Grooming – part 1: general introduction

Part 2: flats —>

This is the first 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…

Lakelands have a double coat. A soft under-coat that provides warmth, and a wiry outer-coat that protects the dog from the elements. The Lakeland’s coat sheds naturally. Hand-stripping the dog will not only control this shedding (because you are pulling the hairs out on a regular schedule), but also encourage new hair growth and maintain the coat’s texture and colour. The difference between an un-groomed an a groomed Lakie is striking. A completely untouched Lakeland will lose it’s typical Lakie shape and have long curly hair of a faded colour that is much softer to the touch than the coat of a hand-stripped one. Most pet-Lakie owners, however, have their Lakeland trimmed with clippers, which does sacrifice colour (the coat will appear faded) and texture (the coat will be much softer), but, when done correctly, allows for the Lakeland to hold its iconic shape. Which route you decide to take (untouched/clipped/hand-stripped) depends on personal preference and lifestyle. As long as your Lakie is brushed on a regular basis (I would recommend at least twice a week), its coat won’t mat and you will have a comfortable, happy dog.

On the left: a Lakeland in the rough. On the right: a Lakeland ready for the show ring. (source)

When I tell people I hand-strip my dog, the first question they ask me is whether it hurts the dog. The answer is no, it won’t hurt your dog, as long as you are doing it right. The hairs want to come out naturally, so you’re simply helping the process along by removing dying hairs and allowing new hairs to grow in. Hand-stripping won’t hurt your dog as long as you remember to always pull the hairs in the direction of the hair growth. When learning how to hand-strip, you must be very careful, for although the direction the hair grows is easy to see on a Lakie’s back (it grows away from the head towards the tail), it can be quite difficult to see in places such as the sides of the neck (where the hairs grow in different directions). The longer your dog’s hair is, the harder it is to determine in what direction the hair grows. In the beginning it can be very helpful to look at pictures (or real-life examples, if there are any in your area) of well-groomed Lakelands to see how the hairs grow. Eventually, once you’ve stripped your dog a number of times, you’ll just know.

So. The hairs are pulled in the direction that the hairs grow. To know how much hair to strip and in what area, the Lakeland’s body can be divided into several sections. The following diagram will make your life much easier:

Grooming sections (source)

The sections labelled with “A” are called “flats.” This is where the hair is shortest and lays flat on the body (hence the name “flats”). On show dogs, these areas are stripped weekly.
The sections labelled “C” represent what is called the “jacket.” In these sections, the under-coat is removed using a rake-like tool, and the wiry hair that remains is stripped to medium length.
The sections labelled “B” are the transitional sections between flats (A) and jacket (C), where the hair is stripped in such a way that it gradually transitions from shorter to longer or vice versa.
The sections with the arrows are called “furnishings.” These areas on the legs and snout contain both under-coat and outer-coat, and this is where the hair is left the longest.

To know how long is long enough is hard to describe. I will try to give you an idea of appropriate length by using many pictures in the more in-depth posts to come. Of course the ideal lengths of these sections will depend greatly on the individual dog. You can try to picture it by using the mnemonic device 6-6-6. In general, a bald Lakeland would take approximately 6 days to grow flats, at least 6 weeks to grow a decent length jacket, and about 6 months to grow nice furnishings. (Yes, 6 months to grow furnishings! So if your Lakie ever needs to provide a blood sample or be hooked up to an IV… make sure to ask your vet whether s/he can do it without shaving a piece of your Lakie’s furnishings!)

[PS: The pictures used in this post were drawn by Patricia Peters (a well-known American Lakeland breeder), who also wrote a book about Lakeland Terriers that I highly recommend. You can find it here.]

Part 2: flats —>