Tidying Your Border Terrier

A Grooming Guide for Show Dogs and Pets

Please note that in addition to this guide, Border Terriers enthusiasts should familiarize themselves with the BTCA Statement on Presentation.

The Border Terrier Club of America, Inc. would like to make known its concern about and disapproval of the use of ANY kind of artificial enhancement on Border Terriers. The use of chalks, dyes, mousses, sprays, drugs, surgery or any procedure which alters mental or physical characteristics is prohibited by AKC Rules and is contrary to the essence of the Border terrier. We would like to remind everyone that the Border Terrier standard emphasizes that it is a natural, working breed and should be exhibited as such. We appeal to all breeders, owners, handlers, fanciers and approved judges to uphold and protect the integrity of the breed. Thank you for your support.

Well groomed BT
A Well Groomed Border Terrier

The Border Terrier Standard approved by the AKC has the following on coat. A short dense undercoat covered with a very wiry and somewhat broken top coat which should lie closely, but it must not show any tendency to curl or wave. With such a coat a Border should be able to be exhibited almost in his natural state, nothing more in the way of trimming being needed than a tidying up of the head, neck and feet.

BT head
Head Study

As the AKC Border Terrier Standard implies, people who have Borders as companions can keep their dogs looking their best and preserving the water resistant nature of their coats using the same methods as the people who exhibit them. The major task in grooming the Border is to pull out, or strip its old coat when it has blown, that is, when it has become overgrown and dead. At this point the hair can be pulled without any discomfort to the dog. The following is the general procedure; you will soon discover which particular combination of methods and grooming positions work best for you and your Border.

First, place your Border on a non-slip surface at a convenient height and choose a grooming position. Most people prefer to strip out the coat standing at the rear of the dog, off to one side, facing forward. Some prefer to strip the coat standing in front, facing the dog. Some within either preference also feel that stripping certain parts of the Border (for example, the rear legs) is best done with the animal lying on its side.

If standing at the rear and side of the dog, with one hand grasp the dog's hide at the shoulder firmly enough so that the hide will not move when you pull on the hair. With your other hand, trap a few hairs between the thumb and index finger and pull the hairs out with a firm and quick motion in the direction the coat grows (in this position, towards yourself). Strip out the coat evenly, making sure to keep the hide from moving in each area you strip.

Stripping with fingers
Photo 1

If you prefer standing in front, facing the dog, steady the animal with one hand and, as before, use the thumb and index finger of your grooming hand to pull out the hairs in quick pulls in the direction the coat grows (in this position, away from yourself). (Photo 1)

Using a stripping knife
Photo 2

A stripping knife is used simply to improve your grip on the hairs you are stripping out. It acts as an extension of the fingers. Trap a small number of hairs between the thumb and the underside of the knife and pull the hairs out, again, in a quick motion in the direction the coat grows . Take care not to cut the coat with the stripping knife. If you see cut hairs, try holding the blade of the knife more exactly parallel to the coat and closer to the animal's body (Photo 2).


No matter which position you work from, stripping motions should always be quick pulls in the direction the coat grows.

Stripping Particular Areas of the Coat
Blown rear
Photo 3

1. Tail. According to the Standard the tail should be moderately short, thick at the base then tapering. Often its shape is likened to that of a carrot. To maintain this shape, strip the tail in three sessions. Strip the basal third when you strip the body of the dog. In 1 to 2 weeks strip the middle third, and 1 to 2 weeks later strip the tail tip. For routine tidying pull the long dead hairs on the underside of the tail and the long dead hairs at the tip. Be careful to strip smaller amounts of hair when working on the tail and rectal areas, as these are tender. (Photos 3 and 4)

2. Legs. Take all the dead hair off the legs, including the feathery hair at the back of the legs, the point of the elbow and the front lower joints.

3. Throat and Chest. Strip by the same methods as you did the body, thumb and finger or thumb and stripping knife. (photos 5 and 6 show the front before and after stripping).

