To get an idea of how it works you could visit as many shows as possible, you'll be able to see the Irish in the perfect condition. It will also be of help to get information from top representative of the breed as well as to watch an expert at work. Condition and growth of the coat may be quite different between different Irish there unfortunately isn't any splendid formula as to the intervals of trimming a coat.
Irish Terriers have a double coat. They have a thick under coat and a harsh outer coat. Each ITs coat can vary in texture. A "broken coat" according to the Irish Terrier standard is the only "correct" coat. But there are many variations of coats that an Irish Terrier can have, smooth coat, flat coat, curly coat, wavy coat, open coat, soft coat and pick out coat to name a few.
Hand-stripping is the only grooming method that should be used on an Irish Terrier. "To strip" means to pull out the dead hair of the outer coat, it is not painful for the dog (when done correctly) and most dogs find it quite relaxing...ours usually fall asleep! It is not hard to learn, you can either use a dull hand-stripping knife or your forefinger and thumb. If your stripping knife is too sharp it you may end up cutting their coat instead of stripping it, it may be an idea to learn with your forefinger and thumb first.
Your should hand-strip your IT at least 3 - 4 times a year but this also depends on the coat of your dog, the coarser the coat the easier it'll be for you to hand-strip them. You should start hand-stripping you IT when they are around 5 months old. However, your puppy should have already had a bit of a hand-stripping at his breeders, allowing them to get used to the process and the hand-stripping table. It is important to never wash your dog before you hand-strip them, by doing this the hair is too clean and you will struggle to pull the hair out cleanly and are more likely to break the hair if you do so. As well as not washing them before it is important to not wash them straight after you hand-strip them, by pulling out the hair you are opening up their pores, you have to give them a couple day to properly close before you wash them, you don't want shampoo getting in there and irritating your dog. However if you need to give them a wash after you have hand-stripped them you can just give them a wash with just water, not shampoo as this can get into their pores and cause them to have skin irritations.
Clipping a coat causes damage to the coat, they loose the beautiful red tips of the hair resulting in the coat becoming dull and not vibrant. It can also cause the coat to lose its natural waterproofing quality and to grow softer and curlier.
"Show" stripping is done completely differently than pet stripping. It will take much longer and is done in a period of stages. Below is a fairly simple grooming chart but shows all you need to know, you can also use this as a guide when you're hand-stripping your dog just as a pet...because you still want them to look nice. In show conditions an Irish Terrier is not supposed to carry much hair on their head or on the sides of their neck, they should have a bit more hair on the back of their neck, and more on their back, sides and quarters.
A prime coat roughly takes around 10 weeks to grow but you want the jacket to be around 14 weeks or more before you try and strip it again, at this point the hair will be long enough to come easily. Most people keep on top of the coat by doing a little bit each week. The trick to trimming the legs and the face is to trim them every 3 weeks. By doing this you can rotate the hair and develop a multi-layer column of hair. Short hair to give it is vibrant colour, medium hair length hair to give it strength and long hair to give it its fullness. The bottom of the feet and the rectum area get scissored and the belly should be done with an electric clipper. Professional handlers trim their dogs coat every 10 days, this keeps the coat in good condition.
No man is born a master of his craft! Handstripping is an art and can be learnt through patients and by study and experience.