Ear Care Maintenance

Question: How do I clean my dog’s ears?

Answer: In short, with caution. When you do so also matters and I’ve got tips to help you out. Read on.

As always before every post, I’d like to hammer in this next paragraph and bullet points. Let’s go.

Commit to every step.


Regular grooming that is performed properly will result in a healthier and happier dog inside and out. It is so important to understand that improper grooming can introduce new, worsen ongoing, or exacerbate preexisting issues. No slacking, okay? Commit, for the sake of your babe, to the following:


  • Value grooming as an essential method of health care maintenance and respect the process.
  • You get what you pay for. Invest in appropriate and quality tools and supplies.
  • Start slow. Introducing your sweet friend to each part of the process is critical to overall success. You’ll find the pace that works best for both of you throughout the series of steps.
  • Learn how to properly bathe – yes, it’s probably more in depth than you think!
  • Understand the importance of drying. 
  • Know that grooming is a skill and will require dedication, patience, and practice. 
  • Please, for the love of dog, recognize signs of stress. This goes for yourself and your pet. If you find yourself struggling, take your dog to a professional groomer or veterinarian! 

Effective ear care can prevent ear infections for dogs that may be prone to such. However, if done incorrectly, you may accidentally cause an ear infection. The who, what, where, when, why, and how all matter whilst approaching maintenance for the ears.  

Ear Care Maintenance


Dogs your dog have ears? Yeah, so, we should probably check those out. Does your dog have flappy-foldy ears? Ohh, even moreso; I bet they’re hiding a bit more in there. Does your dog like to frolick in bodies of water on the regular? Bro, we have to get in there and examine what’s going on. Did you just bathe your dog? A freshly washed up dude makes for a perfect candidate for an ear cleaning!


Just like humans, dogs have earwax that excrete from the inner canal. Preventative maintenance for the ears consists of keeping ears dry, aerated, and clean. There are otic washes for use with cotton balls, pre-moistened pads, and your vet may use q-tips for more tedious clean outs.

Paying attention to what your dog’s ear looks like when it is healthy and clean will help you notice when something may be awry. You can familiarize yourself with those cute flappy ears while providing routine ear cleanings. A pup’s ear discharge can come in all different consistencies and smells so it is helpful to notice when there may be a differentiation in color or odor. Swelling or inflammation of your dog’s ear may also be a hint that an infection may be at play.

Cleaning your dog’s ear is a relatively simple process so long as you understand what you are looking at before jumping in there.


To over simplify for the novice, we’re going to only assign two parts to the dog’s ear while I discuss this with you: the inner ear and the outer ear. The inner ear is the canal – leave this alone. The outer ear, technically called the pinna, is the flap, or anything that sits above that canal and is easily accessible. This is where you’ll be allowed to take action. This is for your dog’s safety. Do not go poking and prodding downward into the canal with any objects, not even a q-tip.  Attempting to tackle anything inside of your dog’s inner ear should always be left to a professional. Please and thank you. I do not want anyone to give their babe an ear infection.


There is debate as to how many times per week or per month is sufficient for proper ear care. The real answer is that it will just vary per pet. There is never going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to this. My time in veterinary clinics and as a groomer showed me trends that are pretty dead-on though: if you’ve got a retriever, you’re probaby familiar with ear infections. This is typically due to the fact that, like others with the same affliction, a retriever’s ears are too damn adorably and perfectly folded over, thus, trapping moisture inside the canal where it cannot fully aerate and breathe – a breeding groud for bacteria to build up. Retrievers also especially love water, so… do the math.

If your dog has been around water – that’s either from playing outside in a body of water, or from going on a walk in the rain, or maybe they’ve just been given a bath – it is highly recommended that an ear cleaning should follow quickly thereafter. Do not allow time for water to sit in the canal. Here’s a tip: if your dog is shaking his head, clean his ears. A couple head shakes is always a good sign that your dog is doing a lot of the leg work for you. If your dog cannot stop shaking his head, it’s likely that an ear infection may be on the horizon, if not already festering.

If your dog isn’t really around water that much, then checking out their ears once a week to see if an ear cleaning may be necessary can’t hurt.


As you’ve probably gathered by now, prevention of nasty ear infections is the goal here. Bacteria and yeast can wreak havoc inside of your dog’s ear and this can even lead to further skin issues if left untreated and allowed to spread. Why it builds up in the first place is mostly normal. Everyone has discharge from their ears, but as humans, it just comes so naturally to quickly assess the minor amount of build up we remove daily. We can also verbalize when something isn’t right and seek treatment. Dogs don’t have that luxury, so we’ve got to help out our little buddies by staying on top of our at-home ear examinations and seek professional care when we see changes.

In my opinion, ear gunk can build up for more than just the basic reason of normal excretion. I believe that diet drastically effects the output of all excretions. More on this in an upcoming post.


In a previous post titled Bathing & Drying 101, I laid out a checklist for your canine dude and mention cotton balls in the ear canal as a way to prep for bath time. In order to simplify the processes I’m offering to readers, this is a super simple suggestion that can very likely apply to most dogs that need a bath as a way to assist in the prevention of water down the ear canals. Of course, every dog’s ears are different so finding something that snuggly rests in the canal without pushing into it can be helpful to block the water flow. As a groomer, I have seen some professionals even use ear muffs! You’ve gotta do whatever works!

Getting to it, you’ll need a good otic rinse or wipe that has a drying agent. There are so many cleaners on the market, but my brands of choice are Espree, Tropiclean, and Earthbath. Now, remember, when you are ready to clean out the gunkies, our focus is only on the pinna, or the outer ear. Basically, if you can easily access a portion of the ear to remove the wax, then you may proceed.

A few more notes: Avoid excessive scrubbing as the skin on the inside of a dog’s ear may be more sensitive and doing so may cause minor abrasions. Nooks and crannies can form tiny little mazes where gunk might get trapped so change up your angle or even use a flash light to check it all out. If you’ve just emerged from a warm bath, then you’ll find that the stuff should just come right off, as the humidity from the water should have loosened it for y’all. Alternatively, if you’re doing this without having given a bath, you may find that you’ll need a few swipes to fully remove everything.


You did it!

Don’t forget to cheer on your doggo and tell her she’s a good girl!

If you’ve found that your little one didn’t really enjoy this experience, try to integrate more praise and create a positive experience. You may have to engage in some practice ear cleaning sessions in order to have a fully cooperative pup in the long run. Spend just a few short minutes a day rubbing your dog’s ears and introducing cotton balls as familiar items. Good luck!