Pug getting ear washed
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How to clean dog ears: everything you need to know

By Alice Lang Copywriter

Updated on the

No one wants their pooch to suffer from a painful ear infection! Carrying out an ear wash for dogs can be tricky, but we’ve got you covered - here’s how to clean dog ears.

Cleaning dog ears seems like it should be a fairly simple job. But considering you’re often up against a pooch who hates the inside of their ears being touched, along with the fact that doing it wrong could cause serious damage, it’s actually pretty tricky.

Ideally, you’d have been carrying out a regular ear wash for dogs since your pooch was a puppy. In this case, your pup should already be super chilled out with ear cleaning sessions. However, lots of people don’t start cleaning dog ears until their pup has grown up - meaning it can be quite difficult to get them on board!

Why clean dog ears?

Is a regular ear wash for dogs actually necessary? Absolutely. The structure of a dog’s ear canal is different from ours. They’re longer and positioned on a right angle - meaning it’s extremely easy for material to get trapped deep down in their ears.

On top of this, a dog’s ear canal is naturally dark and moist. This is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Both of these factors mean dogs can easily develop painful ear infections or suffer from itchiness and discomfort in the ear - so cleaning is absolutely essential!

How often should you clean dog ears?

An ear wash for dogs should be carried out around once a month, though this varies from breed-to-breed and on how often they swim.

Dogs who have particularly long or fluffy ears or who swim often are even more at risk of developing ear infections, making cleaning their ears even more important.

Ideally, dogs who have long ears should have their ears cleaned every two weeks. You should also clean your pup’s ears after every single swim. If your pooch has been on a crazy outdoor adventure, always check to make sure there’s no dirt left in the ear at the end of the day.

How to clean dog ears: what you’ll need

Make sure you pick an alcohol-free ear cleaner
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Ear cleaner

Before doing an ear wash for dogs, you need to pick the appropriate ear cleaner. There are loads on the market - but do make sure you’re choosing the right one.

Avoid any solutions which contain alcohol, menthol or hydrogen peroxide as these are likely to irritate the sensitive skin inside your pup’s ears.

If you’re unsure, the best thing to do is ask your vet what they’d recommend for a dog ear wash - they’ll be able to recommend safe, effective and gentle cleaning solutions.

Cotton pads

Cotton pads are essential during an ear wash for dogs - just make sure they’re 100% cotton.


Your hands are covered in germs, even if you don’t realise it - and you’re literally sticking them in your pup’s ears! Plus, cleaning dogs ears can be pretty gross. Therefore, disposable gloves work a treat. If you don't have these, just wash your hands well before you start.

A towel

Most dogs naturally shake their head as soon as something enters their ears. Once you’ve put the solution in, debris, dirt and wax will be loose - so there’s lots of potential for mess! Have a towel at the ready to hold loosely around their head for the shake.


Let’s face it, your pooch isn’t going to enjoy having their ears cleaned. Have lots of treats to reward them with during and after the clean.

How to clean dog ears: the ear check-up

Before you start on the ear wash for dogs, you should check over your pup's ears for signs of infection or skin issues. We’d recommend making this a part of your dog's regular ear cleaning routine.

Margaret H.Bonham explains in Dog Grooming for Dummies: “Ear infections may be difficult to clear up. Doing so takes commitment and determination. Watch your dog for the following signs of potential ear problems that may need to be addressed by a veterinarian:

  • Blisters or abrasions on the ears
  • Crusty or red ears
  • Excessive waxy build-up
  • Foul-smelling odour coming from the ears
  • Red or black waxy build-up
  • Scratching at or pawing his ears or shaking his head
  • Yelping when you touch his ears”

How to clean dog ears: step-by-step

Time to get cleaning! 
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  1. Gently hold your dog’s head so that the open ear is exposed. Sitting down beside your dog usually works. Make sure they’re calm and relaxed - keep the atmosphere light and positive.
  2. With a damp cotton pad, give the entrance of the ear canal a quick wipe to remove excess wax.
  3. Gently place the tip of the ear cleaner into the opening of your dog’s ear and lightly squeeze the bottle. Squeeze until you can see liquid at the opening of the ear canal.
  4. Immediately massage your pup’s ear at the base to break down the dirt and debris.
  5. Using a clean, damp cotton pad, gently wipe down the ear canal and remove as much of the debris as you can. Keep going until it’s all gone.
  6. Take a step back, hold up the towel around your pups’ head and prepare for a shake! With a fresh cotton pad, wipe around the ear canal until it's completely dry.
  7. If your pooch needs ear drops, apply them according to the instructions immediately after cleaning.
  8. Give your pooch lots of praise and reward them with a tasty treat, before moving onto the second ear.

Now your pup's ears should be clean and fresh! Regularly carrying out a dog ear wash will help to prevent pesky dog ear infections and keep your pooch happy and healthy - good luck!

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