If you ever see these (coarse/fine) knives (I was 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, but they have now been 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.
Since I first wrote this page, I have found another stripping knife that I truly adore! My favorite stripping knife is now the Mars Hauptner Universal Trimmesser (blue handled) and it can do just about everything. One could probably survive with only this knife! It *is* sharp, however, so it needs to be dulled. I used wood and sand to dull mine.
Life moves on, and sometimes favorites are replaced. I have found a new toy, and I have never been so pleased with a piece of equipment. It is the Pearson Detail Stripper. The weekend of my discovery, I was raving about this knife to another person, and she said, "Oh, I am perfectly happy with my cheap 'da-da-da-da-das' "... basically the Classics I mentioned above. Yep, no doubt about it; I was perfectly happy with my knives, too... until I had this little knife in my hand and tried it out a couple times. When someone finds a superior product, everyone else deserves to hear about it! And this knife was MADE for rolling coats, in my opinion; it truly allows one to sculpt a coat. A well-known vendor has a similar sort of knife on the market, and I was close to buying it until I was able to compare it with the Pearson in my hand. That other knife has much greater weight in the handle, and I felt that over time this might be detrimental to my hand/arm; it was also more expensive.
My Universal will be retired to raking or pulling out only seriously blown coats that I want to take down quickly. As much as I have worked with that blade, it still has a tendency to cut coats, although not nearly as badly as it first did.
Okay, I once again have a new favorite toy! Grooming sticks are WONDERFUL! They are rectangular sticks which come to a flat point and allow great control in stripping... a good replacement for those long-gone Dr. Scholl's Contour Files we all loved so much for stripping.... but with much more control. They can be found at Sally's Beauty Supply, labeled as Stone Erasers, and are used for cuticles... cheapest grooming tool you will ever find. They work great for both rolling and stripping, but will break if dropped, so buy a couple. They come in their own plastic tubes.
Never be afraid to try something new.... great discoveries are just waiting to be found! My newest favorite tools are the Love2Pet "Brush" (but it really isn't a brush), and the FurGOPet deshedder. These tools make raking out undercoat and dying topcoat a SNAP! They are terrific for starting to work a long coat into a rolling coat by raking once a week. The FurGOPet is easier to find, and a bit cheaper, but I do find myself using both of them. While the blades are identical, they are set up differently in relation to their handles, and I find the Love2Pet gets more hair out when the coat is longer, while the FurGOPet is usually more efficient with anything shorter. I did have the opportunity to compare the Love2Pet to the FURminator (which looks like the FurGOPet), and it was still pulling out hair that the other could not (on an already well-worked coat). The teeth of the blade of the Love2Pet (and the FurGOPet) are just a bit longer than those of the FURminator. The Love2Pet has an added feature in that it also has a wide-toothed comb that can be used instead of its shed blade if one wants to comb out snarled hair. These tools indeed make life easier! And just wait until you try them on a damp coat! (But I wouldn't do that on a coat I was showing, as they will take out a LOT of hair!) I am maintaining most of Cruise's rolled coat with nothing but these tools; it wouldn't take any time at all to get his coat into showing condition (but he does have a good, hard coat...).
***And now I have discovered another way to rake out coat, and it may be even better yet!!! I have been using the Love2Pet Grooming Brush (which is not really a brush at all) to rake out coat for over a few years now. It is similar to the FURminator, but better, because the teeth of the rake are just a bit longer. The flip side of the rake is a comb with widely-spaced teeth, and that is good for raking out really thick, blown coats or combing legs and beard. This tool is a wonder on undercoats.... with a slight change.
I do use it normally, raking the coat with the blade perpendicular to the dog's body, but once I've gotten as much hair out as will come, I change how I am holding the brush and put my hand down closer to the blade, sort of choking up on the end of the brush, and I rake the coat again with the blade at almost the same angle as the dog's body. The results are unbelievable! I had a youngster with an undercoat that wouldn't quit, and, in just a few weeks, he now has a coat with texture and very little undercoat on his body. Once again, this should be done on a weekly basis.***
Of course, if one waits a bit longer, something better always seems to come along... and my Love2Pet and FurGOPet DeShedders are now sitting in a drawer as they have been replaced by the Andis Power De-Shedder (large), which has a four-inch blade. That little baby has made a few jaws hit the floor when they saw what it could do! This wonderful tool pulls out loose, dying hair like nobody's business! One guy had been raking out his Scottie for twenty minutes with a stripping knife, and one swipe of this Andis De-Shedder got out more hair than those previous twenty minutes of work had achieved! The dog version is blue and I bought mine on Amazon, while the horse version is maroon and was found on eBay. Shop carefully as these products are often extremely over-priced, and the cheaper versions are not always readily available. Check Amazon and eBay on a regular basis; the blue (dog) one cost me $20 and the maroon (horse) version was $12. Keep in mind that those two products are IDENTICAL, except for their color.
