Some Wire Fox Terriers are single coated. This does not mean they have no undercoat: it means they grow in one hard outer coat at a time. There is about a 6 to 8 week wait between the "blowing" of their old coat and the advent of a new coat. These dogs cannot be rotated! However, the majority of our Wires, with a little encouragement, can be made to produce a double, and sometimes a triple coat. From here on, when I speak of "coat", I shall be speaking of the hard outer coat; the undercoat shall be called undercoat. Encouraging the double or triple coat is commonly called "rotating" the coat. The advantage is obvious …. your dog is never "out of coat", and therefore can make every show for as long as you are willing to put the time necessary to keep his coat "going". If you do not have the time or the patience to keep work, work, working, you are better off not attempting the rotating coat. Once you have started the process, you must work on it steadily. This means no vacations, unless you are prepared to take the dog along and keep working, and unless all the members of your family are as enthusiastic as you, this may well lead to divorce or psychotic children!
One of the finest examples of the rotating coat was on the Wire bitch, Ch. Zeloy Mooremaides Magic, conditioned and handled by the late Jimmy Butler. I clearly recall this bitch being shown well over a full year, culminating in her Best in Show win at Westminster …. without ever being "out of coat". I must warn you that this was achieved by her handler spending about one-fifth of his waking hours trimming this bitch!
In achieving a rotating coat, we strip out the dog all at once, unlike the "staging" method. Ideally this should be done in one session, but due to the wealth of coat to be considered, plus the "human frailty" factor, it frequently takes more than one session. When you begin, however, be sure you complete the area you are working on! If you start on the head (as I do), be sure you do all of the top, both sides of the head before you quit for the day … both shoulders, both sides of the body, the whole of the back, etc. If you do not, you will find that you have fresh workable hair on one side and nothing but skin on the other. If you wait for the hairless side to grow in, the hairy side is now too long. Your dog now looks like a badly-trimmed hedge, and believe me, the two sides never equalize!
The first rule of thumb is to take some and leave some! I refer to hair, of course! For our initial stripping, all the hard coat must be removed. Many times you will find that your dog has a fairly short, almost a "second" undercoat. Leave this on! Should you be blessed with a naturally double-coated dog, and upon removing the long shaggy coat you find a newer coat underneath, for heaven's sake LEAVE IT THERE! This is what we are striving for … two or more coats … one coming in, or already in, as the other is going out. For the purpose of this discussion, however, we will deal with the dog who does not have a natural second coat at this time. Our aim? To make him "double coated"! As I said, if you can, leave some undercoat on. Stripping the dog completely down to the bare skin, all over, produces a strange psychological effect on him. He may cower, hold his tail down, search for a place to hide, and generally act as though he has been severely disciplined. He may even refuse to eat! In his doggy way, he is reacting the same as you or I might if we found ourselves stark naked in the middle of town, at high noon on a Saturday! If we can leave him with at least a light covering of hair, he will feel much better.
Frequently we find our dog "in the rough" has hair all of one length. In this case the necessary removal of the hair automatically produces the naked dog. Not all dogs react as I have described, but if they do, DON'T sympathise! Act as if this were a perfectly normal state of affairs. Never, never laugh at your dog, and never allow anyone else to do so, no matter how ridiculous he may look through the various stages of initial stripping. Dogs are sensitive to ridicule! The very best way to overcome any strange feelings he may have towards his lack of hair, is to praise him! Tell him he is a good dog. Put enthusiasm into your voice and make him feel that his appalling nakedness is highly desirable at this time.
In attempting to leave some covering on your dog during this first stripping, you will immediately discover the importance of lifting the hair to be pulled, and grasping it only at the tip. If you pull from the roots (your fingers or knife next to the skin) you will indeed wind up with a naked animal. Should you be fortunate enough to have a naturally double-coated dog, pulling from the roots is the quickest way I know to make him single-coated. You will have destroyed the very thing you are working so hard to accomplish.
STARTING WITH THE PUPPY
Trimming baby puppies is pure fun! As soon as their baby fur is ready to come out (sometimes as soon as six weeks), they can be plucked, using thumb and forefinger. I do them on my lap after letting them have a good romp first. This tires them out and the plucking usually progresses with them thoroughly relaxed and about nine-tenths asleep. They are so limp, you can turn them in all sorts of ridiculous positions to accomplish the task. The object here is not high styling, but simply to remove the baby coat to encourage their proper coat to grow.
