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How to Clean Your Dog's Ears

Updated on December 31, 2007
Look at 'dem ears!
Look at 'dem ears!

These tips are for dogs who don’t currently have an ear infection - if your dog does have an infection, their ears will be very, very sensitive and this process would likely be painful. Please defer cleaning them and take your pet to their veterinarian asap for diagnosis and treatment.

Alrighty, let’s get down to business!

First I’d like to commend you on taking an interest in cleaning your pooch’s ears. Not everyone takes the time, unfortunately. Things you will need: Fido, Ear Cleaning Solution For Dogs, Cotton Pads (I recommend the circular shaped pads used for removing eye makeup.) And a lot of patience.

Tip: Have time to do this before you start. If you have to leave for work in 10 min, bookmark this page and come back when you have 30 min to spare. No, I don’t think it will take that much time, but if you’re stressed you will stress your dog as well.

  • Give Fido a little ear massage first. Unless he has an infection, he will likely love this. Why am I suggesting it? Because we don’t want him freaking out every time you touch his ears in the future. We want him to know having his ears touched can be relaxing and doesn’t necessarily mean grooming. (If you want, you can gently squirt some ear cleaning solution into the canal before you massage, just to get things loosened up. But be warned - my dog *hates* this and will promptly end a cleaning session! )

  • GENTLY use the pads of your fingertips around the edge of his ear until he relaxes for you. This may take a few minutes, just be patient. As he de-stresses, work your way in a bit further, growing more gentle as you near the canal. You’ll notice lots of dips and grooves - use this time to get an idea of how dirty his ears are. Do it now, while he’s ok with you poking around in there. Don’t stick your fingers in his ear. This will only make him skittish and undo the relaxing effect you’ve created. Besides, a good rule of thumb: If you can’t see inside of it, don’t stick your finger in it! Remember that – you can apply to most aspects of life!

Video: How to Clean Your Dog's Ears

  • Now that he’s calm and relaxed, get him into a comfortable position. Comfortable for both of you, that is. Personally, I prefer sitting on the floor, legs extended, with my dog on her back between them. She sleeps this way on her own a lot, so I know it’s comfortable for her. Her head rests in the groove where my thigh and torso connect, which gives me easy access to her ears – and at that angle I see straight down into them.

  • Your dog may not like this position, however. I prefer it because I can hold her still with my legs (if needed) and keep my hands free. If your dog won’t let you hold him like this, I recommend letting him lie on his side. Sitting upright is possible, of course, but in that position it’s going to much easier for him to get away from you.
  • Take your ear cleaning solution (for dogs!) and soak a cotton pad with it. Like I said, I recommend the circle-shaped pads used for removing eye makeup. These are the perfect length, and very easy to roll up. Note: When I say soak, I don’t mean dripping wet. The consistency of a wrung-out sponge would be sufficient.
  • Once your cotton pad’s ready, gently place it in your dog’s ear, slowly sliding it in until it stops on its own. Meaning, when you meet resistance, stop – no need to shove it all the way in. And besides, your dog would not enjoy that!
  • Once the pad’s in the canal, fold the ear down and GENTLY massage the area surrounding the pad, rubbing the ear back and forth as best as you can. If you do this right, your dog will probably love you for it. Mine certainly does! After a good 30-60 seconds, unfold the ear and slowly remove the pad. If, for some reason, it slid too far down and you can't reach it, let your dog go and they will shake their head a bit. This will probably dislodge it – if not, don’t panic! Dog’s ears are shaped differently than ours and it shouldn’t cause any injury. If you really can't get it out, that’s a good indication you used way too much force putting it in. Take your pet to the vet immediately – and don’t use so much force next time!
  • Once the pad’s out, use it to swab the rest of the ear. Don’t press too hard, just clean it as well as you can. It’s helpful to use a dry pad to wipe the gick out, it seems to collect easier. Now that it’s all done, give Fido lots of hugs, kisses, and praise so he’ll know he did a good job for you! And a biscuit would be nice, too!

xx Isabella



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    • profile image

      Ty 5 months ago

      Ty. I did clean his ears,but I do not have cotton balls.I did stick my fingers in his ears, and he got really angry.I know its probably otitis, since he has had that before.what can I use instead of cotton balls?

    • profile image

      Tyler 4 years ago

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • ELeeH profile image

      ELeeH 7 years ago

      My dog has floppy, dirty ears and they need to be cleaned around once a month - and she hates it when I squirt the liquid in her ear.

      Loved your suggestion to wet the pad (I use cotton balls) and put that in her ear instead. Tried it and she was much happier about the whole cleaning business.

      Great tip - thanks!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It is obvious that you love your dog. Cudos to you!