How to Groom a Dog with Wiry Hair

Hard
2 - 3 Hours
6 Weeks

Introduction

A little Terrier named Terra was known by the kids in her family as "Terra the Terrible Terrier". Though she was actually a nice little dog, she may have been a terror to groom! 

Wire-haired dogs from the terrier family have a different coat from most dogs. They have a soft, thick, undercoat, and wiry long hairs that grow through the undercoat and stick out. Sort of like a person wearing a polar fleece with a windbreaker overtop!  The wiry coat traps water and dirt on the outside, keeping the undercoat dry and clean.  This is probably great if you are a little dog that was bred to go down holes after rodents and such, like a Terrier, for instance!  But it presents a grooming conundrum. How do you groom a coat that is made up of two different types of hair? 

Well, there are two solutions: you can address it, or you can ignore it. Which you choose depends on whether you have a show dog that requires that wirehair is preserved and maintained by hand stripping so that new wire hairs grow and your dog maintains that scruffy terrier look. However, many pet owners opt for an easier method and clip the entire coat uniformly.

Dog's Perspective

If you opt for the hand stripping method, which involves pulling long wiry hairs out by hand, you will need to ensure your dog's comfort. A long hand stripping session can take more than 2 hours, which can be too long for your dog to stand still and he may become bored. Breaking the session up over a few days may be necessary so your dog does not become uncomfortable and frustrated. Also, there are specific techniques required for hand stripping so that the dog does not feel discomfort during the process. Holding the skin and pulling in the direction of growth and taking only very small amounts of hair at a time is required so your dog does not feel pain during or after the process.

The Hand Stripping Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Scissors
Pin Brush
Nail Clipper
Comb
Step
1
Brush
Brush your wiry haired dog with a slicker or pin brush. Remove mats and tangles with a comb by working from end of hair towards the skin.
Step
2
Handstrip
Take small amounts of long, wiry hair in your hand, you can use rubber gloves or ear powder to provide a good grip. Hold the skin taut and pull a few hairs at a time in the direction of growth. Gently but firmly pull hair out while keeping your wrist locked. If using a stripping blade, hold hairs between your thumb and blade. If using your hand, hold hairs between your thumb and index finger. Move all over the body working to keep the coat even. Leave medium length coat intact.
Step
3
Trim
Brush hair on the legs against the direction of growth to make hair stand out. Use scissors to trim hair on legs to desired length, usually about ½ inch. Trim hair on foot pads and between toes. Trim hair around the anus; wiry haired dogs can easily get soiled in this area. Trim the beard and face hair to desired look. Clip toe nails and dewclaws, if present.
Step
4
Address eyes and ears
Pull out hair on edge of ears. Pull hair around the eyes and ears as required or trim with scissors.
Step
5
Bathe
Wet the coat, shampoo body and head with no-tears shampoo. Rinse and pat the hair dry. Do not rub, as this can tangle hair. Dry with a blow dryer on medium setting, moving the dryer frequently so as not to overheat, damage hair, or burn skin.
Recommend grooming method?

The Uniform Clip Method

Effective
0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Shampoo
Scissors
Pin Brush
Nail Clipper
Comb
Clipper
Step
1
Brush
Brush your wiry haired dog with a slicker or pin brush. Remove mats and tangles with a comb by working from end of hair towards the skin.
Step
2
Bathe
Bath your dog. Use gentle shampoo on the head and face. You can use a regular dog shampoo on the body, and legs. Rinse well and pat your dog dry. Do not rub, as this can tangle the coat. Dry well prior to clipping, but be careful not to damage the coat or overheat skin with a dryer.
Step
3
Clip
Non-show dogs may be clipped instead of hand striped. You can combine a little hand stripping with clipping for a more uneven look. Use a clipper with a comb attachment to leave undercoat and medium hairs to desired length. Check the temperature of clippers often to prevent overheating.
Step
4
Finish eyes and ears
Pull out hair on edge of ears. Pull hair around eyes and ears as required or trim with scissors.
Step
5
Finish with scissors
Brush hair on the legs against the direction of growth to make hair stand out. Use scissors to trim hair on legs to desired length, usually about ½ inch, Trim hair on foot pads and between toes. Trim hair around the anus, as wiry haired dogs can easily get soiled in this area. Trim beard and face hair to desired look. Clip toe nails and dewclaws if present.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Hand stripping is time-consuming and may need to be accomplished in several sessions if it has not been done for quite a while.

  • Hand stripping techniques need to be done with care and taking small amounts of hair at a time so as not to cause discomfort to the dog.

  • Hand stripping techniques for specific breeds are very particular and can be difficult, so it is usually done professionally. A professional with experience specific to your dog's breed can be difficult to locate.

  • Wirehair undercoats can form mats, even when short, during the shedding season especially.

  • Clipping a wiry-haired dog may not address differences in the hair coat, and is not appropriate for dogs that are going to participate in shows.

  • Mud and debris between the toes of wire-haired breeds can mat hair and cause sores and cysts if not addressed during grooming.

Conclusion

Grooming your wiry-haired dog will require a decision on whether to maintain that wiry scruffy look by hand stripping or whether you just want to take it all off! This decision may be affected by whether you plan on showing your wiry haired pup and need to maintain a breed standard.  Either way, your wiry-haired dog will appreciate looking his best--even ratters have a little bit of vanity after all!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions