Grooming – part 2: flats

<— Part 1: general introduction Part 3: jacket —>

This is the second installment in my five-part series on grooming. Because we are showing Jaz, I’ve been very interested in the what, why, and how behind the grooming of wire-coated terriers. Jaz received her first “haircut” from her breeder (Judy Gruzelier) at the age of 8 weeks, right before we took her home. When she turned 12 weeks, the breeder gave me my first grooming lesson, and ever since I have been slowly but steadily acquiring the eye and skill required to hand-strip a Lakie from her. In a way, grooming is an art. A groomer can be seen as a sculptor, and the well-groomed dogs she produces as living sculptures. I am no professional, and still learning the tricks of the trade myself, but in this series of posts on grooming, I will try to communicate what I have learned so far…

Grooming sections - flats
Grooming sections. The sections labelled “A” are what is called “flats.” (source)

Flats are the first areas I learned how to strip. These areas are the ears and head (minus fall and beard), the front of the neck and chest as well as the bum and the tail. As I have said before (in my general introduction to grooming), in these areas the hair is the shortest and is supposed to lay flat. Due to the fact that the hair is shortest here, it needs weekly stripping if you want to keep it at an acceptable length.

On the table, ready for flats!
On the table, ready for some flat-work!

Every Monday, like clockwork, I put Jaz on the table to do her flats. First I give her a thorough brush-through, and then I reach for the following tools (in the order pictured below):
– Clippers: Wahl arco 6170
– Rake: Greyhound 20
– Stripping stone: Greyhound transition 8mm
– Stripping knives: Pearson products detail stripper extra fine, Hauptner Heberholz “Real” stripping knife 68510, Pearson products finishing stripper medium.

In this post, I will try to describe what to do and how to do it, clarified by before/after pictures and two videos showing how I use the tools.

Tools I use on flats-day
Tools: clippers, rake, stripping stone and three different stripping knives.

The idea is to start stripping the longest hairs and to keep going until all the hair is only a couple of millimeters long. When you first try this on your Lakie, he/she will have a lot of bald spots, as no layers have been built up. Not to worry. Just keep going week after week, and you’ll notice that, eventually, enough hair will be left after stripping. The continuous stripping of the coat will result in a “rolling” coat; a coat consisting of many layers of hair of different lengths. The hair you pull out week1 will be one week long by week2, two weeks long by week3 and so on until it is time to strip it out again (which, when dealing with flats, is sooner rather than later). Notice that by week4, you’ll have three layers built up (the hair you pulled week1 that is three weeks long, the hair you pulled week2 that is two weeks long and the hair you pulled week3 that is one week long). If you keep at it consistently, there will be plenty of layers, and these layers will grow denser, allowing your Lakie to look better and better.

Now I hear you thinking “That’s great, but HOW do I use these tools? Do I just start pulling hairs out?” No. You need to know the basic rules and techniques to do a good job.
First of all, you need to make sure to pull your dog’s skin taut (just like aestheticians do when tweezing or waxing people). This not only makes the stripping easier, but also prevents the stripping from causing your dog any pain.
The goal is to pull the hairs out entirely; roots attached. This is why it is crucial that you make sure all your stripping knives are nice and dull. The Pearson knives come pre-dulled, but tools like the Greyhound rake and the Hauptner-Heberholz stripping knives are sharp when you purchase them. You don’t want to risk these tools cutting the coat, so before you use them, get a bucket of sand and run the rake or knife through it. I did this for about two weeks whenever we were watching tv in the evenings. You can see whether the tool is blunt enough by trying it on your dog and closely examining the hairs you’ve taken out. If the hairs have roots and are of different lengths, your tool is dull enough. If the hairs are all the same length and have no roots, you need to keep you bucket with sand beside the couch a little longer.
But beware, for even with a dull knife you can cut your dog’s coat! You need to make sure that you pull the hairs straight out in the direction they are growing. Do not flick your wrist when you pull the hairs out, but make sure to pull them out straight, along an imaginary line the hair would have if it were longer than it is. Flicking your wrist will not only make it harder to pull the hairs out, but it may also cause the hairs to break.

