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Dog Grooming/Poodle Ear Hair Pulling


Hello! I have a 2 year old female standard poodle with the furriest ears my vet has ever seen (she describes them as a "forest of ear hair").

For the first year, I diligently worked to pull her ear hair.  However, I wasn't making any headway (still looked like a forest) and it was creating some behavioral issues. My usually sweet and obedient girl was becoming a bit aggressive when I tried to pull her hair, and she was getting nervous to have me touch her head. She wasn't overly aggressive- no snarling or lashing out, but she did bear her teeth and growl at me (once).

After doing some research, I decided to see how she did with just ear cleanings. I read that some dogs are actually more at risk for infection when you pull hair, since it leaves a tiny opening in the skin. She doesn't swim and her ears don't dangle in the water (I shave them flat, no long poofy poodle ears), so excessive moisture isn't a huge issue. I bought some blunted scissors and kept the hair inside her ears as short as I could, and cleaned them every week with rubbing alcohol and a cotton pad (by swabbing my finger inside the pad in her ear).

I thought it was working just fine, until I cleaned her ears last night. I realized on one side, what I thought was just a tangle of hair was actually a thumbnail sized glob of wax and tangled ear hair. I got it out, and luckily it doesn't seem to have caused any issues... no smell, no drainage, she isn't scratching or shaking her head any more than usual. Unfortunately though, I think I have no choice but to go back to pulling her ear hairs.

Herein lies the problem. I do not want to go back to that stressful situation that I had created before; I don't want my dog to be scared for me to touch her ears, and I would like to avoid putting her in a situation that would cause her to become aggressive. She *hates* the ear hair pulling. I don't think it's pain... I use a powder and don't pull out too much at once. I think it is just uncomfortable and she doesn't like being confined. We usually do it in the bathroom and she'll go all the way to a corner. That's when I worry about aggression because she's going to feel trapped, and I just want to avoid that situation altogether so I don't create even more problems. That's a slippery slope, and since she doesn't have any aggressive tendencies normally, I think it is best to just try to avoid putting her in that situation.

Do you have any tips on ear hair pulling and training her to tolerate it? How often should I pull her hair? Should her ears eventually be hollowed out inside, or am I just pulling to create more air flow? Is there such a thing as a numbing agent, maybe in the drying powder, that might lessen the discomfort for her?

At least now I know where the wax builds up and I can focus my pulling attention there. I'm glad I caught it before it got worse, but I certainly felt like a horrible dog mom when I discovered it.

Thanks, and any tips are appreciated.


Hi Kate,
You know you are not the first person who has dealt with the situation but let me just put your mind at rest. You realize that poodles were originally retrievers and they are meant to go in the water. The hair helps keep water out of the canal thus keeps them from getting ear infections, so there actually is a reason that there's so much hair in her ears. Yes, some dogs  have more hair in their ears than others but when you have a situation such as yours I don't think that not cleaning the ear canal is that  problematic. If she hates it so much then you shouldn't be doing it so frequently. These dogs, like Portuguese water dogs, and a few other breeds, often do you have the problem that you mentioned getting bacterial infections because of plucking.  I think you're right on the money with your assessment of the situation and I don't really believe that you're doing it so often  is good for your dog. It was probably fairly easy to get that plug that wasn't it? So if you clean her ears couple times year with and ear cleaning solution that you massage into her ears and then dry it as best you can don't bother cutting it short because that's when the plugs build up and you really can't get the grip on it when you need too if it has to be pulled. Have you tried using locking hemostats and ear powder? I usually use the hemostat with a good dose of ear powder and then twist the hemostat and pull straight out. Don't try to make them so perfectly clean either that's another trick because you really don't need that your canal to be empty just cleanable.
You sound dedicated so give her and yourself a break.
Then again,you could always let the vet do it -used to be part of well visits before they got so high and mighty, like cleaning anal glands!
I hope this helps you reconcile your problem.

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ElizaBeth CRONK (Horch)


Professional Dog Groomer-How to groom dogs- all breeds but specialize in the Art of the Hand Plucked Terrier, Bichon and Portugese Water Dog. Scissoring, clippering, and most known for hand plucked terrier skills. I am well known for my private business in Manhattan. I train owners and professionals looking to upgrade their skills Trained at NY School of Dog Grooming and apprenticed with several Internationally known expert breeders, handlers, and judges, assisted many years Westminster and Montgomery Kennel club shows.


28 years private residential dog grooming service- I have groomed over 30,000 dogs I teach professionals and private clients

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New York School of Dog Grooming/ worked with many professional handlers, assisted many dog shows, bred my own dogs, private tutoring

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