Labradoodle ears are cute and floppy! But, they need a surprising amount of care, including regular grooming and monitoring for ear infections.
- What do Labradoodle ears look like?
- Labradoodle ear infections – Prevention, symptoms, and treatment
- Cleaning Labradoodle ears
- Grooming Labradoodle ears
The Labradoodle is a popular curly-haired dog that makes a great family companion in an active home. However, this isn’t a low maintenance breed! On top of exercise, training, socialization, and mental stimulation, Labradoodles have high grooming needs. And this doesn’t just mean brushing their fur. Owners must also pay close attention to areas like paws, nails, and ears!
About the Labradoodle
The Labradoodle is a relatively modern breed that combines the Labrador Retriever with the Standard Poodle. This mix was created as a low-shedding guide dog, and has also become a highly-sought after family pet.
Labradoodles can be quite varied since they are mixed breed dogs. They can inherit any blend of traits from either parent. So, first generation (f1) hybrids tend to be the least predictable. But, Australian Labradoodle breeders are working hard to establish set breed standards to create a more stable, predictable breed.
What do Labradoodle Ears Look Like?
Physical traits can be unpredictable in mixed breed dogs. Particularly when the parent breeds are very different. But the Poodle and Lab both have quite similar ears, which makes predicting Labradoodle puppy ear shape all the easier. On top of this, the Australian Labradoodle Association of America has set out a breed standard to indicate how a Labradoodle’s ears should look.
The ALAA breed standard states that Labradoodle ears are “set slightly above eye level and lay flat against head”. In ideal size, they’ll be in proportion to the dog’s head, but will hang no lower than the lower lip line. Labradoodle ears will often have curly fur on the outside, which can grow down into the ear canal if not maintained.
Are Labradoodles Prone to Ear Infections?
Studies into ear infections, otitis externa, in dogs have suggested that the Labradoodle mix, and designer breeds in general have higher odds of experiencing this problem than other dogs. These studies also found that dogs with floppy, V shaped ears had higher odds that those with erect ears. So, both breed type and ear carriage conformation can impact a dog’s risk level for ear infections.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your Labradoodle is definitely going to experience an ear infection. But, extra care needs to be taken to avoid otitis externa. This means keeping the fur on and around their ears trimmed, dry and clean, watching out for parasites, and cleaning the ear canal when wax builds up.
Symptoms of Ear Infections in Dogs
Since Labradoodles are at higher risk than many other breeds for ear infections, it’s important for owners to learn and recognise symptoms of this problem. Labradoodles that display the following behaviors could be suffering from an ear infection:
- Tilting the head
- Discharge from the ears, including pus
- Inflammation of the ear canal
- Unusual/unpleasant odor from the ear
- Redness inside the ear canal
- Scratching/rubbing the ear
- Swelling in or around the ear
- Head shaking
- Crustiness or scabbing inside the ear
If an ear infection is left untreated, it can become worse. Dogs experiencing severe ear infections may show further symptoms, including hearing loss, loss of coordination, and unusual eye movements.
Treating an Ear Infection
If you suspect that your Labradoodle is suffering from an ear infection, the best first step is to consult your veterinarian. They will be able to analyse the symptoms to ensure this is the true problem. In some cases, another health issue could be causing your dog’s symptoms. Once your vet has identified the ear infection, they will usually clean your dog’s ear and prescribe antibiotics or a topical medication.
Though some sources may recommend home treatments, you should approach these with care. One such common treatment is tea tree oil. Studies have shown that a tea tree oil lotion or solution can help to soothe ear infections, but many acknowledge that more research is needed. And, when used in the wrong dilutions, essential oils like this can do more harm than good to our dogs. So, the safest treatment is still one provided by your veterinarian.
How to Clean Labradoodle Ears
One of the best ways to prevent ear infections in the first place is to keep your Labradoodle’s ears clean, well groomed, and dry. So, learning how to clean a Labradoodle’s ears is important for all owners. Ear cleaning, like nail trimming and tooth brushing, needs to be a regular part of your dog grooming habits.
To clean your dog’s ears, you need clean cotton pads or cotton buds and a gentle, dog-safe ear-cleaning solution. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the best solution to you, or to approve a homemade option. Use the solution and cotton bugs to gently swab your dog’s ear canal and remove any wax. Make sure their ear is thoroughly dry once finished.
If your Labradoodle has very curly fur, their hair could grow into the ear canal. This can make cleaning difficult, and can lead to infections. So, some veterinarians and groomers will recommend you pluck this fur out during grooming sessions. Others may recommend regularly checking this hair, and only plucking it out if the fur grows far into the canal, or shows any of the earlier identified symptoms of infection. We’ll take a closer look at how to remove this hair safely in a moment.
How Often Should You Clean Labradoodle Ears?
All Labradoodles are different. So, some will need their ears cleaned more frequently than others. For some Labradoodles, this can mean checking and cleaning their ears and removing wax once a week. And for others, it can be a less frequent occurrence, taking place when you notice excess waxy build-ups.
