How to Clean Dog Ears: 5 Steps for Safe & Easy Cleaning

The man is cleaning the dog's ears. Male hands wipe the dirt with a golden retriever napkin. Isolated on white background

Have you ever noticed your dog scratching their ears or shaking their head maybe a little too often?

Ear hygiene is more than just a part of your grooming routine – it’s your first defense against painful ear infections and mites.

Regular cleaning is a simple way to ensure your dog’s comfort and saves you from costly vet visits.

Ready to take the steps for cleaner ears and a happier pup?

Dive in now to discover the ultimate guide on how to clean dog ears safely and effectively.

How to Clean Dog Ears Step-By-Step

Here is a quick overview of how to properly clean your dog’s ears:

  1. Gather your materials
  2. Get a friend or family member to help
  3. Prep your dog’s ear
  4. Grab your solution
  5. Wiping and pampering

Follow the steps in depth below to ensure a thorough and proper cleaning!

Step 1: Gather Your Dog’s Ear Cleaning Materials

Ear Cleaning Solution: Ensure you have an ear-cleaning solution crafted explicitly for our canine companions. While it might be tempting to use solutions made for humans or other critters, this could lead to unwanted complications or irritation.

Cotton Balls and Gauze: These are your go-to tools for a safe and effective ear wipe. Steer clear of Q-Tips or cotton swabs. Venturing deep into your dog’s ear canal with them is a risky business and can lead to serious harm. Stay on the safer side: stick to cotton balls and gauze!

CAUTION: Avoid using hydrogen peroxide and cotton swabs, as these can damage the ear! Not sure which ear cleaner to use? Ask your vet or groomer for their recommendation.

Step 2: Get a Friend or Family Member to Help

Dogs, much like us, can be a tad apprehensive about unfamiliar processes, and ear cleaning might just top that list.

A familiar face – be it a friend or family member your dog trusts – can work wonders in keeping your dog calm. If your dog is a bundle of energy, your assistant can provide a gentle yet firm hold.

However, if your dog isn’t a fan of being handled or tends to show aggressive tendencies, safety first! Be sure to muzzle your dog for the safety of everyone involved. A leash can be useful in such cases, allowing you to control the pace and ensure comfort.

PRO TIP: Whether you have an enthusiastic wriggler or a dog that’s a bit on edge, invest some time in between cleanings to socialize your pet to these handling sessions. It’ll make a world of difference!

Step 3: Prep the Ear

Start by tenderly holding your dog’s ear and gently lifting it to straighten the ear canal. This simple action ensures the cleaning solution flows effortlessly, reaching the deeper recesses of the ear.

For those dogs with floppy ears? Feel free to flip them back, ensuring they’re comfortably out of your way during the process.

Step 4: Grab Your Solution

Gently hold the ear flap and carefully pour the solution into the ear’s opening, ensuring it fills the ear canal.

A quick word of caution: don’t be surprised if your dog feels the itch to shake their head – it’s their natural reaction!

Embrace it and allow your dog to shake. Afterward, a gentle rub on the ear will further aid in the cleaning process. If they wish to give another headshake, let them.

For pups that regularly receive ear cleanings and don’t require an intense flush, you can simply dampen a cotton ball with the solution and gently clean the inner ear. Remember, it’s essential not to venture too deep, as we want to avoid any damage to the eardrum.

Step 5: Wiping & Pampering

Use a cotton ball or gauze to gently wipe out the ear canal and along the ear flap. Then use a dry, clean cotton ball to ensure no moisture lingers behind. Remember always to be gentle with the inner ear and not to go too deep.

Conclude with a soothing ear massage for your dog, and there you have it – mission accomplished!

Wasn’t as bad as it seemed, right?

Ear Cleaning Essentials: Tips to Remember!

