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 —>

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 —>

(Wo)man’s best friend – an ode to dogs

Jaz & mom closeup
Puppy love: Jaz & myself just after grooming (which is why her hair looks awesome and mine not so much, LOL!)

A dog is so much more than just another pet. If you own a dog, there’s always someone to greet you the moment you walk through the door, someone that makes you get off the couch to catch some fresh air, and someone to share your stories or split your dinner with. A dog is the friend you take for a walk on the beach (even when it’s raining – because you promised!), the family member you snuggle up with on the couch (and who never complains during endless Sunday afternoon re-runs of ‘Sex and the City’) and a partner-in-crime when it comes to finishing that extra piece of pizza you could do without (but you’ll walk it off together, right?! :P). With its endless zest for life, a dog can magically cheer you up with something as simple as a wag of the tail.

Jaz & dad
Best buds: Jaz & dad enjoying refreshments on the beach at less than ideal temperatures… gotta love Vancouver 😡

Don’t get me wrong, I love my cats as well. But where my cats cry of abuse and scream of murder when I take them anywhere outside the house, Jaz is always ready to roll: anywhere, anytime, with anyone (well… except for toddlers, but we can’t blame her for that now, can we?!). And while my cats stick their noses up at new food offerings, putting them through an FAA-grade inspection before accepting them, Jaz will gobble whatever you have up in a split second – fingers included if you don’t watch out! Dogs have masters, cats have staff. Cliché, but oh so true.

Jaz & grandpa
Ready for anything: Jaz & grandpa on the prowl

But perhaps the best thing about a dog is that a dog knows it is part of your inner-circle. Jaz may not always listen and be compliant (after all… Lakies are known for their selective hearing ;)), but she knows exactly what is expected of her and she has a thorough understanding of our unique bond. She knows when and how to pull a cute face so she gets that extra treat. She knows when you’re sad, and will offer to join you on the couch. She knows when you’ve had enough and she should really listen, or else…!
It’s this interaction and the silent agreement that we have, that makes (to me, at least) owning a dog so special.

Jaz & grandma
Perfect posers: Jaz & grandma. You can tell that Jaz knows it’s picture time...
“Gramps! Did you get the shot?!”

Why a Lakeland?

After my general post about the Lakeland terrier (read it here), some of you might have wondered: why? Why a Lakeland terrier? There are a lot of terrier breeds. And there are quite a few terriers that have a look similar to that of the Lakeland. Why was she so sure about Lakies? Well, the answer to that is embarrassingly simple!

I formed this conviction years ago. As you might know, I grew up with terriers. In particular these two gorgeous Kerry Blue terriers:

From left to right: Matchless Moyna of the Three Corners, aka “Mo” and Perfect Patricia of the Three Corners, aka “Tris” (Photo courtesy of Jaz’ grandpa! Visit his Lakeland terrier database here.)

And in a terrier-lovers’ home, you will find books about terriers. Growing up, my sister and I would flip through their pages, looking at and commenting on all the different terriers. My favourite book (which I inherited once Jaz was born) is the following one:

This is a Dutch book (I was born and raised in the Netherlands) called “Hoogbenige terriers,” which means “long-legged terriers.” [Fun fact: the Lakeland is the smallest of the long-legged terriers!] “Fokken – Houden – Verzorging – Opvoeding” means “to breed – keep – groom – raise.” Now you won’t even have to open this book up to find the reason why I have known since I was a teenager that I wanted a Lakie. You can find your answer right here on the cover. Just look at the picture.

From left to right, we have a Bedlington terrier, a Lakeland terrier and an Airedale terrier.  Obviously, the goal was to line the dogs up and have them stand pretty, all looking off to one side. I imagine there must have been someone off to the left trying to catch the dogs’ attention by making funny sounds or squeaking a toy, while the photographer was snapping away. Although the Bedlington and the Airedale are cooperating by paying attention and staying put, the Lakeland has his own agenda and is facing the other direction while laughing or barking at something else entirely! The other terriers are behaving, but not our beloved Lakeland… he is being very naughty and might even be purposely (never underestimate a Lakie!) hijacking the entire photo shoot!

When you look at the picture even closer, you might find that the Bedlington looks a little sad, a little scared even (it’s that tail and those ears, I tell you!). The Airedale is assuming his usual calm and noble stance (he is, after all, the King of Terriers!). But the Lakeland… the Lakeland just looks like he’s having a ton of FUN! And that (besides the undeniable fact that a properly groomed Lakeland is simply stunning), is how I knew I wanted a Lakeland.

