Home Grooming The Companion Old English Sheepdog

Plucking Hair From The Ears
Of An Old English Sheepdog
(Easy Dog)

Below is just one way an Old English Sheepdog owner tends to a dog's ears.  Dogs often need to be slowly desensitized to any new process.  This process can be more challenging to some owners because some dogs are more sensitive to having hair plucked from their ears. The vibration of electric clippers can startle a dog so you need to be slowly desensitize a dog to this process.  You need to proceed slowly, respect the dog's limits, praise and reward lavishly so the dog will learn to tolerate it.  Only you know your dog and how he or she may respond.  Seek assistance from a professional if there is any chance your dog could be harmed by it's exuberance or fear or if the dog could display an aggressive behavior. Follow all product safety instructions provided by individual manufacturers.  Try to make grooming a special one-on-one time that both you and your dog will look forward to.   These instructions are offered as-is and without guarantee or warranty.

When I was first told by by my vet that I needed to pluck an Old English Sheepdog's ear hair, I know I made a face.  "Oooh... but it's going to hurt."  He flipped up the ear flap on the puppy, pinched a couple of hairs between his thumb and index finger and quickly plucked it out.  He put the ear flap back down.  That particular dog never flinched.  That was my introduction to the process of plucking ear hair. 

Ear Plucking... some dogs tolerate the process very well. Others hate having it done and may require sedation by a veterinarian so the hair can be professionally removed.  This is why it's important to get the puppy or dog to view this process as tolerable.  The way I've desensitized my Old English Sheepdog puppies to ear plucking is during their "introduction to grooming". Even my Old English Sheepdog that arrived at close to 11 months of age went through this same process.  It involves brief play grooming sessions each evening. I think many dogs look for, "What's in it for me?".  All of my dogs are food motivated so it makes things easier.  Play grooming... treats... play grooming.... treats... play grooming... treats... etc.

The first time I pluck a dog's ears, I flip an ear flap (also known as the pinna), pinch maybe 2-3 hairs and quickly remove it.  I give the dog a treat immediately after plucking the hair so he or she associates the action with "something good is going to follow".  We then go back to play grooming.  I go to the other ear a little later do the same thing and that's it for the day. It doesn't appear that much has been accomplished but if you play groom every evening, it can add up over a month or two.  I slowly add a couple more hairs to each pluck as days goes by but only if the dog has been tolerating it well. 



What You're Trying To Accomplish...

Above is an example of an Old English Sheepdog's ear before being plucked and after.  The reason for plucking the hair from an Old English Sheepdog's ears is to improve airflow, make cleaning easier and to reduce the risk of infection from bacteria or yeast.  Ears that don't have plugs of hair in them will dry out faster too.  The hair is plucked from both inside the ear canal and from the ear flap near the ear opening using my fingers.  I use a battery operated palm clipper on the ridge in front of the ear opening.

This is an example of what can be found inside an Old English Sheepdog's ears.  It's a waxy clump of hair that was
removed with my fingers from deep in the ear canal. Hair left in the ears tends to collect wax and it can limit air flow.  


This is simply the ear care product I use.  There are
many others... use the product(s) you feel works best.

Some people prefer to use tools to remove ear hair... I choose to use my fingers instead.  I don't have to worry accidentally injuring the dog if he suddenly jumps because someone's at the door. I surely don't have the most beautiful hands but my short nails won't cause a dog any harm either.  You will need to be careful if you do have longer finger nails. 

  • Bio-Groom Ear-Fresh Astringent Ear Powder
    Use: Ear powder allows you to get a better grip on the hair your trying to remove.

  • If your dog is prone to ear infections, speak with your vet about the best products to use.  Ask whether applying an ear antibiotic immediately after plucking might help to prevent ear infections due to bacteria.  These products usually requires a prescription. 

    One drug in particular that I've used is said to cause hearing loss- Mometamax.

  • I wait at least a couple of days for the plucked ear tissue to settle down before using any ear cleaner with alcohol in it because it would sting.  If ears are waxy, I will use an alcohol-free solution and a cotton ball to wipe the ear flap and outer ear canal area down. Choose an ear cleaner that's less likely to sting like Pfizer Oti-Clens or Butler Euclens Otic Cleanser.

