I have a 5 month old puppy who's pretty much attached to my hip and feels super comfortable around me. However, I have noticed recently that he seems to get agitated sometimes whenever I try to pick him up and he ends up running around and peeing (which I heard could be something called submissive urination).

Today, I had to give him a bath, cut his nails, and give him his ear medication for a yeast infection that he has. When I cut his nails, I got sort of got rough with him trying to hold him down which made him tense and he had an accident. After 2 hours, I finally cut all his nails and then went to give him a bath; I tried to be as gentle as possible, but he was shaking and kept trying to leap out which made me have to hold him down again. After that was over, I tried to give him the medication which was insanely difficult.

It's worth mentioning that I'm a first time dog owner and I had to hold him down HARD to give him this stupid stuff which resulted in me coming off aggressive when he was trying to escape (the poor little guy was squealing and whining and was in visible discomfort with this crap in his ears).

I gave him some treats towards the end of the night and he's asleep right now but I want to know if I did any long term damage. Also if anyone can recommend methods for keeping him calm during stuff like this, it'd be great because I don't want him to get anxiety.

  • 3
    I know it's hard, but ear infections can cause real problems for cats and dogs. They're also both very vulnerable to hematoma in their ears, due to the way the ears are constructed, and they can get them due to shaking their head repeatedly when their ears are bothering them. So, yes, your dog hates having its ears cleaned/getting ear medication, and probably always will. But you're the one with the ability to look to the future, and realize that however traumatic giving the medicine is, having to have surgery because you didn't give the medicine is worse. Oct 10, 2019 at 18:50

5 Answers 5


That was probably a little too much in one go for a puppy. Puppies learn natural dog behavior from their mothers and rudimentary human behavior from their mother's owners (that's called socializing). They are most trusting and confident in situations they experienced in a positive way during socializing. Everything above and beyond makes them insecure until they learned how to cope with the new situation.

After such a negative experience, you need to give your puppy much love and, if possible at all, repeat the same or a similar situation in a much more positive way.

First there was cutting the nails. This is not an activity you usually do with a puppy during socialization and holding the feet of a dog is not part of the natural behavior. Almost all dogs get nervous during nail cutting at first and need to be trained to endure the procedure in a calm way.

You should train "holding hands" with your puppy. He can be sitting up or lying on his side (to hold the feet). Just pet him a little, take one of his feet in your hand, look at it and move it a little bit for 5 - 10 seconds, then release it and continue petting. This connects the experience with positive emotions.

Next you should include the nail clipper in this training. Let your dog sniff at it, then do the "holding hands" training but instead of just holding his feet, touch his nails with the clipper. You don't need to actually clip his nails, just touching is enough. Continue petting after that.

Next time you need to cut his nails, repeat the same training, this time actually cutting his nails. Pet him after every single nail that was cut.

Next the bath. Many dogs are afraid of the bathtub because they cannot see the shape of the surface clearly, it makes a metallic sound that most dogs aren't used to and amplifies sounds and on top of that, they get wet. You could compare the experience with a ghost train for dogs.

Some simple tips to make the experience less frightening are:

  • A very simple solution is to put an old towel or bath mat into the tub, to dampen the metallic sound and make it easier to discern the bottom from the walls.
  • Kneel down next to the tub so you don't tower over your dog (which is perceived as a dominant or threatening gesture).
  • Start the water at low water pressure and let your dog sniff / lick at it.
  • Start wetting his feet, then tummy, then shoulders and hips.
  • Do not let water flow over his head or ears. If he's dirty there, cup water in your hand and wash him that way.
  • Talk to your dog and praise him.

Getting water into a dog's ear can cause ear infections, so avoid that at all costs. Even plain, clean water without shampoo will significantly raise the risk of an infection.

Always use a shampoo designed for dogs. Shampoo for humans shouldn't be ingested, can dry out a dog's skin for several weeks and cause itching or rashes.

Once you're done, either let your dog jump out of the tub or lift him out. Offer a towel in your open hands and call him to you. Rub him dry in a playful manner. Our dog loves to rub himself on the towel and squirm around on it.

Last but not least, the ears. I share your fate in that regard. Any ear infection is extremely unpleasant for a dog, and so is getting any liquid into their ears. Our own dog whines as if he's being slaughtered every time we treat his ears.

Don't grab your dog by the snout and force his head into the position you'd like. Don't clamp his head between your legs. This is not only a form of violence, it also means a rather severe punishment in a dog's natural body language. That way you connect treating his ears with very negative emotions and he will fight harder and harder against it.

Instead, you need to have more patience and outsmart him.

