The essential tools you will need:
- A grooming table (you might be able to find something else to substitute but I like the table. It folds up and can be stored in a small space.
- A grooming arm attaches to the table and adjust to various heights to allow the dog to stand on the table and with the grooming noose on feeling comfortable – not choked.
- A grooming noose – attached to the arm this maintains the dog in the proper position.
- A pair of rounded tip scissors used to trim ear tips, around the anus, around the feet, and the penis. All very delicate work and don’t use a shape pointed pair of scissors here.
- A stripping stone. I bought mine at Wal-Mart. The stones are pumice used for foot care. This is used to help grip the hair that is being pulled out. Many terrier people use striping knives I like the stone and why go to the expense if the stone works for you.
- A good quality pin brush - I like and use the “Doggy-Man” brand .
- Rinseless-Shampoo Very handy to clean up the areas that need a little cleaning. I keep this in a little spray bottle handy and ready. Just towel dry.
- Regular Shampoo (don’t use Conditioner on Westie jackets it makes it too soft) Always put cotton balls in the ears when washing the head.
- A large size towel (bath size) to cover the table while you work.
These are my personal recommendations when stripping your westies coat. The entire time he is on the table try to make him stand up. If he sits lift the rear and say, “no, stand”. When he is trained to stand on the table you will have an easier time. Remember hair-pulling is only removing the dead hair and should not hurt the dog. Some areas are sensitive when he lets you know that you are working in a sensitive area, work a little and then move to another less sensitive area but later come back to the sensitive area and do some more. NEVER stop all work when he creates a fuss and seems impossible …if he learns that when I fuss she (he) quits he will repeat this learned behavior. They are extremely smart and can out smart many humans. I have spent time with a number of westies on the table from when they were puppies. If your westie at an early age is accustomed to being on the table and also hand stripping the task is so much easier. Another consideration is the texture of the westie coat, if your westie has a soft coat the work will be difficult. Westies with a soft coat are just about impossible to hand strip and without a doubt a lot more work. I have seen soft coat made a little harder thru the process of hand stripping. But it is a hard coat with coarse outer hairs and soft under coat that is considered “correct”. This type of coat is much easier to hand strip.
When removing or stripping hair you want to remember you are pulling out the longer hairs and always pulling in the direction the hair grows. If you start pulling sideways the hair will develop a curl. I made this mistake and learned the hard way. The main areas that need work every week are the jacket, the chest and tail. The hair length on the tail and chest are the shortest. So common sense tells you to maintain hair at that length it is worked on often. Now both of these areas could be called sensitive. So what I do is work on the Jacket (the hair on the back which is generally not as sensitive. Pull for a while and then brush. Brushing is so important. Try to find time everyday to brush his coat…dog really love this. I have spent many evenings working on my dogs on the grooming table. I enjoy the time with the dogs and they seem to also enjoy the one on one time with me. Many times I have had a dog fall asleep on the table while I was working. Please don’t think stripping the coat is a cruel thing to do to a terrier. They will allow you to do this and maybe enjoy it if trained. Like any thing you set out to teach your dog start slow make each session on the table end positively.
- Terrier people refer to a “rolling coat” by this they mean within the jacket there are 3 lengths of hair – the longest that need to come out, the medium length, and a new shorter length. At the beginning you will have trouble seeing all these lengths. Best thing to do is concentrate on removing the longest lengths. I “fan” the hair lifting the hair with my left hand (I am right handed) and pulling the long hairs out with my right hand, which also holds the striping stone. The left hand is not gripping the hair it is just lifting the hair. Do not break the hair off pull to remove the entire hair shaft. In addition to the jacket, I also pull the straggling hairs on the legs and routinely pull hair on the head. Most people say “Oh I don’t want to pull hair on the head, I want that to be really full” By pulling hair here you create the fullness. Shorter hairs coming in and help lift and hold the long limp hairs up to create the big westie head.
- This hand striping work takes commitment, you have to be willing to spend an evening once every week or every two weeks working on your westies coat. Think of it as bonding time. (This is in addition to brushing which is everyday.) If you can carve out a few hours out of an evening once a week the rewards will be great. Your westie will look wonderful like the breed is suppose to look, you will be spending quality time with your dog, and you will save money. Incidentally I charge $75.00 to maintain a hand stripped coat. I have some clients who have me maintain their dogs. I see these dog about every month or 6 weeks. So I will spend about 4 hours working on their dogs. I would venture to guess it would be impossible to find a grooming salon that will hand strip. Salons are not trained and can’t make money doing this sort of labor-intensive work.
- Westies are called the “dry clean dog” what this means is that the Westie coat should be shampooed frequently. A bath is in order if he rolls in snails or is extremely muddy all over. If he just gets the face and feet dirty (most common) just wash them. The jacket should just be brushed out with a little cornstarch to remove the dirty.
- A good book that addresses the westie coat and grooming and many other aspect of maintain a westie is “Westies From Head to Tail” it is in the Second addition by Ruth Faherty. Westie people call this the big red Westie book. First Additions are available and ideal but you have to look in rare books online at Abebooks.com or Bibliofind.com. Ruth she is now in her late 80s. The second addition was a rewrite on the first with some new parts that didn’t quite have the same flavor as the older work. The second additions will still probably require a special order from Barnes and Noble or your local bookseller. I have never seen this book on the shelf at one of these stores.
- We use the dremel tool to grind down the nails. We have found the dogs tolerate it better and it is less stress for us as well.
- We brush our dog’s teeth every night. We use the Pet dental toothpaste. You can train your westie to let you do this. Open the tube and let him smell it and lick it. Now put it on your finger and let him lick it off. Next while he is licking it rub your finger on his teeth. We use a small children’s toothbrush and start the same way. Put toothpaste on the brush and let him lick it off. Then put the brush in his mouth. It doesn’t take long before he will love teeth brushing. Our dogs all coming running for “Teeth Brushing Time”