Trimming the Irish Terrier
Whether your Irish Terrier is a companion dog, or you wish to show him/her, frequent grooming is essential for the health of the dog and to keep him tidy in appearance. Grooming should start from the time your puppy comes home. In the early stages it will be simply getting him used to gentle brushing as part of the normal socialising and play time, handling his feet, ears and teeth and cleaning eyes so that this becomes part of normal home life. Later it should become more serious introducing him to regular standing on a table or raised surface that is solid so he doesn't feel unstable, and one that is a comfortable height for you to reach all round him. A grooming stand will also assist in keeping him in position so that you have two hands free to work. Grooming on the floor is not a good idea for anything other than simple tidying.
The Irish Terrier has a unique coat. The tip of each hair is a deep shade of red, the main part of its shaft is wheaten lightening towards the root. Hence the initial coat appears quite dark and lightens as it grows long. The best coats are wiry growing flat and close to the body and as they go past their peak, or 'blow', they become wavy or take on a broken appearance. At the base of the outer coat is a softer undercoat, revealed when the outer coat is parted, that provides water-proofing and protects from excessive heat or cold.
The 'companion' Irish Terrier should be stripped twice per year, spring and autumn. This removes dead and blown hair allowing a new coat to grow through. The stripping process involves pulling out the dead hair and, apart from local detail work, should never involve cutting as this only removes the surface coat leaving behind dead and soft, paler hair. Hand stripping is time consuming and, if done by a professional, is necessarily expensive. The technique is not difficult with the advantage that any hair pulled out by mistake quickly grows back.
The equipment needed for grooming an Irish Terrier is shown at the bottom of the page. It need not be expensive, the lower priced Magnet knife is a good one to start with moving to the more expensive, long lasting, Mars knife as experience grows. Whatever knife is used the edge should be dulled before use to reduce the risk of cutting. Rubbing up and down baling twine was the classic way but any hemp rope will do the trick. The basic technique is known as 'finger and thumb' since the hairs were gripped between them and pulled out in the direction they lie. Start by pulling just a straggly hair or two. For a full strip the knife is a useful assistant. Lay the knife almost parallel to the body, curl the hair over the serrated edge, grip with the thumb and pull in the direction it is growing. The hand that is not holding the knife should press down on the skin just above where the hair is growing. Again try a little at a time until the technique is mastered.
Never leave a dog unattended in a grooming stand
A puppy with a first class coat part trimmed in show style.
For the ideal trim the following is a useful guide:
Trim on a continual smooth line, A ….A, from behind the skull to the tip of the tail.
Shoulders and top of the front legs, B, trim tightly.
Main body coat, C, left slightly longer and blended into shoulders.
Rear quarters, D, as body coat.
Thighs, E, blend into rear quarters and shape to give good curves.
Lower rear legs, F, from hocks trim straight to feet.
Keep line tight under stomach, G.
Leave coat under ribs, H, to blend into G, never leave a frill.
Front legs, I, to be straight resembling a brush handle, enough furnishings to indicate strength.
Trim front legs, J, as a straight line resembling a brush handle with enough furnishings to indicate strength. Feet are trimmed to toe length and edge is scissored in line with edge of pads.
Rear legs K, are trimmed to show power blending hair length to that of rear quarters. Below hocks and around feet, trim as front.
A 16 blade Mars "Coat King"
can also be a useful tool
for stripping Irish Terriers.
Going over the coat with a piece of Pumice stone will remove lose and straggly hairs and undercoat.
Some people prefer to strip by gripping the hair between the thumb and a stone rather than a knife.
Basic trimming equipment:
A comb to remove tangles and mud; a terrier palm pin pad for general grooming removing loose dead hair; a 'knife' (a misnomer as it is never used as a cutting tool) for trimming; and scissors for fine work and tidying around 'working' parts.
Combs need to be wide spaced
Magnet strippers have fine teeth
Mars Knife has wider spaced, deeper teeth
Most people cut the straps off Palm Pads
Pumice Stones are an alternative tool
Scissors need to be hairdressing quality
For the enthusiast:
a range of handmade knives
by Fleming Lonsdale
is available from the
Wire Fox Terrier Association