And now to get down to the business at hand....
A rolled coat is still a stripped coat, but unlike a regular stage-stripped coat in which each stage is basically all the same age and the same length, the rolled coat is made up of hairs of varying ages and lengths (in about 16 layers... 4 below the skin and 12 above). For the most part, the coat is maintained on a weekly basis by pulling the longest hairs, and it can be maintained in a constantly neat, good-looking condition for years, unlike a stage-stripped coat which looks great for only a few short weeks, then grows out, only to have to be stripped down to skin once again. I do think, however, if you are contemplating learning how to roll a coat that you will find it a bit easier if you are familiar with the principals of working a basic stripped coat first.
Rolling can be started either with a long coat or a freshly stripped coat, but in a schnauzer, I personally find it easier to start rolling a coat with a longer-coated dog. In a freshly stripped coat, YOU have to decide which hairs to pull. Someone once described rolling as plucking every 12th hair in the coat, and I guess that description isn't too far off the mark. It seems to me, though, that one would really have to understand the fundamentals of rolling a coat to begin this way, and if you already know how to roll a coat, you don't need to be sitting here with me.
First of all, you need to know the basic pattern of a stripped schnauzer. The lines are the same whether the coat is clippered, stage-stripped, or rolled, but with a rolled coat you will be working with a longer coat that blends into the pattern lines, and those lines will be easy to lose if you aren't careful. One other very important thing to remember as you begin rolling a coat is that the coat will look a whole lot worse before it starts looking better. I say that because just before the coat gets to its actual "permanent" rolling length, the coat is going to look quite moth-eaten and you may feel pretty discourage about the whole project. A nicely rolled coat does not happen overnight; it takes several months to get all those hairs rolling in the right cycle. A well-known handler in Westies, later a judge, once told me it took a year to get a properly rolled coat; I don't think it takes quite that long on a miniature schnauzer, but it is NOT an overnight process. Remember, the hair you pull today is the show coat in 8-12 weeks. Don't expect to see much in the way of results for at least three months or more; it takes four weeks for pulled hair to break through the skin. This is not a project to be tackled lightly; give it a lot of thought before attempting to roll a coat. Once hairs are "out of sync" because of rolling, it will take even more effort to get them back into a more normal stage-stripped coat and may entail stripping out more live coat than you (and the dog) would desire.
The best rolled coats are those with good harsh texture, a minimum of undercoat, with a tendency for the coats to come in fairly rapidly. If your dog has a lot of undercoat or the coat is too soft, you are better off stage-stripping it, although a coat that is somewhat soft, but grows quickly, might work if it can be kept fairly short. Coat color is of no consequence as coats have been successfully rolled in all three colors; coat texture and amount of undercoat are the most critical factors to success.
The easiest way to begin rolling a coat is to begin with an 8-12 week old puppy. Simply take a grooming stone, my preferred tool, (or even a coarse stripping knife) and begin stoning or raking through the coat (in the correct pattern), while keeping the skin taut. At this age I prefer to work on the coat twice a week, rather than once. Puppies begin blowing that first puppy fuzz at about three months anyway and usually have a bit of harsh coat coming under that. By the time the puppy's coat is worked down to this first true layer, the majority of the dog's body will be in the early stages of a rolled coat. Now isn't THAT easy? Or did you want it even easier?
***My absolute favorite way to start rolling a long coat now is to take a grooming stone to the dog while it is in the tub soaking wet and lathered up. Shampoo, stone, rinse; then stone the coat again while the coat is wet. Rinse the dog, then stone it once more. Have a lighter hand in the areas where the coat is shorter and less thick, and make sure that you have a great strainer in your drain! I use this little strainer (see left) dropped into the drain of my laundry tub, and to that I have now added this finer one (see right) which is basically made of the same stuff as window screening, and it sits right on top of the first strainer; I found these at Lowe's.
