Meet Rolfe x Rolfe is six and a half months old and is a Norfolk Terrier, one of our two wonderful county terrier breeds. The other is the Norwich Terrier and they are dogs of similar stature and appearance…so how do we tell the difference? I wish I could recall who first helped me remember this but never the less it has stuck with me ever since…Norfolk is flat and Norwich has a cathedral with pointy spire, therefore the drop ear is a Norfolk and the foxy like pointy ear, the Norwich, there we go.
Rolfe has visited us several times for socialisation and puppy brush and combing sessions but today was his first real hand stripping experience. A Norfolk terrier should have a harsh wiry outer coat and a thick soft undercoat. The outer coat protects the dog from the elements and is very dirt and water resistant. The under coat keeps the dog insulated and warm. Rolfe’s coat is a beautiful shiny red and profuse for his age. To ensure that the properties of his coat remain it is essential that he is groomed with great care and knowledge right from the very start of his grooming journey.
Before we even contemplate introducing Rolfe to actual grooming we build his confidence and trust in us…hence the puppy sessions. Rolfe is a super confident little chap helped by the fact that he is growing up alongside an older role model, mini schnauzer Cooper. He’s chirpy, alert, inquisitive, affectionate and today he has been totally amazingly patient enjoying two hours of hand stripping, split into short sessions throughout the day, with lots of fun and playtime with Cooper in between.
Hand stripping is a passion of mine. I have studied many coat types and the knowledge behind the growth of dog hair, from understanding how a follicle forms underneath the skin to knowing at what stage it is in it’s growth. I have studied at Level 4 in hand stripping, learning techniques and understanding breed standards. But still, every dog I am trusted to work with is a new learning opportunity for me to continue to develop my knowledge and experience.
Today I have begun to stage Rolfe’s coat. In order to maintain a harsh outer coat all year round, the wiry primary hair needs to grow in stages. When a hair has reached the end of it’s life cycle it sits dormant in it’s follicle. Once this hair is finally shed either naturally or by pulling, the follicle is stimulated and so a new hair begins to grow. During Rolfe’s puppy sessions and with his owners at home we have ensured Rolfe enjoys his brushing and combing routines and have removed almost all of his soft puppy coat. Rolfe’s outer coat is stunning but it is currently all the same length. Although I fully understand the principal behind staging a coat, I am mindful that each individual dog’s coat needs to be fully assessed and I began some gentle pulling to try and work out what I was going to be able to achieve and how Rolfe would react to his new experience. He was a total star. Whilst Rolfe was perfectly content chewing on an antler with intermittent kissie sessions, I managed to achieve far more than I had thought and really learned a lot today. I pulled an even proportion of blown hair across the body with the aim of leaving a balance covering of the remaining outer coat. When Rolfe is next in, no doubt he will be quite bushy. New hair will already be replacing the hair pulled and his undercoat will still be developing too. Let’s look forward to seeing his progression.
I am passionate about hand stripping but I am also passionate about passing my knowledge on to my team and the new groomers who train alongside us. It has been a relatively high speed journey for me to get to where I currently am in knowledge and experience and I am aiming towards slowing down just a little bit. My thumb throbs as I write, from an intense week of stripping and I occasionally get a tingly feeling and numbness which doesn’t bode too well, so I am very proud to say The Dog House team is learning and growing every day.