Rear after stripping
Photo 4
Blown front
Photo 5

4. Head. Strip the head in small amounts at a time, grasping hairs near their tips. Consult a good Border Terrier head study, work patiently and step back to check your work often. Keep in mind as you groom the head that the Border does not carry the abundance of face furnishings found on many other terrier breeds.

Remove all the dead hair from the top of the skull down to between the eyes, and to the eyes' outside edges, being sure not to leave any eyebrows. Strip out the cheeks evenly from the outside corner of the eye downward to the outside corner of the lips and outward under the ears. Remove any tufts or single hairs standing up in front of the eyes. Remove the dead hair in front of and inside the ears. Take the long dead hair off the outer ears by hand, going carefully around the edges to give a neat appearance.

The AKC Border Terrier Standard notes. A few short whiskers are natural to the breed. When tidying your Border's whiskers, remove any excessively long straggly hairs carefully, a very few at a time: Whiskers grow slowly so mistakes last a long time. At the lower edge, a Border's whiskers follow the natural line of the jaw, rather than being triangular or goatee-shaped. (see Head Study)

Front after stripping
Photo 6

5. Underbody. Scissors may be used to trim the scanty hair of the tender abdominal and inner back leg areas, to tidy the sensitive sheath area of the dog and the vaginal area of the bitch, and to neaten the feet. Curved, safety-tipped scissors are suggested.

Concluding Notes: Experienced Border Terrier people can strip a dog completely in 1 to 2 hours. It may be easier for the novice to strip the back and sides in one day and finish the rest of the coat no more than a day or two later.

The new outer coat of the dog will usually take 6 to 8 weeks to develop. During its growth period, regularly rake the coat - that is, use the stripping knife as you would a comb to remove overlooked hairs and loose undercoat. Once your Border's new outer coat has grown in it may be possible to prolong its good looks and delay the next stripping by a method called rolling. This means selectively picking and pulling out the longest hairs that refuse to lie smooth. This regular pulling initiates new coat layers by breaking up the first coat into several lengths. It must be done carefully not to take too many hairs in one spot. Not every dog's coat can be successfully rolled, and it is an art learned only through practice.

Use of clippers on the normal, healthy Border Terrier is NOT recommended. When the dead coat is stripped, as described in this guide, each hair comes off entirely. Clipping or scissoring removes only the outer length of a hair, leaving the rest of it to shed out. Also, clipping leaves the guard hairs the same length as the undercoat, rendering it useless as protection from the elements - in other words - the coat will lose its weather resistant quality. Clipping also changes the look and texture of the coat quite noticeably.

Some Borders have easy care coats that seldom need stripping. Such coats roll naturally, and weekly routine tidying keep them neat longer than usual. (Dogs with this type of coat often have scant whiskers or other furnishings). A very few Borders may be single coated - that is, they lack the undercoat which provides the protection from cold and wet. Although easy to care for, a single coat is incorrect for a Border. Some Borders have very silky, thin silvery hair on the top of their heads. This is very difficult and painful to the dog to strip out. Much careful pulling may remove it, but it will return.

A terrier coat's natural protective oils are removed by soap, so a Border should be bathed only when absolutely necessary. Use only a shampoo made for dogs, if possible one formulated specifically for terrier coats. After the bath the dog should be brushed daily to restore the natural oils to his coat.

Brush your Border at least weekly, pulling out any long hairs you might have missed while grooming. Using this opportunity to examine your dog thoroughly will help to keep your dog in good health as well as good coat.

The Border's nails should be trimmed regularly if they do not stay short enough through walking on abrasive surfaces. Try not to trim so deep as to cut the quick. Don't forget the dewclaws even if the rest are OK.

Clean teeth are important to health as well as appearance. Examine the dog's teeth regularly and arrange for heavy tartar deposits to be removed by a Vet or experienced groomer.

This Guide was prepared for and approved by the Board of Directors of the Border Terrier Club of America, Inc.
© 1986, BTCA, Inc.

Some grooming tools Grooming Aids:
1. Fine comb
2. Natural bristle brush
3. Nail clippers
4. Stripping knife
5. Safety-tip scissors
Cutting nails

 

Link to PDF Version of Grooming Guide for Printing