Once the dog is out of the tub and toweled dry, I go at the coat again with the FurGOPet deshedder or the McClellan fine or coarse stripper or the Pearson Detailer, depending on the length of coat I am working on. (Unless the coat is super-short and just coming in, and I am only removing undercoat... then there is no point in using a knife.) The fine blades work the best on all coats except for the longest ones. After I blow-dry the coat, I take a deshedder blade to it *once again* for a last rake-through. (One could also dampen the coat by spraying with witch hazel, and that will not soften the coat as the water does. Water should NEVER be put on the jacket within a week of showing, and the coat should be brushed every day after shampooing to bring the oil back up in the coat!) Those longer, thicker coats (now I can truthfully say ALL COATS) rake out easier when they are wet. Do this once a week since you really don't want to shampoo the dog more often than that. *NOTE: You did not read wrong. I did say McClellan knives above. Sometimes I tend to experiment, and I discovered that my long-discarded/retired McClellans actually worked better than the Classics with my "wet-raking technique". And, yes, there absolutely *is* a difference in the amount of junk removed between the dry removal and wet removal technique; give it a try yourself!***
Getting the body rolling is the easy part. It is the proper rolling of the rest of the dog, where the coat should be short and tight, that most people have trouble. These areas are worked once a week using either the coarse, fine, or extra-fine knives (depending on the length of coat desired). These areas are lightly pulled while continuously moving around section by section, as on a grid. (I tend to work in rows.) Stay in one spot for more than a couple pulls and there will be a hole! YIKES!!! A disaster, but it will fill back in within a week or so by the next layer of hair if you don't get too carried away, so a hole or two really won't matter too much unless the dog is heading to some shows in a couple days. (You will get better with practice.)
The shortest stripped areas on a dog are the ears, the cheeks, and the throat and butt area (on a black); these are pulled lightly weekly using the Pearson Detailer. Only the black or salt and pepper part of the coat is pulled on SPs and BSs; the cream/silver areas are never pulled, but all black areas on a black schnauzer should be pulled to maintain the proper intense color. The fine blade is used on the top of the head, blending into the top of the neck, around behind the ears, and down the front of the dog (Pearson Detailer could also be used on the front) and around to the sides of the neck and into the cowlick area down the sides of the neck. The finer blade is also used down around the front part of the shoulder blades and around the back of the rear legs, particularly where the coat on the thigh area blends into the butt. I use either the fine blade or the coarse on the tail, but the important thing is to remember to blend the base of the tail into the topline. Let's not give this dog a low-set tail! The coarse stripping knife is used on the sides of the neck and down into the shoulder blades, and actually anywhere the work of the fine blade is to be blended with the longer areas of the jacket. If one looks at the actual stripping pattern I used on my stripping page, one can see exactly how I work my rolled coats down more in some areas than others. I suppose that one could technically say that I roll my coats in a pattern, too; the difference is that I do it weekly and never pull down to skin.
There are few cut-and-dried rules for working a rolled coat. Experiment to see what looks the best with your dog. RULES THAT MUST NOT BE IGNORED IN WORKING A ROLLED COAT, HOWEVER, ARE:
Rule 1. NEVER, EVER CUT THE COAT WITH SHEARS, THINNING OR OTHERWISE. Put those shears away to avoid temptation when getting ready for a show. NO thinning; NO THINNING!!!! Cutting any coat defeats the purpose of the rolled coat....do it and regret it for MONTHS afterwards! NO, NO, NO....NEVER, NEVER, EVER!!!!
Rule 2. THE COAT MUST BE WORKED RELIGIOUSLY AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. Set a specific day aside to work the coat. Nothing else matters that day but getting your dog's coat worked. Occasionally you can let the coat work slide for a week and a half, but this is only on rare occasions. Do this too often, or let the coat go longer than that, and you will lose your coat. It will take weeks to get the coat rolling properly again. Don't do it; DON'T DO IT! WORK THAT COAT ONCE A WEEK!!!!
Now that we have THAT all straightened out, here is my procedure for working a rolled coat (keep in mind that others will have their own techniques....once again, there is no right or wrong way....the end result is the only thing that matters):
The first thing I do is rake over the entire coat using both the coarse and then the fine stripping knife. This pulls out some of the undercoat and also some of the longer guard hairs that are more blown (dead). I do a thorough job here, and pretty much keep raking until nothing more is coming out. I want to remove as much undercoat and dead hair as possible, but I always leave just enough undercoat for the judge to find as he/she is going through the coat. (It would be a fault to have NO undercoat at all.) *NOTE: I now always do this stage with the dog wet. If the jacket was bathed, after raking I blow-dry the jacket as I brush it with my flat-bristle brush. If I used witch hazel to dampen, after raking I brush with my flat-bristle brush; the witch hazel will dry quickly by itself and will not soften the coat as the water does. Once again, never shampoo the coat sooner than a week prior to showing, and brush the heck out of it every single day afterwards to bring that oil back up.
