Monthly Behaviour Tip: Summer Survival! Ears!

Spring and summer, with the warm, dry weather may lead to your dog getting an ear infection, maybe from a grass seed, skin allergy or after going for a cooling swim. Dogs often do not enjoy having their ears examined or ear drops applied, which can make treatment for ear infections very difficult. It is important to train your dog to allow handling of his/her ears. Ideally, when the ears are healthy so he/she learns that it is not a painful procedure.

It is best to incorporate checking and gentle cleaning your dog’s ears in your grooming routine. Use food or toys as rewards to both distract your pet and to make positive associations with ear handling

  1. Offer your dog a food treat with one hand and reach out towards one ear with your other hand, while your dog is focused on the treat. Repeat this exercise several times until your dog shows no concern (flinching or avoiding when you attempt to touch his/her ear) on several consecutive occasions. Repeat with the other ear.
  2. Now offer your dog a treat and lift up the ear flap. Only reward those occasions when there is no flinching. Repeat as in step 1.
  3. Next, feed treats while gently putting your finger in the opening of your dog’s ear canal and or massage the canal from the outside. Repeat as in step 1.
  4. Finally, have someone else feed your dog treats while you apply a few drops of ear cleaner into the ear and massage the canal. Repeat as in step 1. Finish with a treat and lots of praise and fuss.

If your dog does not have sore ears and has not been previously traumatised from ear treatment, you may be able to get through each step in a single day. However, if your dog is very head shy, it will take more time to progress through the steps. In these cases, it may take several training sessions to progress through each of the steps, giving food treats for relaxed behaviour. Proceed at your pet’s pace, use your dog’s favourite treats or a treat he/she does not get on a regular basis, and do training sessions when your dog is hungry for best results. Keep offering treats to your dog when handling his/her ears, especially between ear infection treatments or cleaning to avoid your training being de-railed.


Veterinary Nurse Kirstie Hancock is qualified in animal behaviour with her Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services through the Delta Society. She has lots of great tips and ideas when it comes to misbehaving pets. Keep an eye out for her monthly tips on our Facebook page. Also check out her own business Facebook page - Positive Paws.