Barbara Bird, Author

  • Barbara Bird, aka BBird, has been grooming since 1971 and opened Transformation Pet Center in Tucson, Arizona in 1977. In the salon, BBird specializes in Bichons and scissored trims, hand stripping of Terriers, and cat grooming. She has been writing and speaking to groomers for over a decade, and received the Cardinal Crystal Achievement Award as Grooming Journalist of the Year for 2006 and 2007. A regular contributor to Pet Age magazine, Barbara also writes for The Bichon Frise Reporter. She has authored and self-published three books, including Beyond Suds and Scent - Understanding Pet Shampoos and Conditioners. She has also developed a line of aromatherapy products, The Scented Groomer, and conducts online extended education classes at


June 06, 2013



Great information - thanks for posting this.

Tammy ellis

We just had this same lecture a few months back and then a more recent one about a week ago. LOVE LOVE LOVE these seminars these Vet Specialists are putting on! We also had the Eye Care for Animals vet speak at the same seminar. Love learning from them!


I agree 100%, on no pulling hair! It makes a huge difference when you leave well enough ALONE!



Sorry Barb about the above facebook url. I was trying to figure out how I could post this on my facebook page. Are you able to remove the post from your end?


While I do agree that your average dog doesn't need the ear hair plucked, I have reservations on SOME dogs. For example, I have a standard poodle who grows so much ear hair that if left alone, it completely occludes the ear canal! I can "snip" out some with a scissors... but that just takes care of the surface hair. I can tell when she needs her ears plucked, as she CAN'T HEAR when they are getting full. EVEN if I have snipped some away. I have to pluck out most of it before she can hear normally again. I don't obsess over getting every last hair, but I feel I need to continue plucking her ears. I also think it makes a difference as to if the hair comes out easily... she seems to LOVE it when I pluck her ears! She stands sooo good for it. :)

My other poodles get minimal hair, so I don't bother with theirs. Just use the corner of the trimmer or scissors to clip away the extra.


There are exceptions to every rule. The veterinary specialist was trying to tell us that we need to back off the ear plucking. She was saying that plucking the hairs (can) predispose ear infections. It is up to us to weigh this information with specific cases.

Susan kinser

Love the article just wish I could get the vets in my area to read it. I determine plucking on a dog to dog basis. Most don't require it but a few have packed ears and must have some removed. However it never fails if a dog develops an infection the owners return from the vets with instruction for me to pluck the ear hair. I've been able to educate many of my clients with this article but many insist because I get every hair because that's what their vet said.

Barb z

I have been grooming for 40+ years. I have had vets refer dogs to me to have the ears done because I did a really good job on getting the ears cleaned and plucked out completely.
Then this 'information' comes out and I have dogs coming in with plugged ears and when I take a few hairs out,there are globs of residue coming out on the hair from deep in the ear. I know the owners will not be taking the dog to the vet any time soon. So.....I pluck and clean. That is my job, as a professional groomer, to make sure the animal in my care,leaves my shop done as well as I am able to,and that includes having the ears cleaned and the hair removed so the air can get into the canal to dry it out.
If that is wrong then,so be it!
I pluck a few hairs from every dog's ear to see what is down deep. I use separate haemostats for each ear. I clean them between dogs,with alcohol and soap and water and a toothbrush. I will recommend a vet visit if I feel it is necessary but,if I know the owners do not have the cash for this,I do my best.

Barbara Bird

Thank you for posting, Barb. You state your position very well. I salute you for 40+ years of doing right by the dogs in your care. There are both groomers and vets for which this dermatological information flies in the face of what they have been doing and recommending for years. The suggestion of changing protocols can be very challenging, especially when we believe we have been doing things the "right" way. I remember the first time a new bather suggested to me that we might bathe dogs before clipping and combing. I nearly fired him on the spot. I had learned from the best and I had learned to ALWAYS clip and completely brush out before bathing. How dare he suggest otherwise? I was so entrenched in my old ways that I would not even give it a try. Two years later I discovered on my own that pre-bathing was way easier in most cases. I wished I could find that bather and apologize.

I don't wish to argue the matter. I am reporting what the veterinary ear specialist said. She did not say that ear plucking is never warranted. She said that the ear is a self-cleaning mechanism and that the hair that grows in the ear is not the cause of ear problems. Poor hygiene is the cause of many ear problems. Her recommendation was that groomers do more ear cleaning and less ear plucking. She recommended cleaning protocol that utilizes ear cleaner that can be poured into the ear canal and massaged at the base of the ear, then allow the dog to shake it out. The outer ear can be swabbed with cleaner on cotton, but no pushing into the ear canal.

