Today, Mummy is concentrating on the hips, thighs, shoulders and chest. As usual, I am calmly relaxing on the grooming table, waiting for free treats. Every now and then, she pops a piece of dried lamb into my mouth, simply because I've been laying down nicely. I let Mum do whatever she likes with me, and I enjoy her attention.
This is a picture of my hairy hip and thigh. As you can see, my body and tail are covered with a light grey of undercoat which is laying closely to my body.
The purpose of handstripping is to remove the hair completely, including the hair follicle. Above in this picture, you can see the close up view of the follicles. Why do we need to remove the hair completely you ask? Well, it all comes down to color and texture.
The picture above shows very clearly, the difference in color in a single hair strand. At the ends of the hair is a rich reddish hue of tan, and the texture is wiry and coarse. As we move down the hair strand toward the root, the color starts to fade to a light beige and the texture becomes softer.
This bunch of hair which may contain up to 100 strands is an accumulated amount of handstrip strokes. Mum would have stripped the same exact area
up to 10 strokes continuously. The stripping knife acts as a collecting area while her right thumb pushes the hair into place on the knife, then the motion of her arm and shoulder exerts a pressure that forces the hair follicles to come out. The objective is to get the hair follicles out.
Mum is careful not
to use any wrist twisting motion because that causes the stripping knife blade to cut the hair strand, instead of pulling the entire hair follicle out. We need to pull out the follicle so that a new hair will grow in its place, thus allowing a new cycle of coat growth. If we cut the hair strand, it would be the same as clipping or shaving it. Basically, cutting or shaving means we're simply removing the tan tip of the hair strand, exposing the beige root, and letting it grow out. This is the same effect as clipping a coat. And this is what we want to avoid in handstripping.
This picture above shows an imaginary yellow line to symbolize a clipper blade or scissor cutting the hair off (making the coat shorter). The follicles and roots remain on the dog, and the remaining coat that is allowed to grow out is beige in color, and also softer in texture. This explains why pet Airedales who are only clipped at the groomers seem to turn beige in color, instead of keeping the rich dark tan color. However, I have seen some very lucky Airedales who have good genes. Even after multiple clippings, they still do retain that rich tan color, but this is uncommon. Lucky for them.
This also implies that for all show dog prospects, a scissor or clipper blade must never
touch any portion of their body. Every portion including legs, body furnishings, face and beard must be hand-plucked and handstripped only. This is to retain the tan color throughout the whole body at all times for the show ring.
Now in this photo, my hips have been stripped and Mum needs to shape my thighs. First, she cards the upper thigh downward to reduce the puffiness and rake out undercoat. She then handstrips the thigh but not right down to the skin like my body. She starts to create a gradient in hair length, because the Airedale leg is not the same as the Schnauzer leg. From the back to the front of the thigh, the length goes gradually from shortest to longest.
This photo above shows both left and right thighs completed. However, my legs have not been shaped yet, since Mum leaves all the finer details and shaping to the end. Notice how my thigh muscles have been 'revealed' after removing the excess coat. This is to accentuate my rear end, which is called the Rear Angulation. The butt is taken down clean so that the musculature can be shown, since Airedales are supposed to be robust and strong.
After tackling the back end, and taking a long deserved break, Mum and I focus on the front shoulders. The photo above shows me laying down while Mum strips my shoulders. The objective is also to reveal the shoulder muscles and strong straight line, flowing from the shoulders into my front legs, which are supposed to be straight like poles.
Me taking a nap, falling asleep on the grooming table while mum is stripping my shoulders.
From the shoulders, Mum begins to move forward toward the chest from both sides, left and right, until eventually the strip parts meet in the centre. She leaves an amount of fur in the shape of an inverted triangle on the lower chest (this area will later be blended at the end). My chest is extremely sensitive, and my skin turns red due to handstripping, and I start to fidget because it hurts a little. Mum is extremely careful and slow, and starts to pluck lesser hairs each time.
The nice rear angulation can be seen in this photo of me peeing while we are taking a break.
Seems like we need to go on to Day 4 and Day 5, because Mum says the whole neck and head would take up one whole day. The neck being a soft and stretchy skin area makes it really hard for Mum to pull the skin taut for easy plucking. The hair is also extra profuse at the back of my neck, and takes extra long. Day 5 would be for fine tuning and shaping.
We will spend Saturday and Sunday taking a break, and biking in the trails, so that I can spend all my energy doing something fun. Mum says it'll give her a chance to rest her arm, and then we'll resume my torture next week. Oh boy!!