About Me:

I am a professional Pet Groomer. I have been grooming for 28 years. This Blog is a kind of diary of my work. I wish I had started years ago, writing some of the experiences I have had while grooming. Most days are fun, some can be sad, some can be just down right crazy. If you are a pet owner and come across this blog, I hope it helps you understand how your pet is groomed. If you are a Pet Groomer, I hope you can relate to some of the stories. Maybe even learn a grooming tip or can leave a friendly grooming tip for me. There is always something to learn, no matter how long you have been grooming.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Changing My Services

As of tomorrow I will be changing some of the grooming services that I offer at my shop.

Well, changing probably is not the right word to use.

Lets see...I will be changing how I offer some of my grooming services.
There, that sounds better.

How am I changing things?

I am glad that you asked.
Over the last few years I have run into conflicts with owners over plucking ears and expressing anal glands. I have always included these extra grooming services in my full grooms. Many, many times Veterinarians have sent dogs with infected ears and full anal glands to me and told the owner to make sure that 'the groomer' plucks the ears and empties the anals.

Times are a changing.....

In recent years, Veterinarians have seemed to have a change of heart about plucking ears and expressing anal glands. There are now different beliefs out in the Veterinarian world.

The only problem with this?

All Veterinarians do not agree. They are split. They are saying and telling owners different things.

They are putting groomers in the middle.

They are making my life miserable.

They are driving me crazy!!!!!!

To pluck, or nor to pluck.

To squeeze, or not to squeeze.

I ran into both sides of this debate last week.

I had one customer come back with her dog (3 weeks later) because she did not think that we plucked her dogs ears. Her Vet is adamant that the ears be plucked whistle clean with each grooming. (If a dog only has a very small amount of hair in the ears, and the ears are nice, clean and healthy, we usually don't pluck them at that grooming session,(we do still clean them) but they may need to be plucked at the next grooming session.) This was the case with this particular dog. The ears were now due for a good plucking. The dog was due back in another week.

A day later I had a new customer in. Her dogs ears were packed with hair. They looked like they had two little cotton balls living in them. The hair came out really easy and the ears looked nice, clean and healthy.

When I told the owner about the amount of hair that I got out of the ears she freaked.
"My Vet said not to pluck the ears," she told me. "He said that the hair is a filter that keeps dirt and bacteria out of the ears canals," she informed me. 

Hmmmmmm, let me think about this a minute, because this is a new one for me. I haven't heard this excuse for not plucking ears before. So, if all of that hair in the ears acts as a filter, what happens to all of those dogs out there that don't ever have any hair in their ears?




Okay, I have thought about it.......bullsh*t!!!

I am so tired of defending why I do and don't do something.
I am tired of worrying about whether I should, or shouldn't do something.
Something that I have been doing for years.

So, I have made a decision.

My shop will no longer be plucking ears, expressing anal glands, or filing nails unless specifically requested by the owner.

I have made a sign for my lobby counter.

I made a sign in Printshop®.

I also bought a standup sign holder at the local office supply store so that I could place the sign on my counter, right at eye view for all of my customers to see. 

Because I know from experience, that many people do not take the time to read signs, I have also written up a handout to give my customers, that goes into more detail then the short, to the point counter sign does.

So, between my counter sign and handout, I am hoping that this change in my grooming services will go smoothly.

I think that the biggest problem that we will have, is being careful to not automatically preform these services without checking to make sure that the owner wants them.

It is so second nature to empty anal glands while bathing, and to pluck ears that are packed with hair.

This is what my handout says:

A Notice To Our Customers

     For over 25 years, plucking ears and expressing anal glands have been included (at no extra charge) in all of our full service groomings. We had not ever had any problems offering this service until recently.
     We have come to discover in the last few years that the Veterinary Community is now split on their views about these services. Some Veterinarians now feel that ears should no longer be plucked, and anal glands should be left alone. Still other Veterinarians feel  strongly that a dogs ears should be plucked clean of all hair, and anal glands should be expressed with every grooming, or by Veterinary visit.
     These clashing views have left groomers in a tough, and confusing  position. Do we continue to pluck ears and express anal glands, or do we stop offering this service all together?
      We here at My Furry Friends have decided to do something in the middle. We will continue to offer these services, but only at the express request of the pet owner at the time of the grooming.
     We also reserve the right to make the decision (in the best interest of your pet) as to whether the ears need to be plucked, and the anal glands need to, or can be expressed.
     These services will also only be provided (upon request)  if your dog allows it. If we are unable to provide these services for you, and they do need to be done, we will recommend that you take your dog to see their Veterinarian.

I hope that this will end the debate over ears and anals.
I am leaving it totally up to the owner.

Some groomers may be wondering, and I am sure that I am going to be asked this question by some of my customers; 'will the grooming be cheaper if their dog does not get these services?'

My answer; 'no' the price is the same.


My full groom prices are not broken up into individual prices.
Nails, Anal Glands, and Ear Cleaning have always been included in a full groom at no extra cost.
If I totaled up a charge for each thing that I do during a full groom, my prices would be much, much higher.

Lets just use a Bichon for examples sake, and give a price if we were charging for each individual part of the grooming....(these are only example prices)

~Combing/Brushing/Demat: $10 an hour
~Bath/Blow dry: $30  to 35
~Sanitary trim: $10
~Full body hair cut: with clippers $20, with scissors $30
~Plucking and Cleaning Ears: $10
~Expressing Anal Glands: $10
~Clipping and filing Nails: $10

Total price of a groom on a Bichon if every part of the groom was individually priced... Bath and trim $70↑ , Full haircut $105↑.

This is why I do not give a price break if an owner asks not to do the nails, ears, or anals.
They are already getting a great deal.
I already do the nails, ears and anals at no extra cost when a customer is getting a full groom.

We will see how this goes.
I am sure that 90% of my customers will continue to want me to preform all of these services.

My goal is to protect myself from having owners get angry with me for doing something that I have always done as part of a regular grooming, just because their Vet  is telling them something different.

 Happy Grooming, MFF


  1. When I was first learning how to groom, we only expressed anal glands if the owners specifically requested it (which wasn't very often, so I never got very good at it) but we did pluck ears on every dog.

    Imagine my surprise when, almost 2 years ago, I started at my new place and was told that we do not EVER express anal glands and only pluck ears if the owners specifically request it.

    My boss used to be a vet tech, and she believes that anal glands should only be expressed as needed by a vet or vet tech. Since groomers aren't given that same kind of training, she doesn't want us doing it at all - which is fine with me because I'm STILL not sure I ever learned the proper technique.

    She also comes from the school of thought that plucking ear hair causes trauma to the ear canal and causes more ear infections than it prevents, so that is why we don't do it unless the customer asks (or the ear hair becomes matted deep enough in the canal that it can't be cut out).

    I wipe out all dogs' ears with Witch Hazel at the end of every groom and put cotton in ears of dogs with chronic ear problems during the bath - and I only see maybe 2 ear infections per month, so there must be something to that theory. I saw WAY more infections when I was plucking all dogs' ears (that had hair to pluck).

    Either way, I think it is wise to give customers the option whether or not to squeeze, pluck, or file.

    1. I don't know Jennifer...
      A long time ago I showed my Vet how I was taught to express anal glands. He told me that I was doing it the right way, and that it was the same way that he did it most of the time. He told me that he only expresses anals internally when it is necessary. I personally don't have a problem doing them. After all of these years, I could probably do it in my sleep. lol It also never used to be a problem. It has only been recently that I have been reading articles about not expressing anals and Vets suddenly saying not to. The funny thing is, I rarely express my own dogs anals. I always check them, but I only express them if I think that they are getting too full. I feel that you should treat anals as a dog by dog thing.
      As for ears....I have mixed feelings on that too. I do believe that plucking hair can and does cause trauma on some dogs, but not all. I think that any hair that you really have to tug to get out, whether you are using ear powder or not, will cause trauma to the ear canal. But, there are a lot of dogs where the hair comes out very easily, and does not cause any trauma to the ear canal at all. I have always plucked all of my dogs ears with no problems. How often I do it depends on each of my dogs. Two of my St Poos get their ears plucked maybe 3 times a year. My white St Poo must have her ears kept free of hair at all times or she will have problems. As long as there is no hair in her ears, she does great. So here again, I feel like it is something that you deal with on a dog by dog basis.
      Well, those are my thoughts anyway. :) I think that you should continue to do things the way you feel comfortable.
      Lisa, MFF

  2. grooming customers are crazy....good luck

  3. Same here....danged if we do....danged if we don't...ugh!

  4. Thank you thank you thank you for addressing this!!!! How is it possible someone I don't know has the same problems I do ,usually at the same time ! For years its been a struggle being a groomer at a vet hospital owned by a vet that's out of touch with current "trends" for lack of a better word,ie not plucking and not doing anal glands as routine is my philosophy based on research ,experience,specialist opinion.yet the old style vet swears everything shouls be plucked and squeezed even on lil puppies n kittens ! Drives me nuts,then a client comes in and says "please put a note for groomer not to pluck ears and do anal glands on my dog,my vet says it absolutely doeant need to be done " now what... Client and their vet and pet or boss ?? I go by ckients request 99% of the time,my biggest exception is darn schnauzer ears.some of those suckers ears are completely occluded qith hair.thick hair.in those data I use a #40 against grain to clean out as much as possible not only for sanitation but asthetics too.so technically i didnt pluck but I did accomplish some removal of all that hair.if someone says no anal glands and the poor dog feels like theyve got golfballs under their tail I do a "light empty " to alleviate some of that pressure but not completely empty to annoy pet or ownee and I make the owner aware at pick up.
    So far this methodology seems to be keeping me in middle ground with boss,owners,pets and outside vets...for now :)
    Seriously love reading your blog ,you have no idea how much stress it alleviated to know that somewhere else in this big bad world someone else feels my pain :)

    1. Hi karaszoo,
      I am glad that I could help. It does feel nice to know that you are not the only one out there dealing with craziness everyday. :)
      I personally think that your boss should be on your side with doing what the PAYING customer is asking for. Even if he may not agree with what the customers Vet says.
      I once had to rush my Lab to another Vet, because my Vet had already closed for the day. Other then the fact that he insisted on giving my dog a full physical, (because he didn't want to wait till the next day to get my records)He stood there and bad mouthed the meds that my Vet had me using on my Labs ears. It really ticked me off. I thought that that was in really poor taste.
      I think that you are doing the right thing by listening to your customers. Will your boss be there to cover your back if the other Vet accuses you of plucking or squeezing when they said not to? I feel your frustration.
      Thanks for reading my blog! :)
      Lisa, MFF

    2. Hi Lisa,

      A veterinarian should never put down a colleague's treatment plan, I totally agree with you there - but as for the full physical exam that is necessary for the doctor to be able to establish a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship and diagnose and prescribe any medications for you - even ear ones. I'll liken it to the situations you talk about in your blog very often where the client doesn't realize that you have to clip close to the skin in order to get out mats that are close to the skin because they can't see them underneath the half of the coat that they have been brushing - you are trained to look at the grooming needs of the whole dog when determining what the best course of action to ensure that the dog looks and feels better after you're done, and a veterinarian is trained to look at the medical needs of the whole dog when determining a treatment plan as well. It would be malpractice to diagnose a problem in your dog and prescribe medication for it without looking at the whole dog, not just the ears (if those are the problem you were presenting for). Hopefully that makes sense to you!

      I love your blog, thank you for your thoughts. :)


    3. Hi Ally,

      I think that my hang-up here is with being the middleman. Different Vets have different beliefs, as do groomers. I know that there are a lot of groomers out there that refuse to empty anals or pluck and clean ears.

      These are services that I have been providing for so many years it is second nature to me. Sad to say, and this is nothing against Veterinarians, but I have had so many pet owners come to me to empty anals and pluck and clean ears, because they don't want to pay an office visit along with the cost for the service (which is usually twice as much as I charge) Even when I tell them that the Vet NEEDS to be the one to work on their dogs infected ear, they will still stand there and beg me to do it then get angry at me if I refuse....middleman. (shaking head)

      Believe me, I am more than happy to direct a customer to their Vet to take care of problem anals and bad ears. I also like to try to help Vets out by shaving hair away from a sore so that the Vet can see it. To clean out ears so that a Vet can get in the ear and apply any medicine necessary. (I personally don't see how a Vet, or pet owner can get meds. down into the ear canal if it is packed with hair. (especially the pet owners)

      I have a Vet close to my shop that will not clip nails on a dog....well, a dog that is awake....this Vet tells the pet owners that if they have their dogs teeth cleaned he/she will clip the nails while the dog is under. ??????
      I have gotten so many simple nail jobs because of this.

      I am very, very careful not to disagree with what a customers Vet told them. If, I think that something does not sound right, I will just tell the pet owner that they can always get a second opinion if they are not sure about something.
      Even when I am 100% sure that I know what is wrong with the dog, I will not tell the owner. I just tell them to see their Vet as soon as possible. The last thing I want is to have a Vet call me because I stepped on their toes.

      Boy, I am rambling, aren't I? I'll stop now. Thanks Ally for you comment. :)

      Lisa, MFF

  5. I guess that is my favorite part about working in a vet office. The vets want me to pluck ears and express glands so they never tell clients different. 90% of my grooming clients use the vets in the building so we're all on the same page.

