How to clean your dog’s ears

Author picture Jessica

Why should I clean my dog’s ears?

It’s important to clean your dog’s ears from time to time to remove dirt, ear wax and dead skin. If not, it’s possible that they might develop an ear infection.

White dog with pointed ears

A dog’s ear shape and size can differ hugely between breeds: from long to short, floppy to pointed and fluffy to short-haired. As such, some breeds are more prone to infection, while others have naturally clean ears that need very little maintenance.  

For example, a dog with folded, long ears such as a beagle or cocker spaniel will need more TLC than a breed with pointed ears, such as a kelpie. Regardless of breed, any dog can develop an ear infection and regular cleaning is a safe way to prevent this. 

How often should I clean my dog’s ears?

The best way to know when you should clean your dog’s ears is to become familiar with how they look when they are healthy and clean them when you notice a change. Clean ears shouldn’t smell or look dirty, whereas dirty ears may have an internal build-up of grime or earwax or even a slight odour. 

As such, it’s a good idea to get your dog used to handling and grooming from a young age. This will give you a chance to really get to know their ears very well and get your dog used to the process.  

As we mentioned earlier, floppy-eared breeds are more prone to ear infections and will need more frequent cleaning. But it’s also important not to over-clean your dog’s ears as this can do more harm than good. 

Black labrador close up

How to clean your dog’s ears

1 First, check the ears for dirt and grime

If your dog’s ears are a bit grimier or smellier than normal, it’s time for a clean. However, if you notice discharge, redness, a very bad smell or your dog is in pain or scratching around the ears, take them to the vet. Don’t ever clean a dog’s ear if you suspect it could be infected.

Likewise, if your dog has little dark specks around the inner-ear, they could have fleas or mites. Speak to your vet before cleaning if this is the case.

2 Choose a quiet moment

It’s a lot easier to clean a calm dog than an excited one! As such, clean your dog’s ears when they are relaxed, such as in the evening or after a walk. Be sure to use a soothing voice and give them plenty of praise during the clean. 

It’s also a good idea to ask a friend, family member or trusted pet sitter to be an extra set of hands. And choose a location that can get a bit messy, such as the bathroom or lawn.

2 Gather your equipment

Grab some cotton pads, a towel and a professional dog ear-cleaner from a pet supply store or vet. And of course, keep some treats in your pocket just in case! 

Avoid using any other household or human cleaners as these can damage a dog’s sensitive inner-ear. Avoid hydrogen peroxide in particular. 

Likewise, don’t use cotton tips as they can accidentally go too far into the ear. Your vet will be able to give you further advice on this, so have a chat with them.

3 Clean their ears

Some dogs, such as those with little or pointed ears, might be fine with just a gentle wipe around the visible area inside the ear with a cotton pad and cleaning solution. However, if you own a fluffy or floppy-eared breed, you may need to do a more thorough clean.

The product you have chosen will be able to step you through, so be sure to read and follow the label closely. 

Most products require you to gently hold the ear back as you trickle the cleaning solution into the ear canal (only add the amount recommended on the label). Refer to the label for the correct amount. Finally, gently massage your dog’s head around the base of the ear for about 20 seconds. 

4 Tidy up

After you have massaged the base of the ear, allow your dog to shake their head as they please. This is a good time for you to hide behind the towel, and, of course, give them a treat for being so good!

Once your dog has had a shake, wipe away excess product gently from the visible part of the inner ear. If the ear is quite dirty, you may want to repeat the process. However, be sure to only ever wipe the visible part of the ear and never insert the cotton bud any deeper.


That’s it! It's normal for your dog to dislike the ear-cleaning process. But don't let that worry you too much. The more you do it, the faster you will get and the more comfortable your dog will become.

Lastly, if it’s all too much and your dog can’t handle you cleaning their ears, a professional dog groomer or vet will be able to help.