  • Reward Your Dog: Post-cleaning, praise and reward your dog with a treat or two. Positive reinforcement goes a long way toward building positive associations with uncomfortable scenarios.
  • Young & Restless: Increase your handling sessions for younger or more energetic canines. This will help them acclimate to the routine and make them more comfortable when being handled not only for ear cleanings but also for vet visits and nail clipping sessions!
  • Safety First: Never venture deep into the ear canal. Stick to cleaning only what you can clearly see. And cotton swabs? A big no-no! Cotton swabs easily push debris further into the ear, and you can cause damage to the ear if you reach the ear drum.
  • One at a Time: Work one ear at a time.
close up of corgi inner ear, learning how to clean dog ears

Signs Your Dog Has an Ear Infection

Being vigilant about potential signs is your best bet to ensure your dog stays ahead of a nasty ear infection. If you suspect an oncoming infection, getting it checked out as soon as possible is best. Schedule an appointment with your Veterinarian to get your dog the medical attention they need.

Keep a lookout for these signs of an ear infection:

  • Excessive wax build-up
  • Head tilting
  • Head shaking
  • Ear twitching
  • Excessive scratching in or around the ear
  • Moisture is present in the ear
  • Foul odor
  • Swelling and redness of the ear
  • Pus oozing from the ear


A tad of black or brown ear wax doesn’t raise any alarms; it’s just part and parcel of being a dog. However, noticing an excessive, discolored, waxy accumulation might be waving a red flag. Such build-up can hint at the onset of an infection, potential ear mites, allergies, or other underlying health concerns.


Dry ears are the norm for dogs, so if you spot any dampness, it’s a sign to pay attention. Excessive moisture can be the harbinger of an impending infection. If your pup is a frequent swimmer, water may get trapped in the ear canal. This scenario is especially prevalent in our delightful floppy-eared companions.


A pungent aroma from your dog’s ears is a no-go. If your pup’s ears emit an unpleasant scent, it’s a glaring signal pointing toward an ear infection. Healthy ears should be free from foul odors.

Swelling and Redness

If your dog’s ear looks inflamed, this is another indicator that your dog may have an ear infection. Such inflammation is often a precursor to an ear infection.

Oozing of Pus

Should you spot pus—typically green or white—in your dog’s ear, don’t delay. This is a stark sign of a serious infection, and it’s critical to schedule a visit with your veterinarian at such moments.

Signs of Ear Mites

At first glance, ear mite symptoms can eerily mirror those of an ear infection. But a telltale sign is the crumbly, dark discharge with a reddish-brown hue. The surest route to an accurate diagnosis? A visit to your trusted vet. Should mites be the culprits, your vet will chart out the right medication for your dog.

Do you have multiple pets? Ear mites love company! If one pet is affected, it’s a call to action. Discuss treating all your pets with your vet to shield them against a resurgence of these pesky mites.

When to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

While maintaining cleanliness is imperative, going overboard can ironically tip the scales toward more common infections too.

A splash in the pool or a swim in the lake? Lovely! But remember, especially for those floppy-eared companions – like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniels – ensuring the ears are dry and moisture-free is important to avoid potential ear complications.

PRO TIP: A good rule of thumb? Aim for a monthly ear cleaning. Rest easy if you’re someone who pampers their pup with regular grooming sessions. Your groomer typically handles this duty for you.

Conclusion: Ready, Set, Clean!

Taking the time to learn how to clean dog ears is not just about keeping them looking good—it’s an essential part of their health and wellness routine.

Regular, gentle cleaning can prevent infections, detect issues early, and ensure your furry friend stays comfortable and happy. Remember, each dog is unique, and understanding the specific needs of your pet’s ears will make all the difference.

As you become more confident in cleaning your dog’s ears, you’ll not only enhance their well-being but also strengthen the bond you share. It’s an act of care that speaks volumes in the language of love and trust between you and your pet.

Interested in more straightforward, expert advice on how to keep your dog healthy and happy? Dive deeper into the world of dog care with me. Subscribe to my newsletter for the latest guides, tips, and insights delivered directly to your inbox.

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