How to Clean Dog Ears Easily at Home

Bulldog Getting His Ears Cleaned - How to Clean Dog Ears

Updated July 22, 2022

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I can’t hear you! Can you speak a little louder?! Oh, sorry, my ears were clogged. Unfortunately, your dog can’t tell you when he needs a cleaning under those furry folds. And if left unchecked, ear wax and debris can lead to painful infections.

So, how often should you clean your dog’s ears, how should you do it, and what are the signs that your pupper needs some ear maintenance?

Read on and I’ll tell you my process for keeping my doggie Indy’s ears clean, healthy, and infection-free.

How Often to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

The frequency of ear cleaning your dog will depend on the type of dog you have. Dogs with long ears that hang down, like basset hounds and cocker spaniels, will need their ears cleaned more often than dogs with erect ears, like poodles and schnauzers.

Your doggerino’s lifestyle will also affect how frequently cleanings will be needed. For example, dogs that swim a lot or play in water will need their ears cleaned more often, as water can cause ear infections. On the other hand, if your furry bestie doesn’t swim and has erect ears, you can probably get away with cleaning his ears less often.

As a general rule of thumb, I like to clean Indy’s ears every month. This keeps the wax from building up and prevents any potential infections. When we’re having lots of adventures, I may give her a trip to the at-home ear spa a bit more frequently, usually in the summer months.

You can also use ear wipes between deeper cleanings. These are great for quick cleaning when you’re short on time or if your dog’s ears don’t seem particularly dirty.

How To Tell When Your Doggerino Has Dirty Ears

German Shepherd Shaking Head - How to clean dog ears

Knowing how to check your pupper’s ears is an important part of keeping them clean and healthy. Here are a few signs that it’s time to give your furry friend an ear cleaning:

Shaking or Pawing at the Head and Ears

If your dog is shaking his head or scratching at his ears more than usual, this could be a sign that his ears are itchy or there is something causing him discomfort.

You’ll notice them tilting their head to one side or the other when they scratch. They may be trying to dislodge whatever is causing the itch or irritation.

Bad Smell Coming from the Ear Canal

If you notice a bad smell coming from your dog’s ears, it’s probably time for a cleaning. The yeasty smell of an ear infection is especially noticeable. Simply lift the ear flap and give it a good whiff. This isn’t any pet parent’s favorite part, but it’s worth checking if you’re unsure.

Redness, Swelling, or Discharge in the Ear Canal

If you see any redness, swelling, or discharge in your dog’s ear canal, this is a sign of an infection and you should take them to the vet immediately. Left untreated, ear infections can cause serious pain and damage to your dog’s ear canal.

If the discharge isn’t immediately noticeable, you can gently press a cotton ball or gauze inside the ear flap to see if there’s any moisture. If the cotton comes out wet or there’s discharge on the inside of the ear flap, this is another sign that your pup needs to see the vet.

The Step By Step Guide To Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

Now that you know how to tell if your dog’s ears need cleaning, let’s move on to the next step: actually doing it! Here are my foolproof steps that I follow with Indy and that will allow you to flawlessly clean your dog’s ears and prevent any potential infections.

Golden Retriever Adding Ear Cleaning Solution

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

To clean your dog’s ears, you’ll need the following supplies:

It’s best to assemble all of your supplies before you start the cleaning process, as things can get a little messy. Trust me, you don’t want to be searching for a cotton ball in the middle of an ear cleaning.

I suggest you don’t substitute q-tips for the cotton ball. These can cause irritation, push debris deeper into the ear, or even damage the ear drum.

The scissors aren’t necessary but can help if your dog has long hair around his ears. This will help prevent the hair from getting soaked and tangled in the ear cleaner, which may make your pup shake his head and make the process less safe.

Step 2: Give Your Pupper Some Love

It’s essential that you associate dog ear cleaning with positive things, so make sure to reward your dog off the bat by giving him a treat. He will also appreciate belly rubs, hearing that he is a good boy, and a big warm hug.

The more you encourage your dog to enjoy the experience, the less stressful it will be for both of you.

