Wire-coated dogs are supposed to look rough, scrappy, and ready to barrel through the brambles, chasing after critters and laughing at dirt, bugs, and burrs as they fly off that resilient coat. A "correct" coat means one that best facilitates the breed's original job.
The way to get the proper wired-coat look is to pull out those dead hairs to make room for new, strong, wiry hairs to grow. Pulling the hair out of a wire coat is called stripping or plucking. It's a time-consuming, tedious (but also somewhat addictive) process that show-dog people know all about and pet-dog people tend to fear or ignore.
Some people worry that stripping will hurt their pet but, if it's done correctly, it shouldn't bother a healthy dog. The bulk of the coat, where it's thickest-on the back, hips, neck, and around the ears-is easy to strip. (In more sensitive areas, like around the face and on the underbelly, clipping is just fine.)
Here’s a moderate, three-pronged approach that will keep your pet looking show-dog fabulous:
- Rolling. Instead of pulling out an entire coat of dead hair at once (leaving your dog patchy and peach-fuzzy), pluck out little bits of dead coat over time, teasing out the dead hairs with your fingers whenever you happen to have a few minutes. Use your index finger and thumb to grasp the hair close to the root, then pull gently and smoothly in the direction of hair growth. You can use those little rubber finger-tip covers or chalk to get a better grip.
- Double Brush, Double Comb. Once a week, brush the wire coat with the pin brush. This stimulates the skin and pulls out some of the dead hair and any excess undercoat. Next, comb through the coat with a medium-toothed comb to remove tangles. Then take a fine-toothed comb to the coat-really get down to the skin, and make sure all tangles are out and the coat is smooth. This will remove a lot of dead hair. Finally, go over the whole coat with a slicker brush. Even if you don't want to strip your dog at all, this brushing and combing technique will still make a big difference. Done in conjunction with stripping, the results will be spectacular.
- Go With the Pro: Finally, let a professional groomer do the clipping part. Many wire-coated breeds have specific clips that distinguish them, from the moustache and beard to the rear-end furnishings.
A version of this article originally appeared in AKC Family Dog.