog's back legs should look like "straight columns of support". As one judge once said to me, "This isn't a hair-growing competition!"

The dog should now be moved so that it can be studied from three directions... from the side so that the topline can be checked for lumps, bumps, or dips while the dog is moving, from the front, and then from the rear to make sure that hair isn't sticking out or flopping in the wrong spot to make the dog look like it has faults that are not there (ie. out-at-the-elbows). If something doesn't look right, it should be corrected by judicious stripping, thinning, or scissoring.

~~READ the Breed Standard;
UNDERSTAND the Breed Standard;
GROOM the dog to the Breed Standard!~~


The finished product.

While still in a short coat, the dog is now ready to hit the showring.

"Rolling Page"

"Clipping Page"

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Copyright © 1996-2017 Karen Brittan and Britmor Miniature Schnauzers. All images and written material on this site are my property and may not be used without my express written permission.