To cut or not to cut

Veröffentlicht am 27. Dezember 2022 um 10:44

Author: Neale Selwood


To cut or not to cut, that is the question, or is that really even a question we should be asking? 

If we can get a better understanding of the wire coat then perhaps that in itself will give us the answer we are looking for. To understand better the function of this coat type we need to go back 100 years or more and find out what it was actually designed to do, and why I believe it is the best possible coat a dog can wear if maintained in the correct manner.


This wire coat was bred to withstand the harsher damp weather conditions of the British climate, to repel dirt and protect the dog from the environment that it would find itself hunting in, this being often thorny undergrowth that would pull out the hair without hurting the dog, whereas a softer coat would get caught up in the thorns ripping the hair out of the skin. The coat was also capable of withstanding attack from other animals, the attacker getting a mouthful of hair that would easily pull out  leaving the dogs skin intact and free from injury. Pretty remarkable if you think about it, a coat that was actually bred by the huntsmen of the day to be pulled out so as to protect the dog from the thorny bushes and attack from the animals it would hunt. This should lead you to believe that grooming this coat the way nature intended would mean we should pull out the hair as it was originally designed, wouldn’t you say?


Well, some would say otherwise because all dogs today generally live a very different life to that of 100 years ago. They spend most of their day indoors, they are generally fed a less than optimal diet and we castrate/neuter them often before they have even had the time to fully mature. The vast majority of these dogs aren’t required to perform in a way they were bred to perform all those years ago. So, is there an argument here? Well, lets look at the facts. It is true that most of the dogs today aren’t being put to work as they were 100-200 years ago and of course many today are fed a dry food diet that generally has a high carbohydrate content consisting of potatoes or rice which looks very different to the diet they would have received back in they're hunting days. Also, castration/neutering in my experience can alter a coat considerably but not to the demise of the coat to a dysfunctional level.


This coat is still very capable of doing the job it was originally designed to do should it still be required.  So apart from a few unethical show breeding practices that have taken place in the last hundred years altering the coat of some dogs, often to the disadvantage of the dog, we essentially have a coat that would still need to be pulled out to keep it waterproof, rich in colour and healthy. If we are to groom these dogs correctly, we need to know what the consequences of the grooming method we choose will have on the coat. To be able to do that we need to understand the lifecycle of the wire coat the dog wears.


The life cycle of the wire coat is around 3 months but can differ among dogs and breeds but for arguments sake lets say 3 months. In the last phase of this 3 month cycle the follicle becomes active and a new hair is grown. The old hair is detached from the follicle and is held in place by friction only.  This hair now needs to be removed by plucking it out of the follicle to allow the new wire hair to grow. If you don’t remove this dead hair the new hair will still continue to grow but will not develop properly or be able to replace the old hair and over time will contribute to the blocking of the follicle.


A wire hair is harder, thicker and with colour at the outer end of the hair and softer, thinner and partially hollow at the inner end. If you clip the coat then you are clipping the harder thicker colourful end of the hair leaving the pale soft base in the follicle. You will end up with a dead, short, soft, colourless top coat. Continually clipping the wire coat will force the undercoat unsuccessfully to compensate for the wiry top coat, which is why you see soft, fluffy, curly coats on shaved dogs that are no longer waterproof or have much colour. The follicle will eventually become blocked with overgrown undercoat and it will now be difficult to pluck the hair. Without a wiry top coat the dog is no longer able to regulate its temperature in the way it would do otherwise, it is not protected from the elements, it can encourage skin issues from bacteria thriving on damp warm skin and cause skin irritation from blocked follicles.


If we go back to the original question “To cut or not to cut” it is clear to see that cutting shouldn’t really be a question at all. If we stripped these wire coats from the very beginning of the dogs life and stayed on this path, then I am not sure I could find a reason to cut a wire coat and if there were to be a reason then it would almost certainly only make up a very small percentage of dogs requiring clipping. Now, a huge proportion of these dogs are already being cut or shaved which now begs the question of how do we move forward with these dogs that we see coming into our salons every day of the week. Most of the wire haired dogs I see have been shaved to some degree or another and by most I mean 90-95%.


I will not continue to shave or cut a dog without at least trying to recover the coat. On dogs that have been clipped all over it will take time and patience and an understanding owner.  For many dogs though, this can be done as part of a normal groom. Surprisingly, most owners are willing to try once they understand the importance of their dog’s wire coat and the disadvantages of it being clipped. 


I think it is fair to say that I am probably a purist who likes to see the wire coat groomed in the correct manner of hand stripping. That doesn’t mean there aren’t genuine reasons to card and clip a dog for its well being. It is good to note though, that the percentage of dogs needing clipping or cutting are only a very small percentage of the healthy dogs that are actually being clipped in salons on a daily basis all over the world.