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I don't strip OR clip: is that okay?


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I'm posting this both here and in the UK forum because I'm a hopeless Cairn mom when it comes to Addie's hair and I need all the help I can get.

Addie is my first Cairn and my first dog with anywhere near this type of hair. I'm lost most of the time when it comes to her coat. My biggest worry as her mom is that I'm going to do some sort of irreparable damage to her hair or cause skin problems simply because I have no idea what to do with it most of the time.

Addie is almost a year and a half. She is a red brindle. Depending on what part of her body you're looking at, her hair looks exactly like the red brindle, red, and rich red in this http://www.lachleen.dk/uk/Farver.htm Her head, neck and upper back are the red brindle. Sides are a mix of red brindle and rich red, and hind-end and underside mostly red.

Addie's coat is harsh and wiry and lies flat and close to her skin. I've measured it, and at its longest point it's about 2 1/4 inches. I don't strip or clip so that's how long Addie's hair has grown in 16 months of her life. It doesn't grow longer, but it does grow thicker.

I've contemplated stripping. Addie's hair does come out quite easily with a gentle steady tug. But Addie seems to absolutely hate it. And my little Addie is a tough little girl who doesn't even act like she notices when I pick up and touch her feet, clean out her ears, check her mouth, and otherwise do seemingly irritating things so I'm thinking the little bits and pieces I've experimentally tugged actually hurt her. Which I don't want to do. And I can't seem to do it in any way that doesn't get an "ouch! that hurt!" reaction out of her. So I've pretty much given up on that.

I'm not fond of the idea of clipping because it is cutting it at that stage 3 in hair growth, and I really don't want Addie's hair getting paler and softer because I just love her coat as it is. Also, I don't see the need to clip because her hair isn't long and doesn't seem to be growing longer.

What I do is brush her regularly (once a week) and vigorously with various combinations of a slicker brush, two-sided comb, and pin brush. When I do, quite a bit of hair comes out on the brushes. About once every couple months about a hamster-size collection of hair comes out in the process. Addie does not have any problems with me brushing her.

Twice in her life I've experimentally used the Mars Coat King (used it once - until I cut myself bad) and the Furminator (also used it once) to see what happened, particularly when Addie's coat was very, very thick and it was very, very hot. A lot of hair ended up on the tools (once again probably a very small hamster size) but I was careful not to use it too much, just enough to make her look a little cleaner. Addie also doesn't mind this.

Here are my main questions:

1) Is brushing like I do enough to keep her coat and skin healthy? I'm not concerned with making her look like a show dog, I just want her to be healthy.

2) Does the Mars Coat King / Furminator actually take out those Stage 3 and later hairs somewhat akin to stripping? Or does it cut the hair off more like a clipper? i.e. am I going to be making her coat paler and softer with the Mars Coat King/Fuminator?

and my big question:

The more I look at Addie's coat, and look at pictures of other Cairns, and hear about stripping Cairns, the more I'm starting to think that Addie does not have an undercoat. But I haven't ever been able to see an adult Cairn up close in real life, and I don't know enough about coats to even know what an undercoat looks like. It just seems like Addie's hair is all the same length and same consistency. There doesn't seem to be anything underneath. So I'm wondering what exactly an undercoat looks like? Are there pictures of what a Cairn's undercoat looks like while they still have their outercoat? I've seen lots of freshly stripped Cairns in their underwear, but it would be really helpful to me if I could see a picture of the undercoat while the Cairn still has the outercoat.

3) If Addie does not have an undercoat:

-will she get one?

-should I be grooming her differently?


"as far as i am concerned cairns are the original spirit from which all terriers spring, and all terriers are cairns very deep down inside." pkcrossley

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Can answer some of your questions--if you get fur, the soft stuff, on your wire brush then that is probably an undercoat and it can be deceiving in Cairns--sometimes they don't "look" like they have an undercoat when they actually do.

Yes the Mars will take any layer of hair off the dog and you do need to be careful not to overdo the stripping with the Mars--I think it is probably as bad for the coat as electric clippers if overdone.

Addie probaby does have an undercoat and yes it is ok to just brush and then doing a little trimming around the ears, eyes, tail, feet, etc. with scissors to keep things sharp and neat and then leave it at that.

All Cairn grooming really does come down to personal preference, the dog's tolerance to the type of trimming, and your patience as an owner. Frankly I get darned tired of having to lift up my recalcitrant Sammi to groom around her butt--she has long since perfected the "dead weight" trick by simply collapsing her rear when she has reached her limit during grooming. She won that battle years ago and we just put up with the fly away look of her hair.

My dogs do not like to be fiddled with, preferring their own agenda over mine so we pretty well let it all ride--brush for hygiene, bathe occassionally, trim when we want to see those beautiful eyes, deflag the ears and tails, and then leave them alone.

Hope the above helps--"What a Cairn SHOULD look like!" is a trap that many of us get way too involved in when it is "What a Cairn should ACT like." that should be the ideal we chase. But that is, as so much of what I put up, definately--IMO.

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I agree with Idaho on stripping be personal preference, more than anything else. I would prefer not to strip Kelly at all, but I have a son with allergies and he has to take shots because of them. If Kelly starts shedding a lot it makes them worse so I strip enough off Kelly to keep her from shedding as much. We have started liking the look that we get when we strip her, because we can see her expressions better.

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Regarding how a Mars Coat King seems (to me) to work...

The curved dull finger-tips of the coat king will rake out some undercoat. As the rake is pulled through a big overgrown outer coat, the long hairs will wad up in between the fingers of the rake, and some of the long jacket coat will get yanked out, just like running a comb through mats in your own hair might yank some hairs out by the root. But the inner curve of the "elbow" of the coat king fingers are very sharp. Coat that is funneled into those sharpened blades by the fingers of the rake will be cut, just the same as by shears, or by a knife used incorrectly. The cut coat that is left behind is still dead, just shorter. But a few hairs will have been pulled out by the root, leaving a space for a new, live, healthy hair to grow in its place. For some dogs, there's just enough turnover to keep the skin healthy, while the cut coat keeps the look reasonably tidy.

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Thanks for the information and advice! I really appreciate it.

Upon further inspection, and a really helpful couple of photos on the UK forum, I have discovered that Addie does indeed have an undercoat. It's very thin, but it's there. Addie thought I was crazy; she couldn't figure out why I was touching her but not petting her and not grooming her.

And Idaho, I am very familiar with that dead weight trick. Addie has the unfortunate habit of getting distracted while pooping, and as she darts off her tail smacks the poop right to her butt (sorry if that's TMI). After one too many battles to clean her off, I started taking her to my dad's clinic to trim the hair back there short. It takes three people to do it - two of which are keeping her tail up and her butt off the ground.

Addie is very patient and seems to enjoy getting brushed (unless there is a rodent in sight), except for the slicker. Yesterday I was able to find a slicker brush with plastic tips and when I was using it she started to fall asleep.

I don't care a bit about what Addie looks like, I just wanted to make sure I was taking proper care of her coat and skin.

"as far as i am concerned cairns are the original spirit from which all terriers spring, and all terriers are cairns very deep down inside." pkcrossley

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