The process of hand stripping, if not done in a way that allows your dog to feel comfortable, may be a very aversive procedure. As such, it is important to discuss in details here the great care that should go into making hand stripping as comfortable experience as possible for the dog.
In this regard, the most important thing that we want to focus on are the steps taken to ensure that the dog becomes accustomed and generalized to having his wiry outer coat being pulled out all over his body.
In order to help dogs feel more comfortable about scary or potentially scary situations, we will use a process called “desensitization.” Systematic desensitization is a technique that was originally developed by psychologists to treat people with anxiety and phobias.
The subject is exposed to a fear-provoking object or situation at an intensity that does not produce any response. If you are terrified of spiders, for example, your first hierarchy rung (first exposure) might involve showing you a cartoon of a friendly looking spider. You might even first look at this picture from a distance. If you are not at all anxious or afraid at this point, then you are going slowly enough in your approach and you are on the right track.
The intensity—in this case, “degree of realism and proximity”—is very gradually increased, contingent upon the subject continuing to feel okay. A hierarchy is developed at the beginning of treatment, ranging from the easiest to most difficult versions of exposure to the stimulus.
It’s up to you as the groomer to start at the point where there is no reaction (fear), and then gradually build upon the procedure, at a rate at which the individual dog continues to be able to remain relaxed, while reinforcing the dog’s calm behavior.
One helpful note here is to be aware that if the dog you’re working with is uncomfortable, frightened, or stressed, he may be unable and unwilling to take even high-value treats. In this situation, the dog is now anorexic (unable to eat or accept even high-value treats).
If you notice that a dog is not taking treats, it likely means that he is not comfortable and that you should stop and change your plan. In this case, stopping and taking a break is a very powerful reinforcer for the dog, and might be just what is needed for both groomer and dog to be able to comfortably spend a bit more time finishing the job.
Over time, you can build a longer and longer duration that the dog is comfortable with while standing on the table and having the hand stripping done. The way to arrive at a lengthier duration is by working in short sessions.
Another benefit of this is that as you eventually build duration, the time spent stripping a particular dog will speed up considerably, while the price that you have established for the service will remain fixed. Thus, over time, and in the long run, you increase your income.
Let’s look at some of the skills needed for this process, and let’s also talk about ways to acquire them, from both the dog’s and the groomers perspective.
Hand stripping is necessary in order to maintain a wire coat; however, it is not necessary for the dog’s overall good health. Since it’s a type of coat maintenance that is often perceived as uncomfortable (and is uncomfortable if not shaped correctly), it is generally reserved for show dogs. For example, in order to be shown, the standard requires wirehaired terriers to be hand-stripped.
Simply put, and generally for all terriers, the process requires pulling out the topcoat and allowing the undercoat to remain. The primary skills of importance for the groomer to have are patience and observation. Patience means going slowly; keen observation is key in learning how and what to watch in order to determine what the dog is communicating so that you may know the point at which the dog may need to take a break.
In order to ensure the dog’s comfort, groomers want to be certain not to pull out too much hair at one time so as to be sure that they are pulling in the proper direction, and to be cognizant of the amount of time they are asking the dog to remain standing still and being handled on the table.
This is where desensitization and a positive approach are helpful and beneficial. Ideally, in order to gain optimum success, this training would begin when the dog is still a puppy, and way before the animal’s first stripping session.
This early training can result in a great way to generate more business via your advertising. It would be helpful to have a section about hand-stripping, describing its benefits and how, in the long run, taking the time to positively shape the dog to remain calm and relaxed during this process will be cost effective for the client.
Hand-stripping is being used more and more, so it might be beneficial to the guardian of a new wire-coated dog to have a lesson or two in how to recognize when his or her dog needs to be stripped. In addition, you can teach the guardian, about how he or she can be of assistance to you the groomer, as well as to the dog, by consistently helping to shape cooperation with the stripping procedure.
Our recommendation is to endeavor to spend as much time as needed for the dog to feel comfortable with a procedure. This extra time will pay off in speediness and relaxation later. Remember to take note that if the animal you’re working with is uncomfortable, frightened, or stressed, the dog may also be anorexic.
If the dog is anxious, teach the animal that it’s perfectly okay for it to withdraw. You have recognized the dog’s communication and have identified it as a good time for both you and the dog to take a break.
Signs of stress that indicate the dog would like a break include the animal backing away, mouthing your hand, and/or some of the more subtle cues such as stiffening, panting, or lip licking.