How to Clean a Dogs Ears: Three Simple Steps to Try at Home

We may joke about needing to clean out our dogs' ears when they don’t quite listen when we say no more cookies or its time to leave the park, but clean ears are a very important component to your pet’s overall health.

Some dog ears are long while others are much shorter. The one thing they all have in common is that they should be clean!

Why is it important to clean your dog’s ears?

Just like keeping your pet’s eyes and teeth cleaned it is important to keep his ears clean and dry. This is to prevent infection or other skin issues. Deep inner ear infections can impact your pet’s ability to hear.

How to tell if your dog needs its ears cleaned

Some dogs almost never need an ear cleaning and others need them frequently. Before you clean your pet’s ears examine them. A healthy and clean ear should be

  1. Pink
  2. Dry
  3. Free from odor (yeasty or just plain stinky)

If your dog likes to swim, make sure you check their ears to make sure they are clean and dry after a dip. The same goes for bathing your pet. After a bath is a good time to clean your dog’s ear to make sure it is clean and dry!

If your dog’s ear looks clean, don’t clean it. Overcleaning your dog’s ears can cause problems as well. These include becoming over dry, itchy and even infected. This is a case where there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Three simple steps to cleaning your dog’s ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears properly at home can be done in three easy steps according to Stephanie Connor, Lead Groomer at the Pet Snobs Boutique, a pet grooming salon in Philadelphia, PA.

  1. Put your desired ear cleaning product on a cotton ball. You can consult your vet about what ear cleaning products they recommend. They may even have a product for sale in the office that you can take home with you. Apple cider vinegar can be used to clean the ear canal to prevent infection.

  2. Lift up your dog’s ear so that you can see the ear canal clearly.

  3. In a circular motion, clean the dog’s ear with the cotton, if your dog’s ear is especially dirty you may want to use a cotton swab to get in the ear better. Note: Your dog’s ear canal goes all the way to the back of its throat so you don’t have to worry about puncturing the eardrum.

  4. If the ear is particularly red or smelly this might be a sign that the ear is infected. Make sure you take your dog to the vet to get the infection properly treated.

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    Tips and tricks

    Not all pets love having their ears cleaned. These tips and tricks will make the experience more pleasant for both you and your best friend.

    1. Clean your pet’s ears when he is relaxed. Do not clean your dog’s ears right after a vigorous play session. Make sure he’s fully calmed down and relaxed before you try to clean his ears.

    2. Take your pet into a confined space, like the bathtub so you’re not chasing them around with the cleaner.

    3. Try to make cleaning quick — dogs aren’t known for long attention spans.

    4. Try a distraction. Spread some peanut butter, spray cheese or cream cheese on a spatula and allow your dog to lick it off while you work. As a bonus, your dog might look forward to an ear cleaning if they know it comes with a yummy snack!

    5. If your pet’s ear is infected you may want to have your vet or vet tech help you with the cleaning. It may be more sensitive or painful for your pet to have its ear cleaned with an active infection. If the vet has to put a soft muzzle on, it's for their safety as well as the safety of your pet. Don’t be offended by this.

    6. Make ear cleaning a regular part of your pet’s routine and give generous praise while you do.


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      What to do if your pet is showing signs of fear or stress

      If your pet doesn’t like having his ears cleaned or shows signs of fear or stress, go slowly and offer rewards each step of the way.

      1. Start by having your dog come to you and handle his ear. Don’t do anything other than pick up the ear. Praise and treat generously for this behavior.

      2. Once your pet is comfortable with you touching his ear, show him the cotton ball. You can try to place it near his ear, but don’t put the cotton in his ear yet. Praise and treat generously as you do. You want your dog to associate the cotton with praise and treats!

      3. Once your dog is really comfortable with the cotton, go slowly placing it in his ear. At this point don’t use any cleaning solution or vinegar as the can feel funny. Just let your dog get used to the cotton moving in his ear. Again, all the praise and a yummy treat.

      4. Finally, add some ear cleaning solution to the cotton. Eventually, your pet should allow you to clean his ear. While this isn’t the quickest way to get it done, it should make the process easier in the future. Note that this is not linear - you may eventually be able to start at step 3 but if your pet is showing signs of stress you might need to go back to step one every time you clean his ears.
      5. The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.