My dog (a German Shepherd mix) has a severe ear infection and needs ear drops twice a day and an ear flush once a day. He absolutely hates this, and as a result I have not been very successful in cleaning his ears. I'm concerned that if I can't flush his ears properly, the ear drops won't have much of an effect. He weighs over 50 pounds and has plenty of energy, so it's difficult keeping him still.

I read that you should place your dog on a table at about chest level, but I live in a small apartment and the closest thing I have that is that height would either be my stove or my computer desk, two things I definitely don't want him jumping up on.

I live alone and cannot rely on having a friend help me every time. So far I've been leading my dog into the bathroom and giving him treats, then getting ahold of his collar and leading him into a corner. I then wrap my arm around his head to get to his ear, and attempt to apply the ear drops. If I had an extra couple hands at this point, I would also hold his body so I don't feel like I have him in a headlock, and use the other hand to give him treats.

He generally stays quiet (with the occasional yelp), so I don't think I'm hurting him. He just fights very hard to escape my grasp. How can I hold him still long enough to properly clean and treat his ear infection? A friend recommended some kind of large treat/chew toy, but what could I get him that would keep him in place?

  • My dog won't hold still to get his ears cleaned. Only dog I've ever had that will snap. Muzzle doesn't work helps very little he is 100 pounds of he doesn't want to . I don't have money to have a vet knock him out to do it. What can I do. The smell from his ear is making my husband nauseous
    – Patti
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 19:23

6 Answers 6


A couple tips:

  • Exercise him first to start with less energy and in a more relaxed state.

  • Do it in a place that the dog is used to and relaxed in... the room he sleeps in might be good. (sometimes the slippery floors in bathrooms can make dogs more anxious and therefore prone to fighting the situation)

  • A new bone or kong type toy filled with yummy stuff he has to lick out may help distract him but if this gets him to excited/wiggly then it may not work for him.

  • If you have time start with a massage... this can get them in a relaxed state and more willing to let you manipulate their body

  • Put the solution/medicine on a cotton ball, put the cotton ball in his ear then lightly rub his ear like you are massaging it... he may not even realize you are cleaning it out.

  • Don't obsess too much, most of the time the medication they give you for helping ear infections works really well so as long as you are getting it in there you don't need to worry about cleaning out everything you see. The medication should help to dry it out and it will naturally come out.

  • If your dog has very hairy ears it can be helpful to try to remove some of the hair, but be very careful and just focus on the hair on the outside so that the ear can drain.

  • 1
    While my Lab was alive we used to have problems like the OP describes. Since we got our Dachshund puppy, our Vet showed us what you describe in bullet 5, put medicine on a cotton ball, put the cotton in the ear and squidge the ear (massage it) works like a champ, she doesn't seem to care, since no liquid gets down to the drum, and her floppy ears (known to be dirt magnets) are clean clean clean.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 2:05
  • 1
    The cotton ball method does seem to work better with my dog (for cleaning at least, I still have to put the medicinal drops in directly). He still doesn't like it, but the amount of time I'm messing with his ears is greatly reduced. My vet also said if the drops don't work they can put medicated wax in my dog's ears. The wax just sits there for a couple weeks slowly "oozing" medicine with no additional struggle needed. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 16:11

I've noticed that if I warm up to body temp whichever solution I'm using, my babies put up far less of a fight. Solutions colder than 90+ degrees are likely to be uncomfortable or painful. I don't suggest using the microwave to warm it up, as it is likely to get too warm and may adversely effect the chemical composition of the medication. The easiest way I've found to do this is to... Now don't laugh... is to put the bottle under my arm pit, for awhile, while watching TB or on the PC. If this doesn't appeal you could warm it like a baby bottle, in warm, but not hot, water. Test the water on your wrist first, to make sure it isn't too hot. The reason I like the underarm method is if I'm going to use cotton balls, I can warm the cotton balls as well, so they don't cool down the cleansing solution, before it goes in the ears. Hope this helps. Good luck.


Okay so I have a German Shepherd and he is only 10 months but over 150 pounds and I am not very strong so I tried all of these "solutions" above but none of them worked so I calmly put my dog in a "headlock" not hurting him and squeezed the cleanser into both his ears. Yes, he struggled but I got it in there and massaged at the base of both ears and gave him a treat. But now he isn't whining and his ears don't stink anymore(thank god).