I prefer putting them on the grooming table only for brushing. They find the brushing most enjoyable, and I can concentrate on teaching them to stand. Since all dogs enjoy attention, and particularly pups, they are soon looking forward to these sessions, and by the time they reach the age where I am ready to do some serious trimming, their wire coats are in and they are trained to stand reasonably on the table.
A word of warning! Never, NEVER go off and leave a puppy on the table by itself! They can slip off the table and hang, or, slipping the loop, fall off, killing or seriously injuring themselves. If nothing more serious occurs than the puppy getting frightened, this can easily result in the animal never standing properly on the table, if, indeed it stands at all. Take it from me, it is almost impossible to properly "put down" a Wire with him standing on the ground.
Puppy coats, like puppies, vary. Some are nearly pure wire at 6 to 8 weeks of age, while others are still full of fluff at 6 months. On the average, they are pretty wiry at 3 to 4 months, but only if you have taken the time to remove the puppy fluff. This early stripping is as essential to growing a proper wire coat as trimming the nails is to maintaining proper feet.
The puppy usually starts his wire coat on his back at the base of his tail, and it then starts up the tail. You will find that this tendency to have the thickest wire coat at the root of the tail will be true all of his life. The top of the neck, where it joins the back of the head, sometimes is slow to turn wiry, and this is strange since the head itself will be all wire. The sides of the body, underneath the throat and down through the chest area are generally the last places the hard coat comes in. If you are looking for your puppy's wire coat, try looking first at the base of the tail, and don't panic if he does not turn altogether and all at once.
I have stressed the importance of plucking puppy coats, and this is how we do it. Take a hard bristle brush and brush the puppy all over, against the normal lay of the coat. This will lift the hair and separate it, making the pup look much like an animated stuffed toy. This, incidentally, is a sure way of entrancing prospective pet buyers, if selling is your aim …. they really look so cute! Taking the tips of your thumb and forefinger, grasp a few hairs, the very longest ones, and be sure and grasp the hair at its tip. Pull these few hairs, in the direction they grow. If the coat is ready, it will come out easily. Always grasp the hair at its tip. NEVER at the roots close to the skin. If the hair resists pulling, it is not ready to come out. Always when pulling the hair, hold the skin taut in front of the hair to be pulled. Wires, pups and adults, are loose-skinned animals. If you do not hold the skin firmly it will pull up with the hair. This makes it very difficult to get the hair out, and very unpleasant for the animal, as it is almost like being pinched. Soon your dog will object strongly to being worked on. To hold the skin firmly, take the thumb of your left hand (unless you are left handed) and press it gently, but firmly on the skin and fur just in front of the hair to be pulled. Press away from the direction the hair is to be pulled. On older animals that stand on the grooming table, your entire palm is used in pressing against and forward …. always forward. We always pull hair BACK towards us … we always press the skin FORWARD. The object is to keep the skin stretched firmly, tight to the body. Since you are only using you thumb on the pup, the rest of your hand and the forefingers are left free to hold the pup still.
Assuming you have tested, and the hair is ready to come out, we go over the entire pup … body, neck, head, shoulders and underneath the neck right down over the chest area. No, No! Leave the furnishings (leg hair) and don't touch the whiskers and beard. Furnishings are a sovereign nation and must be treated separately. Take out only the largest hair, leaving the short hair as a beginning for our "rotating" coat. We don't want him hairless. As this short hair which is left grows further it will turn loose too, and it is then removed, still leaving even shorter hair … and the coat begins. A rotating coat, so very desirable on the show Wire.
At this stage, the whiskers, beard and furnishings, should be made neat by the judicious use of scissors. Trim around the bottom of the feet to make them neat and also to aid in keeping the puppy clean. The pup will have a tendency to walk through his own dirt, wade through any convenient puddles and in every way get messy. Frequently the hair on the inside of the hocks will present an unsightly mess. By trimming this (again judiciously) you will prevent the pup from appearing cow-hocked. Likewise, the hair on the elbows will give the appearance of the pup being "out at elbows" so it too should be trimmed to present a straight line from the shoulder down to the foot. The whiskers and beard usually don't need any trimming, but if they are unsightly you may trim them a bit. Your object is to make the puppy's head a perfect rectangle using the hair on the muzzle to make the muzzle appear as wide, but no wider than the cheeks.
Many thanks to Terrier Type for permission to reprint these pages