Grooming your Airedale Terrier
Plucking & Clipping

I decided to do this page because of the numbers of Airedale owners who don't want to take their Airedales to a groomer anymore. I hope you find this page useful. Some of the pictures may help your groomer to better understand the different lengths to shave for a better look.  I have tried to draw some pictures to help me describe what I'm talking about. I am not an artist(!), so sorry for the funny looking Airedales. I will be adding more as time goes on with real pictures of the dogs. I just wanted to get this up to at least start to help people get started.

Tips and things you will need

1. Grooming Table with noose
2. Slicker brush
3. Combs; most are good but try to get a very fine toothed one. They are very handy for getting out the undercoat.
4. A boar bristle brush, they are good for brushing down the wire hair as it is growing in. It is also good for knocking off the dirt from the longer leg and face hair.
5. Latex finger cots. They are the best thing for grabbing the hair without damaging it, AND YOU DON'T GET BLISTERS.

6. Find lots of pictures of Airedales that you like.  You should pin them up wherever you are grooming. Some people like a dog with more coat and others prefer a dog with a shorter coat. There are many different ways to do the eyebrows. Some like them long and some like them shorter. The same with the beard. The picture below is my Lacy's dad, I love him and I always have. I have this up in my grooming room and I strive to groom like this.

7. Take breaks; it is very important that you don't do to much all at the same time. Your wrist will get sore, plus it's good to let the dog down and let out for a few minutes so you can see what you have done.
8. I like to have a mirror up in my grooming room. I place it up level with the height of the grooming table.  I find it convenient to be able to look across the room from another view, and see how what I am working on looks from a different angle. I am happy to say that I have already had a grate idea/suggestion from someone who has come to see this page. You could find an old dresser at a SALE somewhere, one with a mirror and then you can use it to put all your grooming, plus other dog stuff in it.
9. If you have a hard time pulling out the hair then you have too much hair in your fingers.
10. This is a very important one. If you do one ear then you do the other. If you do one side of the neck then you do the other. If you do one side of the shoulder then you do the other side the same day. Don't ever do one side and not the other. You will soon learn that your dog will look lop sided because the hair on one side is older then the other. You don't want that to happen.

The first thing you need to know is that plucking the coat with your fingers ( I use latex finger cots ) will make the coat healthier in colour and texture, AND it will allow the coat to lay close against the body of the dog. You can also use stripping knifes but you must make sure they are very very dull. If you break the wire hair it will change  in colour. The Airedale has two kinds of hair, Wire and Undercoat. Picture A: You can see the wire & undercoat but! It is not laying close to the body.

  WIRE HAIR: The wire hair itself tells you when it is ready to be removed from the dog. The wire hair grows like the shape of a knitting needle.  Pointed on both ends. When the hair starts to grow it comes out with a point on it that is dark in colour. As the hair grows, it thickens and gets a little darker in colour. As the hair reaches its life span it starts to lighten in colour, and gets thin towards the root of the hair, making it easy to pull out. This characteristic of the wire hair is also what is responsible for the colour and texture change resulting when you clipper a dog or break the wire hair shaft with a stripping knife. All that is left on the dog is the dull fuzzy root end of the hair, which blends right into the undercoat.

 UNDER COAT:  The under coat is short softer hair. The under coat doesn't grow as long as the wire hair does, BUT it grows faster.  It is also the under coat hair that poses the problem to people trying to get the wire to lay close to the body of the dog. Because it grows in so close together, it forces the wire hair to grow away from the skin ( curl up ) like in Picture A: What we want is for it to be close like in Picture B:

Here I have tried to show you how to pluck and what the coat will look like when you are doing it for a while. Lacy's coat is already to be plucked. In the picture I hope you can see that under the hair that I am taking off. To start I rub my finger against the direction of the hair so it will stand up for me to grab it, then I pull in the direction in witch it is growing. In the next picture you can see the difference in the colour of the hair like I mentioned before, you can also see the new hair laying very tight to the skin. The older hair is wavy and the new hair is straight.


