Your dog loves head scratches, butt rubs, and all things bacon-flavored, but one thing he doesn’t love is having his ears cleaned. And can you blame him? Letting a person poke and prod that sensitive area is bound to be uncomfortable. For some dogs, it’s even terrifying.
But you HAVE to clean your dog’s ears. Ear infections are the number two reason for costly canine vet visits, and dirty ears are a danger to your dog’s health. Neglecting to clean your dog’s ears might give your pooch a temporary sigh of relief, but it’s not doing him any favors. You need to learn how to clean your dog’s ears in a way that is quick, easy, and painless. And the more cooperative your dog is, the happier you’ll both be.
Here are a few ear cleaning tips to benefit both you and your four-legged friend.
1. Never Use Q-Tips
Q-tips might be your weapon of choice when it comes to cleaning your own ears, but they’re actually a bad idea for both humans and pets. One wrong move, and you could end up rupturing the eardrum. This is extremely painful, and while eardrums can heal on their own, a serious rupture could lead to hearing loss.
When your pup is uncomfortably wiggling in your arms, the last thing you want to do is put a q-tip inside their ear canal. If they move their head the wrong way, you could accidentally push the q-tip too deep into their ear. The pain will be enough to convince your dog that no one is ever allowed to touch their ears again. If that happens, cleaning your dog’s ears will be a whole lot harder. Instead of q-tips, choose cotton balls or specially made ear wipes.
2. Make It a Rewarding Experience
Dogs learn about new experiences by associating them with emotions. While you pup’s initial response to ear cleaning might be confusion, discomfort, or fear, you have an opportunity to help them form a positive association. The best and easiest way to do that is with treats. It’s just like teaching a dog to sit or come when called. If they learn that a specific action always results in a yummy treat, they’ll be much more likely to repeat that action. In this case, the action is sitting calmly while you clean their ears.
When you first approach your dog with your ear cleaning supplies, give them a treat. Touch their ear with just your hand, and give them another treat. Start being a little more intrusive with your touching, and load on more treats. When they’re comfortable with the touching and are waiting for another treat, move on to the actual cleaning. Stop when they start showing signs of discomfort and give them more treats. You never want to progress to the point that your dog is fighting to get away. Those are negative emotions and will only make your job harder the next time.
3. Enlist Help
Sometimes cleaning a dog’s ears is a two-person job. That’s especially true if you have a big dog or a dog that’s overly excitable or stressed out. With two extra hands, one person can focus on making sure the dog is comfortable. They can dispense treats, praise, and pets while the other person gets down to the business of cleaning.
If you think having an extra person will help with your dog’s ear cleaning, choose someone who your dog already knows and is comfortable with. Another family member is ideal. A new person could stress them out even more.
4. Massage, Don’t Poke or Prod
It’s instinct to look in your dog’s ear and attack those clumps of gunk head on. Doing that means forcefully shoving your cleaning supplies into your dogs ear and poking around. If your dog is already on edge, this aggressive cleaning will make matters worse. It’s better to take a more gentle approach.
Instead of forcefully poking or rubbing the inside of your dog’s ear, you should massage the dirt lose. Moisten the area with your chosen ear cleaning solution and then massage the base of the ear for a few seconds. This helps the solution get in the ridges of the ear canal without being overly uncomfortable.
After the massage, let your dog give their head a good shake. This helps further dispel dirt and debris. Mop up the remaining dirt and solution with a cotton swab or ear wipe. If the ear is still dirty, repeat the process.
When it comes to ear health, the best thing you can do for your dog is pick a gentle, yet effective, ear care product. Some ear cleaners are made with alcohol or other substances that can cause burning or irritation. Your dog definitely won’t like those. You also want something that is quick and easy to use. The shorter your ear cleaning sessions are, the better your dog will feel about them. If you have to juggle a bottle of solution and a bag of cotton swabs, you prolong the experience and test your pup’s patience.
Many pup parents have found ear cleaning success with ear wipes. These are pre-soaked pads that are quick and easy to use. There’s no soaking cotton swabs or aiming solution into your dog’s ears. Pet MD Advanced Ear Wipes are made to be convenient and effective. They’re easy to use, and the wipes are soaked in a soothing anti-microbial cleanser.
Cleaning your dog’s ears is part of your responsibility as a pup parent. It has to be done, and you can decide whether it’s going to be a frustrating fight or a quick and easy grooming session. It might take a few sessions for your dog to be completely comfortable, but following these ear cleaning tips will benefit you both in the long run.