A series of articles by ARDEN M. ROSS - Illustrated by

At long last, we now start on the actual stripping! I start with the head. The skull and ears will be most frequently worked on, as they should always be most finely trimmed, so you will want the ultimate in rotation on these parts.

When working on the dog's head, underneath his throat and the front of his chest, it is necessary to lift and turn the dog's head into various positions in order to stretch the skin, and in order to "get at" various areas. This is done by grasping the dog by the muzzle. When doing so, it is extremely important to use a gentle, light touch. Too firm a hold will cut off his air, the dog will struggle, and attempt to get loose. You must either tighten your grip, thereby frightening him more, or you must turn loose, giving him the idea that by struggling he can get you to quit holding him. All you have accomplished is to make the dog unruly, or "head shy", both very undesirable qualities. The muzzle should be supported by your hand, with any pressure coming from beneath the muzzle, which is the area of the under jaw. The fingers or thumb that wraps around the nasal area just lies there. No pressure should be applied in this area.

When working on your dog's cheeks and under his jaw, you turn the dog's head to the opposite side from that on which you are working. As you become engrossed in your stripping, it is important that you do not stick the fingers of the hand holding the muzzle in the dog's eyes. 

Standing in front of your dog, start by combing the eyebrows and all the muzzle hair FORWARD. Now move to stand at the side of your dog's head. If you are right-handed, the left side is generally easiest, so should be done first. Then tackle the right side, which will be clumsier at first. Strip from just in back of the eyebrows all of the top of the skull as far as the occiput (that boney protrusion where the top of the skull joins the top of the neck). Next, draw an imaginary line from the outer corner of the eye to the corner of the dog's mouth. Strip all the hair from in back of this line (towards the body, not towards the nose) over the cheeks and right back to where the sides of the head join the neck. As you work, pull a bit and then comb and separate the hair ... then pull a bit more etc. Be sure and keep the long muzzle hair separate from the hair to be pulled. Keep combing it and the eyebrows forward. Now draw another imaginary line from the corner of the mouth under the lower jaw to the corner of the mouth on the opposite side. Strip from this line back to where the throat joins the neck (see Diagrams).


Now do the top of the ear leathers, which I prefer doing with my fingers. Next come the insides of the ears (be sure to clean all of the hair out of the ear canal) and the underside of the ear leathers. At this point the whole of the skull and ears should be bald, or at best covered with only a short fuzz of undercoat. The eyebrows and muzzle hair will be "all over the place" at this point, and the dog will look like his foreface is twice as big as his skull. Now is the time to start styling the eyebrow and muzzle hair. So don't stand there laughing ... get back to work!

I sincerely hope that by now you have learned to lift the hair to be pulled, and grasp it only at its tip. If you have not, this next step is going to ruin the expression of your dog, as this is the point where we start to blend and shape.

The eyebrows should be combed well forward. Then, starting at the outer corner of the eye, we start by pulling the longest hair only. This time we stand in front of our dog, and "sight" right down the top of his foreface and skull. We will pull towards ourselves and for the first time we will learn to pull away from ourselves. We pull with our finger tips and after we have pulled a few hairs, we comb again. This is one of the times when we use only the motion of our fingers to pull ... not the wrist and arm. When you thread a needle, you take the very tip of the thread and you use a rubbing motion of your thumb and forefinger to bring the end of the thread to a fine point. At the same time you are pulling the thread to straighten it. THIS IS THE EXACT SAME MOTION that is used to pull the eyebrows! Our pattern will be an angle, the longest hair to be above the inside corner of the eye (lieing directly adjacent to the bridge of the nose) and the angle to progress to the outer corner of the eye, with the hair growing progressively shorter until it disappears entirely at this outer corner. At this point you will discover that your dog has the most beautiful, long eyelashes. It is necessary to pull these out as well to achieve the desired line. Do not worry, they will grow, to be pulled again.


The eyebrows of the Fox Terrier are comparatively short. They are only half as long as those left on a Scottie or Schnauzer. The actual length, however, will depend on your dog's eyes and the formation of his skull. Even the strength of foreface may influence the length you will wish to leave the eyebrows. If your dog has the correct small, dark eye, the eyebrows may be trimmed extremely short to show this off. If his eyes are large, or lighter than they should be, you will want to leave the brows longer. On a dog with large eyes, longer brows and more fullness under the inside corners of the eye will make it appear deeper set and smaller than they are. If the eye is lighter than desired, longer brows shade the eye. Even the darkest eye will show brown or hazel tints if exposed to direct sunlight. Lighter eyes, of course, appear darker inside a building or in deep shade. We will go into more detail about styling here in later portions of this article.


The area that lies directly under the eye (when viewed from the front) can give you a lot of trouble. The Standard calls for "fill under the eye", and this is the area they are speaking of. So we do not want to "hollow" our dog's out under the eyes. The amount of "fill" your dog has will determine the length and amount (thickness) of hair you will want under his eyes.

Here again, it is most important to keep combing the hair forward, in order to achieve this all important "look". If your dog's face hair is "hard", you may wish to use the Palm brush, as repeated combing will break some hair or take out too much. Right here is where you make or break your dog's expression.

The hair must be lifted as you pull. The eye of the Fox Terrier is supposed to be round, small and deep set. He has fill under the eye. This means there is no dropping away from the lower eyelid. The area adjacent to the bridge of the nose and lying directly beneath the lower eyelid shall extend in a level plane, very gradually tapering towards the nose. The plane of this area is not verticle to the horizontal plane of the bridge of the nose, when viewed from the side.


