How to Clean a Dog's Ears

It’s a good idea to clean your dog's ears fairly regularly to prevent ear infections and to clean out any bad bacteria that may be lurking. But be careful—you don't want to overdo it as cleaning their ears too often can have detrimental effects instead. Also, excess water in the ears or over exuberant scrubbing could also lead to irritation and a breeding spot for bacteria.

If your dog is susceptible to ear infections and gets them often, leave the cleaning to the professionals. If not, and you just want to remove some of the gunk, here are some simple ideas to get the job done.

Note: If you suspect your dog may already have an ear infection, do not attempt cleaning yourself. Take them to a vet for proper care and instructions.

Get Ready

Dogs won’t like having their ears cleaned so it is best that you gather all of your cleaning supplies beforehand so you don’t have to stop in the middle when something isn’t at hand.

A vet’s office can supply you with a good cleaning solution that won’t be harmful to your dog’s ears, but it is possible to make your own. Mix one part vinegar, one part alcohol, and one part water in a small squeeze bottle so it’s easy to apply and set it aside while you gather the rest of what you’ll need.

To swab the ear, you can use clean cotton balls or gauze wrapped around your finger. If you choose the latter, gloves are a must. Never, under any circumstances, use Q-tips for cleaning. These can easily damage your pup’s sensitive ears or pack down wax in the ear canal, which will cause problems later.

Have treats handy as well! It’s important to praise your dog after any difficult task, and this may help make future cleanings easier, too.


First, soak the cotton ball or gauze in the ear wash and squeeze out any excess solution. You want it to be moist but not soaking. Starting from the outside and working your way in, gently rub the dog's ear with the cleaner. Wipe the ear flap first and then switch to a new piece of gauze or a new cotton ball to continue into the inside. Stop going any further into the ear canal as soon as you meet any kind of resistance.

Once you’ve finished, let your dog shake to remove any excess moisture from their ear canals. If the cotton balls or gauze have come away fairly dirty, you may want to schedule a vet visit soon, just in case.

Cleaning your dog's ears is simple so long as you use a gentle hand and do it as needed. Give him a good rub behind his ears and work your way to the actual swiping. This will ease the transition and won’t startle him so much.