I show my dog(s) the medicine and the biscuit and tell them "medicine" in a nice tone. I don't want them to think it is punishment. You don't want to say "good dog" as they don't like what is going to happen to them. Then I put my lab on his side paws away from me and one of my legs over his neck knee level and the other above his head and rub his belly for a while. On a smaller dog then across the chest rather than neck. Then I tell him "medicine" (he knows what that means). Then apply solution / ointment. Then give him the biscuit. He does not like the solution but he likes the biscuit more.


As Beth said, it probably is going to be helpful to exercise the dog first, but after that, I don't think it's going to help much with an infected ear. Most dogs won't be distracted when you're going to do something to them that will probably hurt, since they're infected. Shaving the ears is also a good thing, but again, buzzing and irritation are probably going to have your dog struggling too much while the ears are bad. It's a good idea once they're healed, though.

I've also seen every other poster talk about the cotton ball method. I know that one poster said the vet showed it to them. While it may be better than nothing, I don't recommend it. The reason I don't think it works well is because a dogs ear canal isn't straight. It's "L" shaped. So even if you push a cotton ball all the way to the bottom, as far as you can reach, then fill the ear canal with solution, then you're only cleaning half the ear. The proper way to clean the ear is to fill it with solution, and massage the ear. It's best done by grabbing the base of the ear and working it around. This will also be less painful than sticking your finger inside and rubbing it around. You should do this for a couple of minutes. Then let your dog shake their head. The solution and agitation of the ear should have broken up some of the wax and/or debris and when the dog shakes it's head, the nasty stuff will fly out. Feel free to have a towel to hold by the dogs head to keep this from flying all over the place.

As far as controlling the dog, you'll have to figure out what works for you and your dog. You will probably have to put them into some kind of wrestlers lock till they become more used to it. I've had some dogs that would rather lay down to have it done. I could put a leg over their body to hold it in place, use the hand closest to the nose to hold the head down and the ear open, and use my free hand to apply the medicine. Dogs of all sizes can be squeezed between your legs gently to restrain them. With small dogs, you can sit on the couch and put them between your legs, closing them gently to keep them in place. I'll put the pinky, ring, and middle fingers of my securing hand around their head to keep them from turning away and the other hand to squirt solution in the ear. You can do the same process with a large dog, but have them on the floor while you sit on the couch.

You dog will probably try to wrestle away from you. You just need to use your body to block theirs. If they keep trying to scoot backwards, then use the couch or a wall to block them. If they try to turn their head away, then use your off hand to hold it steady. It's just a dexterity and thinking your way through it thing. I once saw my aunt, mother, brother, and cousin trying to put eye drops in a 5lb Pomeranian. When all four couldn't do it, they asked me for help. I put him between my legs, used three fingers to hold his head, two to pull his eyelids apart and the free hand to apply the medicine. I got both eyes done by myself in about 60 seconds. So it can be done, it's just experience. Don't be afraid to put him in a gentle body lock, but if you feel even an iota of doubt about whether he'll snap when you hold him that constrictively and do something uncomfortable, then buy a muzzle for him.

To make it a little more comfortable for the dog, I like to put the ear cleaning solution under my side till it comes up to body temp. It has to be more pleasant than when it's cold, which it tends to be winter or summer out of the drawer in the house.

Lastly, once the dog shakes his head to clear out the solution, use your cotton ball or paper towels to clean the excess gunk out of the part of the ear you can reach. Everyone will recommend you not to do the following, but if you're very careful, have a good hold on your dog, and are ready to pull a way if the move, you can use a cotton swab to get in the creases of the ear. I use these especially when the ear is really nasty. The cotton ball and paper towels can't get into all the crannies. I've seen my vet do it plenty of times. They just don't recommend people do it at home to avoid potential injury to the dog. Sometimes they feel so good, they'll lean into it. Then once the ear is wiped out, let it sit for a little while to air out and then go back and apply the medication.

Also, I can't remember which poster mentioned it, but if you have a lot of trouble with it, they have a medicated gunk they can put it. It's like axel grease and the dog can't hear for a long while, but it works with no fuss. They put it in at the vet.


My dog was putting up a big fuss just for checking her ear for infection with a Q-tip. I got her to let me by getting her to lay on her side with her head flat and the ear I'm checking up, and holding a treat in front of her face. I first touched the inside of the ear with the swab and gave her the treat, repeating a few times, and gradually (very gradually) getting more and more "intimate" with the ear each time. Eventually, she let me get an adequate sample from her ear. This may or may not work for every dog, or for cleaning rather than swabbing, but my dog is pretty wild in general so you never know. Also, she is in fact a German Shepherd.

And yes, I'm pretty sure now that her ear is infected.

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