ear plucking: the debate
There are two sides to the ear plucking debate: to pluck or not to pluck.
In school, I was taught to pluck the ear hair (commonly seen in poodles, bichon frises, schnauzers and maletese) using a sprinkle of ear powder (a sticky powder which aids in holding onto the hair shafts) and clamping shut the hemostats onto a hunk of hair residing in the ear canal. Twist said hemostats until the hair eventually come out. Most dogs will squeal as you twist, depending on how much hair is being pulled and how sensitive they are. It is not a joyful procedure, but necessary, in order the get the hair out, which can clog the ear canal and cause ear infections, trapping moisture and bacteria (and chronic ear infections can cause neurological damage).
However, when I attended the All American Grooming Conference in Chicago last summer, I was introduced to the ear hair shaving method by Irina Pinkusevich. Pinkusevich has been grooming for over 20 years, has received numerous awards, including Groomer of the Year Award in 2008 and competed on Groom Team USA in 2009. She now travels around the country, teaching Poodle Grooming Seminars while also working at the Merryfield School of Pet Grooming in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She is a breeder of Poodles, an owner of Poodles, and is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer. She said that in the past, she always plucked her Poodles’ ear hair, resulting in many ear infections. When she started shaving the hair from the ears, she has very rarely seen an ear infection. Her theory was that plucking a bunch of hair from the ear leaves the delicate skin of the ear canal irritated and inflamed, which can leave the ear open to infection, or to being further irritated by itching from the dog. She suggests shaving the hair in the ear canal and around the ear, so that air flow is able to get through and cleaning and drying the ear with a safe formula. If the air is able to get into the canal, it will stay dry, leaving a less than ideal environment for bacteria and odors.
Since then, I have been using the shaving method. It is less uncomfortable for the dogs and I have not been hearing of any ear infections from my clients.
Bottom line—if the ear is compacted with hair, your dog will be more prone to ear infections. The hair can be plucked or shaved. Especially if your dog has sensitive ears, or is nervous at the groomer’s, it is something worth discussing with your groomer.
Remember to take your dog to a groomer that you connect with and feel comfortable discussing your dog’s grooming with!