  6. Just say those services are complimentary ;) Just because you don't want a mint on your pillow doesn't make your hotel stay cheaper!

    That's a new one, filter hehe, made me giggle :) This is what I understand (I talk to a few vets in my area and they are always going for the newest technology and techniques and information, they are quite liberal ;) love the vets in Washington)

    Anal glands only really need expressing once a year, once you start expressing them you can cause damage to the anal tissue, which can cause the individual to be unable to express glands themselves. Then they need to be expressed by human hands. I check glands, and only express if they need it done and specifically requested. I have had more than 5 doggies and never did their glands :) and probably never will need to. I fidn that King Charles Cavaliers do tend to need help with their glands more than other breeds I see, it could be genetic as well.

    Ear plucking. Infection is NOT caused by water in the ear, but by the BACTERIA! Water is a molecular substance, which does not reproduce itself! They love that moist, warm, nutritious environment that an ear can create! Mm, absolutely delicious (Did I mention I'm a prevet major now? Grooming pays for my schooling ;)) When you pluck ears, you expose holes where the bacteria CAN get into the ear, BUT if you clean the ear properly, chances of infection are really slim to none. There can be irritation YES, but cmon, you are plucking ears. If I plucked my hairs, I'm sure I'd be irritated too! But some hairs are okay to pluck, just depends on the dog. I clean ears before and after plucking, since I clean the ears in the tub :), then pluck (if needed/requested) when I am finishing up the groom.

    By the way, most vets in my area are recommending your methods of grooming :) like the positive reinforcement and giving them breaks, and not using the "dominance" method.

    Non-groomers that read my comments: it is always best to listen to your professional, but if you have doubts always take it somewhere else to be double checked. I had my doctor tell me I needed surgery for my IT band being too short, and I went to another doctor and they said the same, but when I went to a third doctor, she checked and said I had a herniated disk in my back, that did not require surgery, but only physical therapy to hopefully push it back in. Professionals can be wrong as well :) Double check! Also leave the plucking and gland expression to vets and groomers, don't do it yourself at home :( I had a client try to do it and he damaged the glands so badly, that they had to remove them surgically.

    I say write on the whiteboards you have the prep procedure for each dog :) could be a nice reminder!

    1. Hi Tong,
      I am glad that you are grooming while you are in school. Once you become a Vet you will at least know what groomers go through when they groom. So many Vets out there have no clue and unfortunately like to blame groomers for things that they could not possibly have done.
      Years ago I had a Lhasa in that belong to a long time customer of mine. This Lhasa was done and ready to go home. She was just waiting for me to finish grooming her partner. I had my back to the kennels when I suddenly heard this very labored breathing. I turned to look into the kennels to see who was breathing like that. The Lhasa was sitting there watching her partner, with her tail wagging and....her tongue turning blue! I grabbed her out of the kennel while my husband went to call her owner to tell him to come right away. We had to hold the dogs tongue out to help her get air.
      While waiting for the owner, who only lived about 5 minutes away, my husband called the dogs Vet. He was in surgery, so we called another Vet who was up the street from my shop. When the owner got to my shop, I didn't even give him a chance to get out of his car. I hopped in his passenger seat and told him that the Vet up the street was waiting for us. Needless to say, the owner was shocked. He had not understood how serious the situation was when my husband called him. The Vet took us back right away, but things went down hill from there. When the Vet realized that I was the groomer, he started grilling me about why the dogs breathing was labored. After answering half a dozen rude/accusing questions, I looked at the Vet and asked him if he would please do something to help the dogs breathing and then he could ask me all the questions that he wanted to. That poor dog was just sitting on the examining table struggling to breath and he wasn't paying a bit of attention to it. They took the dog back to give it oxygen and then he continued questioning me. He asked me if my shop had air conditioning, if I had left the dog too long under the dryer and so on...all kinds of questions along those lines. I was beyond pissed. Instead of trying to figure out what was wrong with the dog, that Vet was standing there, in front of the dogs owner/my customer, and more or less accusing ME of doing something to this dog!
      It turned out later that the owner called to tell me that they had to put the Lhasa down because she had a very large tumor on her lung that was causing her to have a hard time breathing. If I had a different kind of personality, I would have gone back to that Vet and ripped him a new one. Can you tell that it still bothers me after all of these years?
      Sorry about that , I kind of ran of on a tangent.
      Lisa, MFF

  7. How can hair be good for their ears?? I am sure yeast does not come from the outside!

  8. As a new groomer, I hear so many mixed opinions about these two services. Thank you!

  9. another idea is contact the vets to mail you a paper of their opinion on whether you should or should not and post both to show the controversy. i think it is very important to get hair out of the dogs ears by plucking air is needed to keep ears dry and healthy and very important to express anal glands if they are full for the dog.it is so obvious the relief the dog gets after to feel more comfortable. i think it is not humane to not help the dogs get comfort and leave the glands full i wonder how the owner would feel with full anal glands... it is true that some dogs have reactions and are sensitive but those are the exceptions.

