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How To Clean Dog Ears DIY: A Pet Parent’s Complete Guide

At A Glance

Dogs need to be clean to stay healthy and happy. As a doting parent, you most probably take your pet to a professional groomer often. However, some hygiene routines can be done at home, such as ear cleaning. But how to clean dog ears safely?

  • Consult your veterinarian first and ask for tips because canines’ ears are differently structured than that of humans’. The age, breed, and activity level of your dog will decide how frequently you need to clean their lobes.
  • Make the ear irrigation a stress-free experience for your pet by combining it with grooming and bathing. Use an OTC dog ear cleaner or a saline solution.

Last Updated on: January 5, 2023


How do I clean the gunk out of my dogs ear?

You might be surprised to learn it’s not that complicated.

But before you take matters into your own hands, consult your vet. Not only are dog’s ears differently structured than ours, they also vary depending on the breed.

As Elyse Horvath, Founder of Natural Paws, points out: “Every dog is different, and so every dog’s ears are different, needing their own frequency of cleanings.”

One thing’s for sure – Q-Tips won’t do.

So today, our lesson is: How To Clean Dog Ears!

custom oil-painted dog portraits by Poshtraits

How To Tell When A Dog’s Ears Need Cleaning

First things first – you must know if your dog needs to have its ears cleaned.

There are two telltale signs that it’s time: if it emits an odor from its ears and shakes its head more often than usual.

However, while it’s important to be adept at when and how to clean smelly dog ears, it is equally essential to be alert for potential ear problems.

If you notice your pet’s ears looking red and swollen, and it winces in pain when they are touched, consult a vet instead.

Dog mom Kathy H, a retired court reporter, adds: “If your dog is shaking his head a lot, it’s time to see the veterinarian because a dog will shake because of an infection in the ear or ear mites. If you don’t address the issue, they will shake hard enough to form a hematoma in the ear flap. So listen to what your dog is showing you.”

Should your dog exhibit the first signs of an ear infection, a flea or mite infestation, or something more serious, seek medical advice. Often, frequent cleaning of their ears will make the condition more severe.

how to clean dog ears - how to clean a dog’s ears a step-by-step guide

How To Clean A Dog’s Ears: A Step-By-Step Guide

How to clean dog ears at home naturally?

Follow the tried and proven procedure below and you’re sure to have those auditory organs immaculate in no time:

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

Here’s what you’ll need:

Most dogs don’t like being held while grooming, so prepare for the unexpected. Place your ear cleaning arsenal at arm’s reach and lay towels nearby in case your dog would need to sit or stand up.

Don’t use pointed cotton swabs as they may cause harm to your pet’s ear canal. A towel, cotton gauze, or any similar material that can absorb liquid quickly is better.

Step 2: Identify Your Setting

Choose a place your dog is most comfortable and familiar with, preferably where you usually bathe and groom it.

Make sure to eliminate distractions as well, especially during the first few times. Unlike bathing, ear irrigation is a delicate exercise. You wouldn’t want your pet to be playing while you probe inside its ears.

dog grooming

Step 3: Start With Grooming/ Bathing

You need to calm your dog so your ear cleaning session won’t become a stressful situation.

The best way is to have grooming and bathing as the initial phase of how to clean out dog ears, especially long floppy ones with long hair.

Your rubs and massages coupled with the sweet scent of dog shampoo will help relax your pet.

In particular, the secret of how to clean floppy dog ears thoroughly is to groom it first.

You must remove matted hair from the back up to the area surrounding the ear canals and flaps. And if there’s hair in the ear canals, you should cut some of it to allow any trapped liquid to gush out. It will also provide more air flow into the ear canal.

Step 4: Restrain Your Dog

Like it or not, this is part of how to safely clean dog ears.

Use a table as your grooming station if your dog is small. But if you have a medium-sized dog, let it lie down on the floor while you go down on your knees. Lean over it so it won’t be able to get up in the middle of the session.

Next, gently grasp the bottom front leg of your pet to restrain it. You also need to put your forearm near its jaw to prevent it from raising its head during the process.

Step 5: Apply Ear Wash Solution

Pethonesty Dog Ear Cleaner

Safe and soothing ear-cleaning solution

Packed with just the right things to keep your dog’s (and cat’s) ears clean, this ear cleaner and drier also takes care of all ear infections, dirt, excessive wax, and bacteria. It is easy to use and suitable for the most sensitive animal skins.

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vet-approved dog ear cleaning solution for dogs. Can be used for regular painless ear cleaning.

Pethonesty Dog Ear Cleaner

Safe and soothing ear-cleaning solution

Packed with just the right things to keep your dog’s (and cat’s) ears clean, this ear cleaner and drier also takes care of all ear infections, dirt, excessive wax, and bacteria. It is easy to use and suitable for the most sensitive animal skins.

  • Jennifer S.

