How to Handstrip Your Dog’s Coat

The right tools and patient technique help keep your dog's coat in top condition.

If you’re a new terrier owner, you must decide soon whether you’ll maintain your dog’s coat with handstripping or with the easier and less time-consuming method of clipping with electric clippers.

Best started when your dog is between 4 to 6 months old, handstripping involves manually plucking or stripping the dead hair from the coat. In contrast, electric clippers move over the hair like a lawn mower mows grass. So, if one method is easy and the other difficult, why do some owners choose the more time-consuming method?

Sarah Hawks of Country Dog Works Grooming, a well-known authority on maintaining terrier coats, lists the benefits of handstripping. “Put simply, dogs that are handstripped keep the proper coat texture, and the color of the hair is much more vivid,” she says. Stripping also brings circulation to the skin. Using an electric clipper softens the coat.

Does stripping hurt your dog? “Done carefully and cautiously, it doesn’t,” Hawks says. “It is similar to plucking your eyebrows. You feel it, but you aren’t in pain. As the hair grows longer on the dog, it gets easier to pluck; the hair becomes thinner and lighter in color as it grows out.”

Hawks advises owners interested in learning handstripping to first ask for a lesson from a breeder, handler, or groomer experienced in stripping or plucking the coat. In general, though, you’ll be using the following tools and technique:


  • Fine and medium stripping knives (the duller the blade the better: You want to grab and pull the hair, not cut it)
  • Grooming table and sling (to keep your dog in one place)
  • Greyhound comb and gentle slicker brush (for following up to remove loosened hair)
  • Patience!

According to Hawks, the basic technique is to bend the hair over the blade with your thumb, hold it, and pull, going in the direction of the grain of the coat. Hold the skin taut with your other hand so you don’t pull the skin. “Learn to back brush with your right hand so you are roughing up and grabbing the longest coat,” she explains. After the dog has been stripped, it should be given a cool medicated bath to prevent bacteria from causing an infection in the hair follicle.


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Dogs · Grooming