Step 3: Put Your Dog in a Comfortable Position

The next step is to get your pup in a comfortable position so you can easily access his ears. This should be pretty easy now that he is warmed up and ready to go.

I find it helpful to put a small towel under my dog’s head to catch any ear cleaner or debris that falls out during the cleaning process. I usually sit on the floor and place Indy in front of me. If you have a smaller dog, feel free to use a table and chair.

Step 4: Hold the Dog’s Ear Flap and Clear Out Obstructions

Once you’re in position, take a cotton ball or gauze square and gently hold the ear flap up. If there is matted hair in the way, use the scissors to trim it away. The comb can also be used to lightly brush the hair and remove any knots.

Clearing Out a Dog's Ear Obstructions - How to clean dog ears

Step 5: Fill the Ear Canal With Ear Cleaning Solution

Now it’s time to put the ear cleaner in! I like to use a small squeeze bottle for this. Gently insert the tip of the bottle into your dog’s ear canal and give the bottle a light squeeze.

The goal is to fill the ear canal so that you can see the solution completely filling up about a half inch into the ear.

If your dog has a lot of ear wax, you may need to use a bit more solution. Refer to the specific instructions on the ear cleaner you’re using to ensure you’re putting in the right amount.

This is perfectly safe for your dog’s ear since it naturally produces ear wax to protect itself.

Keep calling your doggo a good boy or good girl in a calm positive tone to help him remain still.

Step 6: Massage the Ear Canal

After you’ve applied the ear cleaner, it’s time to massage your dog’s ear at the base so that the solution saturates the whole ear. This helps loosen any debris that may be stuck in there.

To do this, simply take your finger and rub it around in a circular motion for about 30 seconds. You should hear a sloshing sound as you do this, which means the ear cleaner is doing its job!

Step 7: Wipe Away the Excess Ear Cleaner and Debris

Now it’s time to clean up the mess. Gently hold one side of the ear flap while using a cotton ball or gauze square to wipe away any excess ear cleaner and debris. Repeat this process on the other ear. This helps to remove some of the cleaning fluid and some of the wax and debris

Step 8: Let That Doggerino Have a Good Head Shake!

The final step is to let your pup shake his head so he can get rid of any remaining ear cleaner or debris. This also helps dry out the inside of his ears so they don’t stay wet and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Use your towel to catch any dirty ear cleaner that comes out during the shaking process. And that’s it! You’re done! Give your pup a treat and a big pat on the back for being such a good sport.


Massaging A Beagle Puppy's Ears

Can We Clean Dog Ears at Home?

Absolutely! In fact, it’s best to get in the habit of cleaning your dog’s ears on a regular basis. This will help prevent ear infections and other problems down the road.

What Can I Use to Clean My Dog’s Ears at Home?

There are plenty of commercial and homemade solutions that you can use to clean your dog’s ears. Some popular DIY options include:

  • 70% isopropyl alcohol
  • Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • Baby oil
  • Food grade mineral oil
  • Hydrogen peroxide

However, I suggest using a formula that is specifically designed for dog ears. These solutions often have a slightly acidic pH, which helps to break down ear wax and prevent infections.

What Is the Brown Stuff in My Dog’s Ears?

This is likely ear wax, which is produced naturally by your dog’s body to protect the ear canal from dirt, dust, and debris. However, too much ear wax can build up and cause problems such as infections or hearing loss.

The Bottom Line: How to Clean Dog Ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears doesn’t have to be a stressful experience for you or your pupper. Just take things slow, be gentle, and make sure to give lots of love and treats along the way. Your pup will thank you for it!

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About the Author


I’m Alex and I’ve always wanted the best for my pupper Indy, so she could have a healthy and happy life. I’m pretty sure this also applies to you and your doggie, otherwise you wouldn’t have made it to the end of this post.

I started Pampered Puppers as a family-owned business, based in Australia, to help all dog lovers around the world achieve this easily. So that’s our mission, to help improve your dog’s safety and quality of life with entertaining and helpful articles via our blog 🐶

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