The curlier your Labradoodle’s fur, the more likely it is that hair may curl and grow into the ear canal. So, you may find wax is more likely to collect amongst the fur. And, on top of regular cleaning, you will need to trim and pluck out any excess fur. Your veterinarian is the best source of help if you’re unsure how often to clean your dog’s ears.
How to Trim Labradoodle Ears
The type of hair that grows on your Labradoodle’s ears will depend on their overall coat type. Labradoodles with hair coats will usually have shaggy, straight hair, though it may have a slight wave. This hair should be trimmed and shaped regularly, but usually won’t grow into the ear canal to the same extent as curly fur – though it’s a good idea to keep checking it.
Fleece or wool type coats are curlier than hair types. So, curly fur will grow on the external part of the ear, but can also grow down into the ear canal, where it can become matted and lead to infections. Many groomers and veterinarians will recommend plucking this hair out regularly to make ear cleaning easier. Some groomers will do this for you at grooming sessions, but you can also learn to do this at home.
It’s important not to work too quickly when plucking your Labradoodles ear hair. The aim is to tease the roots of the hair loose and cause minimal amounts of pain, rather than yanking it out quickly. Take your time during this process. A dog friendly ear powder can help in these situations, as it will improve your grip on the hairs.
However, if you’re at all uncertain about how to do this, or the process seems to cause your Labradoodle lots of pain, it may be best to learn by watching your groomer plucking your Labradoodle’s ears. They will be able to show you the best techniques and tools to use in person, so the ear canal never becomes too obstructed. Alternatively, follow a video guide, like the one at the start of this article.
Do I Need to Pluck my Labradoodle’s Ears?
Opinions are quite divided over ear plucking in Labradoodles. In fact, owners that are new to the breed might never have heard of this practice before. And, some veterinarians may be happy for you to leave your Labradoodle’s ears, and only pluck them if you notice any unusual odors or discomfort.
However, other veterinarians and groomers will stress the need to keep the ear canal free of hair by plucking them regularly. Hair in the ear canal will make ear cleaning harder, which can mean infections are more likely. But, it can also obstruct your dog’s hearing, which will impact their daily life.
If you’re still unsure about ear plucking, you should speak to your veterinarian about your options, and about the pros and cons of the process. Depending on the hair type your Labradoodle has, it may not be necessary.
When to Start Grooming Labradoodle Ears
If Labradoodles are familiar with the grooming process from a young age, it’s likely they’ll enjoy it throughout adulthood. So, you should acclimatise your puppy to grooming from a young age. Keep the process positive, stress-free, and work at your pup’s pace. If they start to display signs of stress, take a break and try again later.
You should help your puppy become comfortable with you touching all parts of their ear – including lifting it to look inside, and gently touching the ear canal. Pairing each step in this process with a treat is a great way to make grooming sessions fun and rewarding. But, many Labradoodles will also enjoy the time and attention given by you during grooming sessions.
You can start this process as soon as your puppy comes home with you at 8 weeks old. Take some time every day to acclimatise your puppy to grooming tools and touching body parts like the paws and ears. But, work in short bursts to avoid any stress or discomfort. Your puppy may not need ear plucking at this age, but it will be easier when they are an adult if they are comfortable having their ears touched.
Labradoodle Ears – A Summary
Your Labradoodle’s ears are bound to be adorable! But, this part of your dog shouldn’t be neglected during the grooming process. Keeping your Labradoodle’s ears clean, dry, and free of fur inside can go a long way to preventing ear infections. Though, if your Labradoodle is showing signs of ear problems, a quick trip to the vet will usually sort things out fast!
Have you got any further tips for grooming a Labradoodle’s ears? We would love to hear them in the comments!
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References and Resources
- The Australian Labradoodle Association of America
- McGreevy, P. (et al), ‘The Reinforcing Value of Physical Contact and the Effect on Canine Heart Rate of Grooming in Different Anatomical Areas’, Anthrozoos (2005)
- O’Neill, D. (et al), ‘Frequency and Predisposing Factors for Canine Otitis Externa in the UK – A Primary Veterinary Care Epidemiological View’, Canine Medicine and Genetics (2021)
- Paterson, S. (et al), ‘Otitis Externa: A Roundtable Discussion’, Companion Animal (2021)
- McDonald, S. (et al), ‘Grooming-Related Concerns Among Companion Animals: Preliminary Data on an Overlooked Topic and Considerations for Animals’ Access to Health Related Services’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2022)
- Parmar, J. (et al), ‘Clinical Studies on Ear Infections, Microbiological Evaluation and Therapeutical Management in Canines’, IJCMAS (2020)
- Neves, R. (et al), ‘In Vitro and In Vivo Efficacy of Tea Tree Essential Oil for Bacterial and Yeast Ear Infections in Dogs’, Small Animal Diseases (2018)
- ‘What are the Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs?’, New Ulm Regional Veterinary Center (2022)