How to clean dog ears in 7 simple steps

A dog laying on the floor with ears flopped
(Image credit: Future)

Learning how to clean dog ears takes patience and practice. Depending on your pooch, some don’t mind this task, while it’s safe to say others don’t particularly love it. In either case, you need to learn what you should and shouldn’t do to get this job done.

Here, we will break down the best method to clean your dog’s ears including tips on how often you should be doing it. It’s essential that you take the time to check your dog's ears, and clean when necessary; otherwise it can lead to problems down the line, such as ear infections. Once cleaned, your pup can return to one of the best dog beds, happy and healthy. 

How to clean dog ears  

What you'll need

Dog ear cleaning solution

Cotton balls



Before you attempt to clean your dog's ears, you need to fathom how comfortable your dog is with this task. 

Try gently stroking your dog’s ears and see how they react to you handling them. If they seem uncomfortable, don’t attempt to clean them. In this case, the chore is best handled by the vet. If your dog shows no signs of discomfort, continue to the next steps. If they seem nervous, you can always motivate them with a few treats and cuddles.

Dog ear cleaner next to cotton buds and a towel

(Image credit: Future)

1. Prepare yourself — You need to buy a dedicated dog ear cleaning solution, such as Pro Pooch Dog Ear Cleaner Solution ($7.99, Amazon).

Do not use anything else, which includes cleaners that contain hydrogen peroxide — this can irritate your dog’s skin, which is particularly sensitive around the ears. You should get a towel ready at this stage for later on as well. 

2. Get in the best position — Ideally, you want your dog to be calm, and you want to get into a position where you can help keep them still. Take a seat on the floor, with your dog’s rear positioned between your legs. If your dog is too large to do this, you're best off sitting to one side with the other side against a wall. 

Dog ear cleaning solution being applied to the ear canal of a dog

(Image credit: Future)

3. Apply the ear cleaner — Follow the dosage instructions on your ear cleaning solution and apply to your pooch’s ear canal. If your dog has floppy ears, you may need to keep the flap upright as you do this all the way to step 6.  

Try not to let the tip of the applicator touch the inside of the ear as this can spread bacteria. If it does, soak a cotton ball in alcohol and wipe the tip clean. Don’t worry if some of the solution leaks out of the ear. 

4. Massage it in — Massage the solution in for about 20-30 seconds from the base of the ear. You might hear some squishing and squelching as the wax is dislodged.  

A cotton pad drying excess ear cleaning solution from a dog's ear

(Image credit: Future)

5. Dry the excess — Now, using a cotton ball, wipe away the solution from the ear canal, but don’t go further than an inch deep. 

Do not use cotton tipped applicators at this stage or you could risk perforating the eardrum. You could also end up pushing any wax further into the ear.

6. Let your dog shake its head — Now, with your towel at the ready, let your pooch shake its head to get rid of any excess (you might want to protect yourself with the towel at this stage). Then immediately wipe down your dog’s face, outer ear and anywhere else they may have flicked the solution. 

7. Dry the residual — Now, using a cotton ball, wipe away any final, residual solution repeating step 5. 

If your dog looks to be in pain at any step of this process, air on the side of caution and take them to the vet immediately. Once finished, repeat with the other ear and you’re done! 

Be sure to give your pooch plenty of treats as a reward.  

A dog being fed a treat after having its ears cleaned

(Image credit: Future)

When should I clean my dog's ears? 

Not all dogs need their ears cleaned, and over-cleaning can actually lead to more problems, such as infections. Because of this, you should only clean your dog's ears as and when necessary. 

If you notice your dog's ears start to smell, or your pooch is constantly shaking their head, that’s a sign that it’s time to clean the ears. Healthy ears will generally be pink and odourless. Do not clean the ears if they appear infected — take your dog to the vet for examination.    

It’s worth noting that dogs which spend a lot of time in the water may need their ears cleaned more often. 

For more cleaning tips, tricks, and how-tos, check out our guides on walking dogs in the snow — 6 essential safety tips, these 10 common houseplants are poisonous to cats and dogs and the best robot vacuums for pet hair

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.