I usually start with the face and ears, as these areas are less sensitive than the bum. For most of the face, I use the greyhound stripping stone and the Hauptner-Heberholz, and I love using the Pearson detail stripper for the ears, especially the edges.
If you have a hard time seeing which hairs are longest, brush the hairs up with your finger to make them stand up. Whatever sticks out needs to go!

Face, pre-groom
BEFORE – front flats

When stripping front flats, draw and imaginary line above the eyes and from the corners of the mouth to the corners of the eyes. Anything that is behind the line is part of flats. Flats stop behind the ears, where they make a smooth transition into the back of the neck. Flats continue under the chin, along the front of the neck and chest, smoothly bending into the longer hair on the legs. For this blending work, I like using the Pearson finishing stripper in medium. Blending will be explained in the grooming posts about jacket and furnishings.

Front flats half-done...Halfway done. (This is the length you would keep your flats if you are not showing and want your dog looking perfect, bald-spot free at all times. Because we are showing, I strip them a bit shorter, allowing the hair to grow to the perfect length in +/- 5 days; I strip on Mondays and shows usually start on Fridays.)

Front flats done!AFTER – front flats (Notice the bald spots? Not to worry! This hair will grow back in in a few days. The hair on the cheeks is especially short to obtain the brick-shaped head the breed standard calls for. Note that you may have to do more/less of this, because these small details differ per dog; some have bigger cheeks than others!)

After I’ve finished stripping the face, I grab my clippers and clipper the inside of the ears, after which I move to the back to clipper around the private parts. (Note that the inside of the ears, around the private parts, between the footpads and the lower belly are the only parts you are allowed to cut/clipper on a Lakeland that is being shown.)
[Note to black Lakeland owners: I was recently informed by Drs. M.A.M. Dekker (Lakeland breeder and fanatic) that, on black Lakies that are shown, the privates and lower belly are to be stripped and not clippered. This is because the difference between stripped and clippered parts of the coat are significantly more noticeable in black Lakelands. Many thanks to Drs. Dekker from The Sounding Burrows Kennel for this sidenote. Please visit The Sounding Burrows (in English or in Dutch) for a wealth of Lakie information!]

Bum, pre-groom
BEFORE – rear flats

Once you’re done with the clippers and the longer hairs around the privates have been removed, it’s time to strip the bum. You need to be extra careful when stripping this area. Not only is the area far more sensitive, but the hairs also grow in many different directions. In the beginning you will have to keep reminding yourself to pull the hair out in the direction it grows only.

The rear flats run from the top of the tail down to the privates in an oval shape (see diagram at the beginning of this post) and blend into the hips and legs. Note that the hair on the tail can be left a little longer, depending on the individual dog, because it needs to be in proportion!

Rear flats half-done...
Halfway done. (Again: this is the length you would keep your flats if you are not showing and want your dog looking perfect, bald-spot free at all times. Because we are showing, I strip them a bit shorter, allowing the hair to grow to the perfect length in +/- 5 days; I strip on Mondays and shows usually start on Fridays.)

Rear flats done!
AFTER – rear flats (Looking a little bare? Not to worry! The hair will grow back in in a few days.)

Here is step-by-step video, showing you how I use the tools:

Every week, along with flats, I remove the undercoat from Jaz’s jacket (or the section labelled “C” in the diagram). This removes the soft, fluffy, light-coloured undercoat and leaves only the wiry hairs behind. It is really easy. Just brush through the jacket with a rake, keeping the skin taut:

So. Now you know how to strip those flats! It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but things will get easier and faster every time. Consistency is key; really make an effort to strip on a regular basis. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s okay to pull a hole in the flats here and there. Because these areas are kept so short, the hair will grow back in no-time. And remember: it all needs to come out at some point!

<— Part 1: general introduction Part 3: jacket —>

4 thoughts on “Grooming – part 2: flats

    • Bedankt voor het prachtige compliment! Ik ben er dan ook heel druk mee geweest en had een fantastische lerares aan Jaz haar fokster. Hoe meer je het doet, hoe meer oog je er voor krijgt!
      Stay tuned… volgende week komt deel 3!

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