Ear powder between the
thumb and index finger
plucking hair from ear flap.

The Technique (for the dog with the white ear)... I've been known to get a little carried away with ear powder (see the dog's ear below and in the other photo demo).  If the dog's ears are particularly greasy/oily and there's lots of hair, it's best to use the "puff" method to dispense the powder.  On dogs with less profuse ear hair, rather than "puffing" the powder on the ear hair, I sometimes put a small amount on my index finger and press my thumb into it.  It's just enough to give me the grip I need to pluck the hair.  I repeat this as needed. 

Plucking is a quick, decisive act... not a slow, pulling motion.
It does NOT need to be lavish or exaggerated though. You don't want to excite or distress the dog.

Before Beginning... I inspect the ears to see if they are unusually dirty or for signs of infection like redness, yeast or drainage.   If the ears are dirty, I thoroughly clean them out and wait a couple of days to pluck them.  If any infection or unusual odor is noted, I will not pluck the ears.  I address the problem with a visit to the vet and wait until the ears are again healthy.

If the ears look good, I gather up my supplies and treats if the dog is less tolerant.  I have the dog get up on the grooming table or I sit next to them on the floor, couch or bed.   I have the dog lie on his/her side and give the dog a treat... I then go to work.  NOTE:  I give a treat with the hand I'm not using to remove ear hair! 

I first comb out the ear hair away from the ear opening and make sure there is no infection.  If I find an infection, I will not proceed with the ear plucking. 

The area inside the green box is the area I focus on first... it's the front of the ear opening.  Note that I do not pluck the hair in this area.  Instead, I use a palm clipper to trim it shorter.

Clipper Tips

  • Before trimming for the first time, get to know how your dog's ears were created.

  • Glide the clipper blade over the skin, don't apply pressure or you could cause painful razor burn. 

  • Keep the blade level with the skin as you shave so you don't cut skin.  Use extra care when there are narrow or raised areas of skin like the raised area in front of the ear opening.

  • You could also use scissors if you do not have clipper.

  • If you use a standard electric clipper and a #10 blade, be sure the blade is cool before trimming this sensitive area.

Note: The hair has already been shaved off and plucked so you can see the process more clearly. 

I use a battery operated palm clipper on the front area of the ear opening (inside the green box above).  I either cover the ear opening with my thumb or a cotton ball or I trim away from the opening to prevent the hair clippings from falling inside the ear canal.  Pick off any loose hair before removing the cotton ball or your thumb.

This picture shows the direction I glide the clippers.
No need to apply pressure as you clip... you're just
removing the tufts of hair so there will be better airflow. 

You can also trim away from the ear opening if you're
careful to avoid the outer ridge/edge of the ear opening.
You never want it to come into contact with the clipper teeth.

I then pluck the hair within the green area
and inside the ear canal using my fingers.

I grasp a small amount of hair and pluck it in the direction the hair grows.  If a dog is real sensitive, I'll only pluck a couple of hairs at a time because it's always best to maintain the dog's trust.  The job does not need to be completed in one sitting.  The idea is to get the dog to willingly tolerate the process, not dread it.

Almost done... just plucking some of the hair from the ear flap.

This ear is all done!   I then do the same thing with the other ear.

I take a quick look in the ears over the next couple of days after plucking them to be sure there's no sign of infection or irritation.  I'll clean the ears with one of the alcohol-free ear cleaners previously mentioned if they look a little irritated.  I'll wait a couple of days before using the usual K-9 Liquid Health Ear Solution that contains alcohol. 

This Old English Sheepdog's ears are very easy to maintain.  She doesn't mind the process as long as there's a reward at the end of the plucking session.  Some dogs have a lot more ear hair and don't care much for the process.  Click here for one such dog.

Copyright 2010- J. Dunne.  All rights reserved.  The photographs and instructions on this page are the property of the author. Do not reproduce or copy for public use without written permission from the author.


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