West Highland Terriers are very cute looking dogs especially when they've just had their coats professionally hand stripped. However, not all of these little dogs can be hand stripped because some of them don't have the right coat texture for this to be done. And the most common reason for this is because they have not been well bred.
Well bred Westies have double coats with the outer one consisting of harsh and coarser straight hair that's around 2 inches long. The undercoat looks and feels very much like fur. It is much shorter, softer as well as being that much tighter than the outer coat.
Westies with harsher coats can be hand stripped, however, if you own a dog that boasts a silkier and wavier coat with no undercoat, then hand stripping is impossible and if you attempt it, you'll end up hurting your dog.
The first time a puppy should be stripped out is when they are around 16 weeks old with many professional groomers preferring to take out as much of the coat as possible in the first trim. However, this will be the one and only time a Westies coat would be stripped out so thoroughly.
Puppies tend to look a bit strange for a while afterwards, but the new coat soon grows and it does so that much better, thicker and coarser. In short, this intense initial stripping allows a dog's coat to grow back that much better.
After the first strip, it's best to leave a Westie's coat alone for a while which should typically be for up to 8 weeks or so before any more is done to them. It's also important to bear in mind that for the first few sessions at a grooming parlour, a dog's coat is not going to look that good. The real purpose of working on their coat at this stage, is to set it up so that 3 different coat lengths are established which leaves a dog with that classic looking Westie coat they are so famous for.
You may have to hand strip a few areas and use thinning shears around the skirt and legs to keep your Westie's coat looking brilliant in-between sessions at the grooming parlour. Your little dog won't need a lot of work done on their coats apart from a daily groom using a bristle brush to avoid any tangles forming and this is especially true around their skirts and elbows.
It's also important to learn how to blend your dog's body coat in with the longer skirt. The best way to learn how to do this, as previously mentioned, is to watch a professional groomer at work so you can ask questions and make notes. Alternatively, you could invest in a grooming video for West Highland Terriers which is another great way to see how it needs to be done. Knowing how to do this really does help keep your dog's coat looking nicely trimmed until they go back to the grooming parlour for their next hand stripping session.
The dog groomer would have left the hair around your Westies legs longish but without having lost any of the coarseness and they would have done this by stripping out around 20% of the hair. Most dog groomers use thinning shears on a Westies legs too because they are a great tool for shaping the legs and giving them a finished look once the hair has been hand stripped. Using shears also tidies legs up nicely which is that much harder to do by hand stripping alone.
To keep your dog's legs looking good, you may have to hand strip a little hair or you may prefer to use thinning shears which work just as well when you need to keep things tidy. At the same time, you can use the shears to keep your dog's paws looking neat and nicely rounded off until their next session at the grooming parlour.
Skirts need to be thick and quite coarse with the sides being made up of different lengths giving it an even bushier look. The correct shape should taper ever so slightly from the front to the back. A professional groomer would achieve this look by using either thinning shears or a stripping knife which makes it that much easier to snap of the ends. The result is a polished, tidy yet natural look.
To keep the skirt looking brilliant, you might need to use thinning shears to tidy up certain areas as they grow. The one thing you should never do is use scissors on the skirt because you might end up with straight lines which will spoil the look completely.
The chest is a tender area of the Westie's body which means hand stripping is not always an option because it's just too painful for these little dogs. It's far kinder to use thinning shears on their chest and the results are just as good.
One of the most difficult parts of the Westie to keep looking great, is their head. The rule of thumb is that a Westie head should look very much like a Chrysanthemum after they've been hand stripped. To keep things tidy, you can use thinning shears to trim any hair that grows faster until you take your dog back for their next grooming session.
When it comes to the ears, you can trim these with scissors, preferably a pair that has rounded off tips to keep everything tidy in-between trips to the grooming parlour.
Tails need to be covered with coarse hair and there should never be any feathering. A dog groomer would hand strip the tail before tidying everything off using thinning shears. To keep it all nice and neat, you may have to trim off a little of the hair using the shears. The thing to bear in mind is that a Westie's tail should like a carrot being that much thicker at its base before tapering to the tip. You can also use thinning shears around your dog's back-end to keep things neat which also reduces the risk of them soiling themselves.