My next step is to go through the longer parts of the coat using only my fingers. Have you ever watched how a beautician cuts hair? This is basically the same procedure. Catch up a small amount of hair between the index and middle finger of your off hand (you will be able to see the layers in a properly rolled coat) and pull out only the longest hairs. (I generally pull my body coat down to about a 1" length.) Again, I have my starting point, either up near the occiput or around the withers, and I radiate out from that point in rows, being careful to work systematically so no area is overlooked. I always work from the forward part of the dog back towards the rear, and usually work my way down the dog's spine first. Whenever I am working on the dog's sides, I find it easier to have the dog lying down on his side so that I can do a more thorough job.
When I feel that my finger work is complete, I work on all the shorter areas that I pull with the stripping knives, again never pulling more than two times in the same area. However, if the coat is now rolling correctly, the blades will only pull out the necessary hair and leave the proper length of hair untouched under the blade. If you look at my favorite pattern that I used on my stripping page, you will see how I pretty much work my rolled coats. Those areas pulled later during stage-stripping are the same areas I pull harder, keep shorter, while rolling.
The next step is to take the grooming stone and stone over the entire dog. This removes some of the longer hairs that may have been missed and a bit more undercoat. Be very careful not to injure the dog's skin while stoning in the areas where the coat is short or might be thinned out. I then comb or brush through the coat looking for "bumps" in the coat. These bumps are areas where the hair is longer than the hair surrounding it. Once I have attended to these missed areas, I spray the coat with witch hazel and brush through it thoroughly using either a hound glove or a flat bristle brush. This helps to remove some of the debris left in the coat caused by the stoning and raking.
There! Done for another week....and it only took me about an hour. I will observe the dog as he moves around the yard over the next day to be certain that the topline is correct, as rolling is not an exact science and it is very easy to make lumps or pull dips into the topline. These must be corrected as soon as they are noted.
A rolled coat will require more time and dedication on your part than a stage-stripped coat, but in the end the payback is much greater as you will have a dog that can go anywhere at the drop of a hat and ALWAYS look great. Never again will you be plagued by the "my dog will be out-of-coat by then" syndrome. As the song says, "Keep them doggies rollin'!"
***A word or two on Coat King Stripping Rakes...... While I am hardly an expert on these stripping rakes, I probably have experimented more than most (and am still experimenting) and have reached certain conclusions. (Primarily, LESS is MORE!)
I now own four of these stripping rakes.... a 26-blade, a 20-blade, a 10-blade, and recently a 6-blade, and have tried them all on various types of coats. The 26-blade is garbage on any (schnauzer) coat; it just plain doesn't work worth diddly. The 20-blade is a bit better, but not a whole lot, but I, like many others, got really, really excited about the 20-blade when I first tried it. It worked very nicely on my harder coats, but didn't put much of a dent in my softer coats, and although it did work them down a bit, it was not nearly as effective as on the harder coats.
The 10-blade and 6-blades, however, are a different story altogether. These work as well as the 26-blade does NOT. These are spectacular grooming tools! I can easily see the difference in the coats since I've started using the 6- and 10-blades; even the softer coats have more hair coming off. Coats that were sort of looking "okay" are really starting to shape up now. :)
When I start working on a coat, I first go through the coat with the 6-blade Coat King, and then I repeat using the 10-blade. The stripping rake is best used with short quick strokes rather than long, sweeping ones. Skin is kept taut, as usual.
Now, as to my conclusions (in reference to miniature schnauzers.... no other breeds):
The Coat Kings should not be used on coats that are being shown as there is a tendency for them to cut the coats a bit.... not a lot, but some (the more blades, the closer the blades, the more they cut). This was more evident on my softer coats than on my hard. However, at least one woman IS working her coats every week with the Coat King (8-blade, I believe), and then eleven weeks before the first shows she stops working the coats altogether. Seven weeks before the first shows she pulls out all of the hair she can get with a Dr. Scholl's Contour File, leaving a very short layer of hair close to the skin. This is working for her (and her dogs are winning in the conformation ring.) She told me she stops working the coats for that month in order to have the coat come in thicker when it is actually pulled down.
The Coat Kings are PERFECT for someone who wants to start rolling a coat, but doesn't have a clue where to start. Just rake through the dog's coat once a week with the 6- or 10-blade (or even 8-blade), and before long there will be layers of hair. When the coat gets short enough or thin enough that the stripping rake isn't removing much coat anymore, it is time to abandon the stripping rake and use fingers instead. Coarse and fine stripping knives will still be needed for the short areas such as the head, ears, front, sides of neck, etc.
For the person who loves a stripped coat, and just wants to maintain something resembling a stripped coat on his retired showdog, pet, or performance dog, the Coat King will do the job. The head and front can either be clipped or stripped out, but remember that any cutting of the coat will cause it to soften and the color to lighten over time.
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