Another thing that Dr. Newton touched on that perked up some groomer ears was NOT to use cotton balls in the dog's ears while bathing. The potential of pushing wax and debris down into the ear canal with the cotton is worse than any risk from a little fresh water in the ear, according to Dr. Newton. Jeez, that's another thing I was taught to do back in 1971! I gave up that practice when I opened my own shop and forgot to take the cotton balls out a couple of times. After some comments from clients about the dog having cotton in the ears and a Standard Poodle returning with the cotton balls from the grooming 6 weeks earlier still in the ears, I abandoned the practice unless specifically requested by the client. If that had not happened I would probably still be stuffing cotton balls in the ears for every bath. Old habits become the "right way".

These practices were the right way at the time we were taught with the knowledge that was then available. The advanced study of veterinary dermatology as a specialty has resulted in gains in knowledge about the canine ear. Based on this advanced knowledge, the veterinary ear specialists are suggesting a modification in ear care protocol that is less invasive. There may be specific instances where plucking out some ear hair may be recommended in order to return an ear to optimum health. Current knowledge, according to Dr. Newton, clearly suggests that preventative plucking is doing more harm than good. I'm just saying...don't shoot the messenger. I know it's hard for some to hear. (ear joke?)

Heidi Christensen

I am not sure I agree with this! MY Standard Poodle got several ear infections and Vet said it was because nobody had plucked the hair from his ears. He eventually became deaf. When the dog has especially thick hair inside his ears I think it NEEDS to be plucked!

Kevin Walker

I do not agree with this article, at least as it pertains to standard poodles. I agreewroth Heidi. I also own a standard and I know for a fact it is best to pluck her ears. Copious amounts of hair is bothersome to my poodle and I can understand why. It's uncomfortable to have hair in the ear canals, not to mention it doesn't allow for the ear to breathe. I will continue to pluck the hair from the ear canals of my spoo. I do think it's very important to be gentle when plucking the hair. excessive plucking can cause bruising and irritation, causing infection.


Just glanced over the article but that seemingly contradicts everything our veterinarians know...clean water can of course cause infections and we pluck ears in the clinic all the time to get more air in the canal, not tra wax and debris, and make cleaning much better... whoever wrote this is clearly not a medical professional and shouldn't be giving advice like they are one.

jeannette Hagen Fauntleroy poodles

I tried not plucking and got great wads of dirty hair blocking the ears, so all my poodles have plucked ears. I wash the ears inside during baths with shampoo and make sure they shake out all of the moisture, which can be done because there is no hair to cling too.


If you were to actually read the article, it is clear that is it is a report following a presentation by Dermatology 4 Animals, Dr. Heide Newton, DVM, DACVD. The suggestion for less ear plucking did not originate with the author, a grooming professional of 44+ years. The author is simply reporting. "Ears, What Every Groomer Needs to Know" was one of a series of interdisciplinary presentations by the Tucson veterinary specialists to the professional groomers in the community.


I find myself having to elaborate and defend Dr. Newton without the benefit of her counsel. To Kevin: Yes, rigorous yanking out of ear hair is going to cause more damage to the tissue of the inner ear than cautious plucking of a few hairs at a time. However, EVERY hair that is removed leaves an open follicle and an opportunity for the very opportunistic Pseudonomas to invade the tissue.

To the questions raised by groomers at this seminar, and the issue of Standard Poodle ears was the greatest expressed concern, Dr. Newton said that "Less is best in regards to plucking." IOW, pluck just as few hairs as possible. Also, deep cleaning of the ear canal PRIOR to any plucking with an antiseptic ear solution was recommended.


Recently, I received the following email and obtained permission to post here:
Hi Barbara. I read your article about "no more plucking". It was posted on one of my Standard Poodle FB group sites. I have been std poodle owner since 2002 and have struggled with this issue. We now have a puppy, he is 4 mos old. We took home for his first professional groom a few weeks ago. We researched and found groomer we trusted. But
we did have conversation about not getting water in his ears as our last poodle would get ear infection almost immediately if he got water in his ears. Well we picked up our Paco and she had plucked his ears
and and next day he had ear infection. Took him to vet and he said no harm done and we were given drops which cleared it up. We didn't have our older poodles ears plucked often. So I'm thinking I'm with
you on the plucking. We did use Blue Power Treatment on previous poodle ears and swear by it, but have been reluctant to use on our
little one yet. Do you think he's too young?

Cindy Salzillo

Thanks for posting. My previous standard was on steroids and antibiotics numerous times. Finally I stopped the plucking and the head shaking, tearing at his ears went away. For him it was a great decision. Never had a problem again.

Beverly Hall

I have a Bichon. Twice I took him to the vet to have his ears plucked, when I heard him yelp I asked how they did it, they used the surgical stats, twisted the hair and pulled. He had an infection after that. I had to use the medicine in his ears that makes the hair outside all greasy. I used a qtip once a week and Burts Bees ear cleaner and go around his ear. And use a rag with some and use my finger. When done I pull what I can get with my nails and scissor it and just keep them clean. When I bathe him I squirt itnin the ear and massage it. His ears are great!

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