The idea is to get that undercoat off of the dog. First you have to realize all dogs grow their coats at different speeds. Some take 8-10 weeks; others could grow it as fast as 6 weeks. Then there are real slow growers that can take as long as 13-15 weeks. It's good to keep a log of what hair you pull and how fast it takes to grow back in. This I have learned by experience, I have one of each. You also need to realize that whatever hair you want to be the longest on the dog is the first hair you must take out of the dog. It is also a good thing to know were the different lengths and directions of the hair come together on the dog. Blending is very important. Try to have NO noticeable lines from one area to the other. BLEND, BLEND, BLEND.

Front                         Neck                            Rear
It is these areas that are the shortest parts of the groom. So we start by pulling out the wire hair only on the body of the dog  (like in Picture C: above ) Because it needs to be the longest when the groom is finished.

On the pictures below I have tried to show how long the hair is by the length of the strokes.
I have tried to show the direction and length.

So after pulling out the wire hair from the body of the dog, I wait for about two weeks before I take out the under coat, ( If I am getting ready for a show then it would all come out together ) from the same area. Now remember we have to work backwards to achieve the finished look. So then you do the areas the same way around the shoulder and bum area like in Picture A: moving up towards the side of the neck. If your dogs shoulders and croup look like the dog in Picture B:

Pull the hair out in those areas before you do down the back and along the ribs. Again, the idea is to let the hair in these "fill-in" areas grow longer. The last parts to be done are around the bum and head. Use a stripping knife for around the face. When you start on the face, do around the cheek area first so you can get the correct " brick" shaped head while viewed from the front. In the picture of the front view of the dog I drew two lines straight down from the cheeks to show how I would pull out the hair from beyond the line's. Remember the length of stroke is the length of hair.


When it all comes together and the whole dog is done, and you are waiting for the longest wire hair's to come in on the body you can comb the dog every day with a very fine tooth comb. It pulls out the undercoat. This groom will last ( if you top up every now and then, the hairs that are sticking up ) about 2-3 months. Comb the body of the dog everyday to help keep it close to the body. I hope this can help get you started. If you have anything to add, or disagree with me in any way, please contact me. If you have something you could teach me please share. I love to learn new ways to do things. If you feel I could help in any other way just drop me a line. I will help if I can.

Grooming with clippers
When using clippers on your Airedale you need to keep in mind the direction of the hair growing on the dog, or you will get clipper marks. I always move the clippers around so that the blades are moving in the same direction of the hair. TOOLS YOU WILL NEED: Electric clippers, Comb, Thinning shears, Large size slicker brush cotton balls, Blades size 7, 10, 30, and a pair of small scissors. Tip: the larger the number of the blade the closer ( shorter hair) you get to the skin. The smaller the number the longer the hair will be. So you would use the 7 for the body, the 10 for the shoulder, side of neck and the tuckup, and the 30 for the through, head, ears, under side of tail, and the butt.
1. With most dogs I would say clip then bath/dry, BUT with an Airedale you bath/dry first. The wire hair of an Airedale is hard enough to get through without having to fight the dirt. Between the wire hair and the dirt, your blades will loose there edge sooner then they need to PLUS the clippers will start getting to hot to be near the dog. Bathing/drying also lifts the hair away from the skin of the dog so you will have an easier time of clipping it.  After the dog is clipped you may ( I would and do ) want to bath/ dry the dog again. No, I'm not nuts, you don't want to leave all of those poky little hairs left on the dog after clipping, it will irritate the skin and you may end up with a hot spot on the dog. Most hot spots on dogs don't start out being that bad, it is the dog licking and licking that makes it bad.
2. OK your dog is bathed/ dried, now were to start. Using a Size 7 blade, I like to start at the top of the dogs spine. Behind the head BUT not the head,  put the clippers at the top of the neck. Then make one clean sweep down the center of the dogs spine towards the base of the tail. Never go against the direction of the hair, move the clippers the same way the hair is pointing. After you have the line down the middle of the back then it is easy going from there. Just stay go with the direction of the hair with every stroke of the clippers. Use the pictures at the top of the page to help you figure out what hair is long or short. 

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© By Wanda Purvis 2001