When pet groomers compare notes about working on different breeds, there are some common threads that pop up.
Pugs seem to be universally adverse to having their nails trimmed, poodle mixes tend to have coats that are a nightmare to maintain, and many groomers agree they have no idea what to do with the clusters of hair we are supposed to leave on Scottish Terrier ears.
The woman who trained me to groom gave me a good basic education, but Scotties were her breed—and though she owned several—I was never allowed to work on them. When I left her employ, I didn’t have a clue how to work on a Scottish Terrier. Ironically, we now have a sizeable Scotty clientele.
One reason Scotty owners seek us out is that we know how to leave tufts on the ears. This tiny little bit of hair causes a lot of problems. Many groomers just shave the entire ear, removing the signature tuft. While others end up leaving unruly wads of coat somewhere near the ear in an attempt to create the required tuft. Instructions in many grooming books and on various websites are difficult to understand, and for many groomers, the breed is a rare enough visitor to the table that there is not a lot of opportunity to practice.
The breed standard, as stated by the American Kennel Club1, tells us that, “…the ears should be small, prick, set well up on the skull and pointed, but never cut. They should be covered with short, velvety hair. From the front, the outer edge of the ear should form a straight line up from the side of the skull. The use, size, shape and placement of the ear and its erect carriage are major elements of the keen, alert, intelligent Scottish Terrier expression.”
A long–time Scottish Terrier breeder/exhibitor once told me, “Scotties are a ‘head’ breed. You get the head wrong and you mess up the whole dog.” (I think she used saltier language than that, but you get the idea.)
If the entire ear is shaved, the ears look larger than they are, and appear as sharp triangles jutting out of the skull. In the description above, the AKC says the ears should be small. Add to this the fact that many pet Scotties have larger ears than their show–type brethren, and getting those tufts right makes a big difference in the finished result of your groom. A well–placed tuft softens the look of the area where the ear is attached and can make large or poorly–placed ears seem more correct. On the flip side, if too much covering the ear canal. Your clipper work should be clean and tight.
Using scissors, carefully trim the outside edges of where you have clipped so they are very tidy.
Fig 2) Next, gently fold the ear vertically from side to side as if you were creating a little taco. Using a fine comb, pull the hair to the front of your fold line. Angle thinning or chunking shears so they are leaning towards the tip of the ear and trim the tuft. The hair closer to the skull will be longer than the hair protruding higher. The tuft should not extend more than halfway up the ear.
Fig 3) Let the ear stand naturally and comb the hair again. To finish, shape with thinners to achieve a pleasing look.
Large ears or ears set too widely apart can be made to look more correct depending on the length and shape of the tuft you leave. A small amount of the tuft will be visible when you look at the dog from the back. Too much hair here is incorrect.
Once you have mastered the art of creating a tuft on Scottish Terrier ears, you will see how it balances the signature “rectangular” head of the breed, and you may win a lot of new Scotty customers. ✂️