    As seen on Google
    …My pup dealt with aches his entire life. We’ve spent thousands on ear medicine…causing extreme discomfort & hearing loss! This ear cleaner gives him…relief IMMEDIATELY!! 10 minutes after…it was a complete change!…& has made cleaning his ears a 1 man job!

  • Alex R.

    As seen on Google
    Pet Honesty has great products. My Bracco Italiano, Amos has a yeast infection in his ear. The cleaner dissolves the goopy ear wax for an easy clean and leaves his ear soothed and smelling great. I’m not sure if this product can fix the root of the problem. It’s still a fantastic daily cleaner.

  • Bonita S.

    As seen on Google
    I have a Great Pyrenees with smelly ears. I clean them all the time but they still hold an odor. Once I used the OTIC Ear Cleaner, Kodi’s ears smelled 100% better. He also didn’t mind me cleaning them like he used to. I highly recommend this product. You’ll love how this product smells.

This is a valuable part of the process of how to clean stinky dog ears.

Once your dog is restrained, raise one of its ear flaps and use it as a funnel for the cleaning solution.

Do not insert the tip of the bottle directly into the ear canal, just let the liquid flow down from the flap.

Hold the bottle for five seconds to ensure that there will be enough cleaning liquid to remove debris and ear wax.

Massage The Ear Base

When the solution is in, hold your pet’s ear flap down and massage its ear base for 20 to 30 seconds. This will allow the fluid to break up any debris inside the ear, which will slowly melt along with the liquid.

Dry The Ear

Wipe down your dog’s ear with a cotton gauze or soft towel. Clean the flap first, then the inner part of the ear.

But how to clean inside dog ears without causing pain or harm?

Very gently and carefully. Do not go deeper than a knuckle of your finger inside its ear canal.

And try to be swift as this intrusion isn’t a welcome sensation for your pet.

When done with one ear, repeat this step on the other.

Step 6: Let Your Dog Shake

Now that both ears are dry, you’re almost done!

Your dog will want to shake their head to remove excess liquid in their ears. Shaking also removes debris from the inner canals and is the final step in how to clean wax out of dog ears.

As soon as your pet is done shaking, clean their ears once more with a gauze pad to get rid of any remaining debris or liquid.

And the final step on how to properly clean dog ears: use the towel to clean the inner ear canal and remove excess moisture.

If your pet exhibits any kind of pain during any step of the ear cleaning process, stop what you’re doing and bring it to a vet.

Reward Your Pup With Treats

Give your dog a treat or reward after cleaning the first ear so they will associate it with a positive outcome.

Once you complete the process for the other ear, give another treat. This positive reinforcement will make the next ear irrigation session easier for both of you.

how to clean dog ears - tweet

Frequently Asked Questions

When Is The Best Time For Cleaning A Dog’s Ears?

After bathing. This will ensure that their ears are clear of excess moisture and liquids.

Generally, dog’s ears should be cleaned once a month. However, the frequency of ear cleaning depends largely on the breed and activity levels of your pet. Dogs that love playing in the water or dirt and those with long floppy ears (like beagles, labradors, poodles, and shih tzus) need it once a week or every two weeks at the very least. For daily hygiene you can use hypoallergic wipes.

Do All Dogs Need To Have Their Ears Cleaned?

Some breeds don’t require regular ear cleaning. In fact, overdoing it may even cause harm and irritation, which can lead to ear infection. It’s not mandatory for certain smaller dog breeds, and a few may not even find it necessary at all.

My Dog Hates Getting Her Ears Cleaned. What Should I Do?

If you want to learn how to clean dirty dog ears, start with positive reinforcement. Gently massage your dog’s ears and encourage it to handle them as well. Give it a treat when it allows you to hold its ears. Do this daily, adding one step of the process each day.

When your dog is sufficiently comfortable, then you can start the irrigation process.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Has An Ear Infection?

Dogs exhibit these symptoms and behavior when they have an ear infection:

  • Foul odor from the ears
  • Frequent ear scratching
  • Brown or bloody discharge
  • Scabs on the inside and outside of the ears
  • Head shaking
  • Head tilting

If your dog loves to play with water or roll in dirt, it may be prone to ear infections. Some breeds are vulnerable to bacterial ear infections.

Colorado-based veterinarian Dr. Sarah Wooten says, “When I see a dog that comes in with frequent ear infections, occurring every three to six months, that dog has something in their ears that predisposes them to grow yeast or bacteria.”

Should You Use Hydrogen Peroxide To Clean Dog Ears?

No. It may cause irritation and even harm healthy skin. Your pet’s ears are very sensitive, and hydrogen peroxide could damage their ear drums and its surrounding areas.

Your best bet on how to clean dog ears is to always use veterinarian-approved cleaning solutions, which are safer and more gentle than hydrogen peroxide.



Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.