You should start massaging his ears with your non-dominant hand. In case of an infection, it's best to massage from the cheek (inner ear) towards the neck (outer ear) to dislodge any accumulation of ear wax. If there is excessive ear wax, it's best to wipe it out with a moistened cotton swap before applying any medication. Do not use Q-tips / cotton buds in a dog's ear.

Then move your dominant hand (holding the medication bottle / dispenser) to the same ear and quickly squirt some of the medication in the ear. Continue massaging the ear to spread the medication. If the medication is very liquid, you don't even have to aim. It'll flow into the ear while you massage. If it's more like a gel and your dog won't let you aim in his ear, squirt a dose onto your finger tip and gently push the finger as deep into the ear as you can get, then massage. Be careful not to hurt your dog with your finger nails.

After each treatment, give him some very special treats he doesn't get every day and praise him.

  • 2
    I've heard that dogs and cats are especially concerned about keeping their ears dry in the bath, and to avoid wetting the ears if possible. I have no real idea if that's true or helpful. Oct 9, 2019 at 23:20
  • Excellent answer. In addition to rewarding after each activity, also make a serious effort to pick him up and hold him a lot in a positive manner (cuddling, petting, offering special treats, whatever activities you can do while holding him that make him happy or excited) -- this will help minimize associating getting picked up as a negative thing.
    – Doktor J
    Oct 11, 2019 at 19:28

It sounds like the experience was just as traumatic for you as it was for your pup. You will both "get over it" in time. Don't coddle the pup and act like you have to compensate for the way you treated him while you were doing those parenting things. He won't understand what's going on and he could become insecure from the apparent mood swings. Instead... let's see if I can help you learn better ways to do those things.

Nail clipping: Bring your puppy into your lap while you are watching TV. Lay his back against your belly and slowly (gently) stroke his belly. As you do this he will become more and more relaxed. After he is relaxed, gently examine his paws and clip a nail or two. Then after a bit do another... (there is no rule that says you have to do every nail in one sitting)

Bathtime: Since your little guy is a puppy (I assume this means small), pick him up and put him in the sink. Most kitchen sinks (that I know of) have sprayers that you can pull out and use to soak down the pups fur. Just make sure that the water is warm (not too hot or cold) and that you hold the sprayer close to his skin (which also prevents splatter). There are several advantages to washing your dog in a sink including your own comfort, control, and the convenience of having everything you need within reach. Naturally, this might be far-fetched for larger dogs, but it's perfect for pups and small(er) breeds.

Ear Meds: Let your puppy get used to you inspecting "it" all over. Puppy Mom's will nudge their offspring, toss them on their backs, smell their ears, etc. So puppies come to you with some level of handling. Still, getting your puppy used to you lifting up their ears and putting something inside them is... different. I think the name of the game here is that you are calm, prepared, and efficient. Lift the ear, look inside, snif (dogs sniff other dogs ears), add meds, then rub the back of the ears for a few seconds. That way the medicine will work it's way into the dog's ear canal and it helps make the experience more positive for the dog. Done without drama. :)

Congrats on your pup. I hope you have a long happy relationship!


I give my dogs a shower instead of a bath. They're much calmer standing "in the rain" than in a pool of water.

  • True, my sister is also more successful using the shower, when wet-cleaning the dogs.
    – virolino
    Oct 10, 2019 at 5:11
  • 4
    Are you able to add anything else about the behaviours that the puppy was exhibiting. This only partially answers the question.
    – Henders
    Oct 10, 2019 at 12:04

Unless you beat the puppy hard, there is no really big damage done long-term. Some ideas to keep in mind in similar situations:

  • be calm; make sure to be calm for the entire duration of the event;
  • remember that 5 months means that the puppy is still a baby, treat him accordingly;
  • each of the activities you mentioned might be traumatizing (nails trimming, bath, medication...); try not to associate them in a sequence;
  • the puppy might be extra-sensitive or moody because of the infection; take that into account, and read again the first line: be calm :)

Try to do the easy / pleasant things at the beginning. Leave the "fighting" for the end. In this way, he puppy will not associate the pleasant things with the anger generated by something else - turning the pleasant things into unpleasant.

You might give him a treat after (each?) unpleasant experience.


Aside from what everyone else has mentioned for a smoother experience, try to remember: a dog is an animal, and have evolved from creatures that have lived in much harsher conditions than grooming and medicating your dog ever was or will be, and are more resilient than you're giving them credit for. As long as you're not intentionally harming it, it should be fine.

  • 4
    While you are right about the puppy itself, the relationship puppy-owner can deteriorate significantly in time, as a result of repeated "conflicts". That is why it is important for the owner to proceed with some reasonable care.
    – virolino
    Oct 10, 2019 at 13:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.