WHAT kind of terrier…?

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you all made it through the holidays and into 2012 in one piece. We sure did; we kept it really low-key and relaxing (except for Jaz, of course!).

I figured it was about time I told you some more about Lakeland terriers. It has become evident during our walks around the neighbourhood that a lot of people wonder about little Jaz…
“Welsh?” “Wheaten?” “Irish terrier?” “Mini-Airedale?”
“Nope! She’s a Lakeland!”
“Lakeland? I’ve never heard of it!”

Here are some spiffy facts for you, which will make it easier to understand Jaz and her kind…

Lakeland terrier (source)

Lakeland terriers originate (as their name indicates) from the Lake district in northwest England. They were bred to kill vermin, foxes in particular, since these had their eye on the farmer’s lambs. The Lakeland’s job was to enter the fox’ hole and exterminate its occupants. For this very reason, Lakelands had to be small yet sturdy and strong. Where the head can go, the body can (and will!) follow. However unlikely it may seem, an adult Lakeland can squeeze itself through a cat-door. You know those handy baby/dog-gates that have a little cut-out for your cat? Not an option if you’re trying to hold back a Lakie!

Another result of the fact that Lakelands would often be deep underground (and could possibly get stuck there), is their piercing bark. Don’t judge the book by its cover, because these little guys can be LOUD. This is not only handy underground, but also when it’s time for your little pup to sleep in it’s crate downstairs for the first time. No need to purchase a baby-monitor… your Lakeland will have no problem waking you up at 3am to let you know it’s time to go pee-pee!

Aside from being strong and compact, it was required of the Lakelands to be sociable as well. Because, unlike most other terriers, Lakies weren’t mostly hunting independently. As a matter of fact, they were often used by hunters to run with the hounds in attempts to clear the countryside of four-legged vermin. As a result, Lakeland terriers are great with other dogs. And as Lakies are blind to size (in fact, most terriers are), they will run or play with the largest of the large and the smallest of the small without thinking twice.

Apart from size and temperament, a Lakie’s coat needed to be of a specific kind as well, Since the weather in the Lake district is fickle and often cold and/or wet (not too different from the weather here in Vancouver!), Lakelands benefitted from a double coat: a soft, furry undercoat for warmth, covered by a hard, wire coat to stay dry. This is great for the dog, but perhaps not as great for the owner. If you want to keep your Lakeland’s coat looking vibrant and properly groomed (i.e. if you want your Lakeland to look like a Lakeland), a little more effort than the occasional brush-through is required. As for myself, I am quite intrigued by this and eager to learn the tricks or the trade. At the moment, I am working alongside Jaz’s breeder to learn how to hand-strip a Lakeland. It is time-consuming, but very rewarding. I promise to do a separate blog post on this in the future.

The main thing that has people all confused, I think, is that Lakelands come is such a great variety of colours. There are solid coloured Lakelands (such as Jaz) as well as two-toned ones that have saddle markings. Since Jaz is all red, people think that Jaz is an Irish terrier, because Irish terriers are all one colour (plus, while they can be wheaten, most are in fact red). And although Irish terriers are significantly larger and have much shorter hair than Lakelands, this is easy to overlook since Jaz is still a puppy and her furnishings (viz. the longer hair on the snout and legs) still need time to grow in. As Jaz grows older, I anticipate that less and less people will think she is an Irish terrier.

Irish terrier (source)

It is a also clear why people mistake Jaz for a Welsh terrier. The Lakeland is closest to the Welsh terrier in looks and size. However, Jaz could never be a Welsh terrier, because all Welsh terriers have saddle markings. Apart from her colour, as Jaz grows older, I’m sure she will look more and more like a Welsh to people, especially because the Welsh terrier is more popular (and people therefore are more familiar with them).

Welsh terrier (source)

In the end, of course, all this confusion stems from the fact they are all terriers, and, at one point or another, have shared ancestors. It is interesting to trace back a dog’s pedigree. Take Jaz, for instance. Remember that we visited Alan and Angela Johnston from Oregill Kennels back in May (post)? Well, some of their dogs turn out to be Jaz’s ancestors! Because the Lakeland is such a rare breed, their world is very small. Trace the roots of any Lakie and the same kennel names and ancestors will pop up. If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, please visit Jaz’s (human) grandpa’s website, which contains the most extensive online Lakeland pedigree ( Enjoy!