In other words, when viewed from the side, the top line of the muzzle represents a horizontal plane, which is roughly paralleled by the horizontal plane extending from the bottom eyelid. If Yorkshire Fox Terrier Clubyou are blessed with an animal that has proper "fill" you need not worry, unduly, about hollowing him out in this area. But it is an unfortunate fact that the majority of Fox Terriers do not. So we must create the illusion that they do. Once again we see how important it is to trim our dogs as individuals. The amount of hair to be desired in this area must be determined by the amount of fill he has.

Now I am going to contradict myself by telling you that in this initial stripping we will most likely "hollow" our dogs under the eyes. But if we do, we want to do it on purpose! So it is WRONG to get this "hollowed" effect by accident. But RIGHT if we do it to achieve a specific end result.

Today we are stripping our dog "out", but as soon as he is "in coat" we are going to start showing our dog. Today, we are working with an old dead coat. When we start showing him, we want his coat crisp and fresh. If we do not pull the old, dead hair today, we are not going to have fresh live hair where and when we want it. Since we are attempting the rotating coat, we will pull the dead hair out, but we will leave some dead hair there. Using the short anatomy lesson I've just given you as a guide, you will, by pulling some, combing, and leaving some hair, attempt to give your dog the proper expression. The chances are 80 to 20 that on this, your first attempt, you will hollow him out. However, the hair will grow in, fresh and workable, and by the time he is ready to show you should, with the repeated trimming you will be doing, have achieved the desired fullness.

So let's proceed ... stand facing your dog, hold his muzzle in your left hand, comb and/or brush (palm brush) the hair forward, or toward you, fluff up the hair with your thumb and forefinger, then pull a few of the longest ones. Brush again and view what you have done, both from the front and from the side. Are you getting the desired effect? Pull a little more, brush, and look again. The moment you start pulling hair around your dog's eyes, he will "squinch" his eyes up. This makes the hair stand on end, especially shorter hair. It is therefore absolutely necessary to stop frequently to evaluate what you are doing, with the dog in a natural position, eyes open and eyelids relaxed.

Now you will note that the hair directly under and surrounding the OUTER corner of the eye is making your dog look like his eye is wider than his skull. These hairs are removed, a little at a time but by pulling AWAY from you. Still standing in front of your dog, you grasp these hairs between thumb and forefinger and you use a "pushing" motion. Before, when pulling toward yourself, you pressed your finger against your thumb to hold the hair. Now, you will reverse this and press your thumb against your forefinger, your object is to remove this hair so this outer corner of your dog's eye is FLUSH with his skull.

It is the dog's eye which separates skull from foreface. When viewing the head from the front, the line of the foreface from its junction with the skull is straight! This line extends from the outer corner of the eye (which you have just worked on) in a straight line to the ends of the whiskers, which are brushed well forward. It does not "dish" in, nor "pooche" out. The foreface should appear as a rectangle WHEN VIEWED FROM ANY ANGLE! The hair of the muzzle must be brushed forward, then still standing in front of your dog, it is gently "fluffed" so that it will stand out to the side all along the side of the foreface. This is done in order to trim for the desired straight line. Only the very longest hairs are gently removed, a little at a time, until this straight line is achieved.


You cannot do it all in a day, but concentrate on getting your line straight, then in successive trimmings you can narrow the foreface without dishing it out. The greatest length of whiskers is left on the extreme end of the lips, with shorter hair directly surrounding the nose itself. The VERY LONGEST hair is on the bottom half of this nose/lip area. This is brushed well forward and extends beyond the actual face of the dog, accentuating the length of head. AT THE SAME TIME you will brush the hair on the top of the muzzle so it stands upright. This is the topline of the foreface and it extends from just between the dog's eyes to the end of the nose and IT MUST BE LEVEL! Remember our horizontal plane? You are still standing in front of your dog, I hope, so you will pull towards you, again pulling only the longest hairs. REMEMBER, pull a bit, then brush the hair the way it is supposed to lay; in this case, forward. View what you have done from all angles, then work some more, not forgetting to fluff the hair before you start working again.


The beard starts at the corner of the mouth and is trimmed at an angle, the shortest hair here, the longest hair at the underjaw, to match the whiskers (see Diagram). Now wasn't that simple? The beard should be longer than the whiskers. By that I mean that with the whiskers and beard combed well forward, the beard should extend beyond the longest of the whiskers slightly. If the whiskers are predominant, it will throw the dog's head out of balance, making his nose look top heavy. Or, if the beard is very short, it makes him look like he lacks strength in his lower jaw. So if his beard is not as long as the whiskers we must sacrifice some of the whiskers to put him back in balance.

There are two trouble spots dealing with the proper lay of whiskers and beard. The stiff "guard whiskers" stand straight out from the side of the nose and front lip. This makes the whiskers "pooche out" sideways, when you want them flatish and forward. You must cut these "guard whiskers" frequently. Part the whisker hair with your fingers until you have exposed these guard hairs at their roots. Take your scissors and cut these hairs as close to the root as possible. BE VERY CAREFUL! Do not cut any of the precious face whisker hairs!!!

All along the side of the lower lip you will find the hair has a tendency to stick out and be "bunchy". Especially in the area where the upper canine tooth overlaps the lower lip. Simply pull out this bunchy hair and the beard will fall in a straight downward line, which is what you want. I've not instructed you to take only the longest hair, and a little at a time when doing the beard. If you have not learned to do that by now you had better start, because your trimming will not be right unless you do!! YOU LEARN ONLY BY DOING!

Many thanks to Terrier Type for permission to reprint these pages