    1. Hi Shelley,
      I will still be checking all anal glands, and if they are full, and the owner had told me not to express them, I will tell the owner to take their dog to the Vet.
      Lisa, MFF

  10. Ugh! I hate being caught in the middle with vets differing in opinion! I will pluck whatever comes out easily with my fingers (either dry or just a tad of powder). And I don't do anal glands. I feel the most effective way of expressing them is internal expression and anything internal is vet territory. A healthy dog on a good diet should be able to express anal glands on their own when going to the bathroom. I've had a few dogs that started scooting with full anal glands and they had recently changed diets abruptly! If stools are too hard or too soft, the glands won't express naturally.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      I hear about more and more groomers not doing anal glands.
      Lisa, MFF

  11. It may be advisable to seek the current, official stance from the regulatory body which governs the veterinary profession. Science constantly evolves, as new evidence emerges & views are updated accordingly.
    In Britain the British Veterinary Association determines anal gland expression to be a veterinary (medical) procedure. It has published clear guidance on the matter. Despite this some groomers, including some who are aware of the guidance, continue to unnecessarily express anal glands, without regard for risk, simply because thats how they were taught. More worryingly, some schools still teach groomers to routinely express anal glands.
    The BVA had a similar response for ear plucking, when queried by a groomer friend researching an article for a grooming publication about what is & what isn't part of a groomer's job. The organisation provided information on what does/doesn't constitute a veterinary procedure in the context of ear plucking, as well as the risks & consequences.
    The bottom line with regards to both procedures is that 'diagnosis' is the realm of the veterinary profession. Basically, if it ain't broke, don't try & fix it. If in doubt, refer it to a vet. Unsurprisingly.
    Whenever anal gland expression & ear plucking come up for discussion amongst groomers they're inevitably accompanied by the mistaken belief that there is or should be universal consensus among vets. Why should it be a surprise that vets have differing professional opinions on the same matter, depending on education, bias/prejudice, preference, experience, etc. (IOW, any factors that humans take into consideration when formulating opinions, be they professional or personal)?

    1. Hi Trudy,
      My problem is not so much that Vets have differing beliefs (and it does not really surprise me). The problem comes when I am stuck in the middle of those differing beliefs.
      Some Vets believe that plucking ears and emptying anal glands is the job of the groomer and should be done at each grooming. Then there are other Vets that feel groomers should not be doing either service.
      I have tried several times to find out the guidelines for these services here in America. Here it tends to be a State by State thing. The Veterinarian board of each individual State decides what is strictly a Veterinary practice. Here in my State groomer are allowed to pluck ears and empty anals. Teeth cleaning is a no-no.
      When I groomed at a Vets office, dogs were sent to ME all of the time to pluck, flush and clean out the ears. Also to empty anal glands in the tub and clean up the dog.
      I understand that times change and new things develop, but as I said before, it puts us groomers right in the middle. I still get a fair number of customers coming in telling me that their Vet gave them meds for their dogs ears and that their Vet wants ME to be sure to pluck and clean the ears out.

      I do not feel that I am 'diagnosing' anything. I am a groomer who is paid to clean a dog. To me plucking and emptying the anals has always (28 years) been part of cleaning the dog. Now I just have to make sure that me and the customers Vet are on the same page. :)
      Lisa, MFF

  12. From a holistic point of view, I feel unhealthy dogs purge their disease at different times of the year. In the Northeast, where I am from, I see the greatest incidence of ear and anal issues in the spring and the fall. I really don't think our plucking of the ear hair will increase the chance of a dog getting an issue any sooner than it was going to anyway. Diet and allergies are the largest cause of ear and anal issues. We groomers need to be concerned with only our cleanliness of our instruments and our technique and give ourselves a break from being blamed all these years!

    1. Hi,
      I so agree with you on the diet thing. I wish that Vets and groomers would work together more. Heck...I wish that groomers would work together more for that matter. :)
      Lisa, MFF