Why should you clean your dog's ears?
Dogs' have longer ear canals than us and, depending on the breed, these canals can be quite hairy. This can create a moist, warm environment in which infection can occur. By cleaning your dog's ears regularly you will prevent a build-up of wax and consequently reduce the risk of your dog suffering from ear infections.
Furthermore, if you get your dog used to having his/her ears cleaned routinely, you will find it much less of a challenge if ever you do need to treat an ear infection (bearing in mind that your dog will be less tolerant when his/her ears are sore).
How to clean your dog's ears
A dog's ear canal consists of a vertical part and a horizontal part. Always direct ear drops vertically downwards, to prevent damage to theear canal. Instill the drops, then massage the base of the ear to spread the drops around. In the case of medicated drops, these are usually then left in; if you are simply using an ear cleaner you can then place a piece of paper towel over a finger and gently wipe around the entrance to the ear canal to remove any wax and debris (do not go digging deep).
Ear cleaning solutions are available from your vets and also from some pet shops. These help to dissolve wax and soothe the ear canal. How often you need to clean the ears depends on how dirty they get. If you find large amounts of wax and debris each time you clean, increase the frequency and vice versa. If your dog persistently has large amounts of dirt in his/her ears you should consult your vet.
What if your dog hates having his/her ears touched?
If your dog shows signs of aggression when you try to clean his/her ears you will need to put some time into training. Firstly, never put yourself in danger - if necessary, start with your dog muzzled. The next step is to gradually desensitive your dog to having his/her ears touched. Offer a treat and reach towards one ear. Repeat this several times until your dog does not react, then try touching the ear. Again, repeat this several times, before then attempting to lift the ear flap. By repeating each step several times you will gradually find you can do more. Do not try to actually clean the ear or apply medicated drops until your dog is completely at ease with each of the previous steps.
If your dog's ears are very sore you should consult your vet, who will check to see if they are infected and may advise cleaning and treating them under anaesthetic before giving you drops to continue at home.