Taking Care of a Golden Retriever’s Ears

Written by Cory Eckert

If you have a golden you know that they are active and full of energy.  They enjoy digging and rolling in the dirt to playing and swimming in the water.  Either way, your pet’s ears will have a field day!

Golden Retrievers are known for their beautiful long coats and floppy ears. While daily brushing will ensure a gleaming, tangle free coat; routine ear care will prevent one of the things your golden is most susceptible to – ear infections! 

Due to their long floppy ears, they can be prone to all sorts of health issues, from irritations to infections, because of the moisture and dirt that gets stuck under them.

Taking care of golden retrievers’ ears should be a weekly if not daily practice and part of the grooming routine.  But where do you start? . . . 

How to Prep Your Pup!

It’s important to help your pup learn what to expect in a grooming routine.  The earlier you start the better.

  • Socialization – help your pup get comfortable around loud noises, voices and people, especially children.

  • Touch – help your pup to become familiar with your touch.  Practice this daily, extending the time focused on the ears, mouth and paws, as your pup learns to stop resisting and/or pulling away.

  • Consistency - This will prepare your pup for his grooming routine now, and will lessen any problems as an older dog.

Signs that You Need to Clean Your Golden’s Ears:

It's recommended that you NOT wait for signs of needing to clean your golden retrievers ears but to instead do the cleaning on a set routine.

Once signs of irritation start, your dog is already decidedly uncomfortable. That said, knowing the signs of trouble is still a good idea so we will look at them here...

When you see that your Golden Retriever is shaking its head a little more frequently, or rubbing its head and ears against the ground, or even scratching its ears – it’s time to do an ear check!  Some other signs to look for are:

  • Discharge coming from the ears

  • Nasty smell coming from the ears

  • Redness inside the ear

  • Scratching inside the ear

  • Sensitivity

  • Swelling or growths inside or around the ear

How to Check Your Golden’s Ears, What to Look for:

As stated earlier, it’s best to start this routine when your dog is a pup so that it is a common practice and your pup understands what is happening.

  • Examine your dog’s ears daily, if possible.

  • Lift up the ear flap and check ear.  Healthy ears should be white to slightly pink inside.

  • Some wax and dirt are normal.

  • The ears should also be odor free.

  • Make sure the hair in the ear canal is trimmed.

  • Trim fur under the ears to increases air flow and keep the ears drier.

Just as long hair/fur under the ears can foster potential infections, long hair in the ear canal can increase the chances that dirt, bacteria, moisture and allergens will also contribute to infections. 

If you notice a waxy discharge, a buildup of dirt and/or blood, red or inflamed skin, a foul odor, your dog may already have an irritation or infection.

Various Ways to Clean Your Golden’s Ears:

Now that you have examined your dog’s ears, it’s time to clean them.  If you have been consistently grooming your pet and cleaning the ears is part of the routine, this should not be a problem.  If this is your first time, let’s start at the beginning, which is making your dog comfortable.

  • While you are sitting on the floor, have your Golden Retriever lie down next to you.
  • Check you dog’s ears for excess hair, dirt and other debris.
  • Dampen a cotton ball and remove any debris that is visible on the outer ear.
  • Use a new cotton ball every time you wipe your retriever’s ear.  If there are bacteria in the ear, by using a new cotton ball you are preventing the spread of this bacteria.
  • Apply a generous amount of cleaner into your dog’s ear canal.  
  • Hold your dog’s ear above the canal and massage the cleaner into the ear gently.
  • If you notice an infection, use a medicated or saline solution.
  • Use a paper towel to wipe off any extra cleaning solution that is leaking out of the canal.

For help on which ear cleaning solution to choose, have a look at our early post on the Best Ear Cleaning Solution for Golden Retrievers.

Our Personal Favorite is Zymox Otic Peat Ear Treatment

Here is another example of how to clean your golden’s ears:

  • You can use pre-moistened ear wipes for a quick cleanup of the outer ear.

  • For a deep cleaning, use ear wash which gets further in the ear canal.

  • After each swim or bath, your dog’s ears must be deep cleaned to remove any water in the ear canal.

  • The frequency of full ear cleanings depends on the health and lifestyle of your golden retriever. 

  • In a squeeze bottle, soak cotton gauze in a solution of 40% vinegar and 60% water** or a premixed solution recommended from your vet.  

(**some do not recommend the use of vinegar due to acidity and irritation to the inner ear or water because it could cause bacteria to grow and infection to spread)

  • Wipe ears gently, making sure to get all crevices.

  • Use a fresh piece of gauze to wipe into the opening of the ear canal.  If the gauze is clean with no foul order, the cleaning is done.

  • If the gauze has debris and there is an odor, the ear canal needs to be clean.

  • Gently squeeze the bottle of solution into the ear canal to loosen and remove ear wax, dirt and dead skin.

  • Let your Golden Retriever shake his head.  This will remove the cleaning solution and the debris that was loosen up in the ear canal.  You can re-wipe the outer area to clean and dry it.

As always, if you feel that your golden retriever is not up to par, go to the vet to make sure that all is well and there is no infection or health problem.

Tips to Remember

  • Start your grooming routine early.

  • Cleaning your dog’s ears should be part of the routine.

  • Check ears daily, cleaning at least once a week.

  • Always deep clean after a bath or swim to remove water in the ear canal.

  • Use cotton balls or cotton gauze to clean the outer ear and/or the opening of the ear canal. (To prevent damage to the eardrum - DO NOT use Q-Tips in the inner canal – this is for your trained vet to do)

  • Check and trim excess hair in the ear canal and under the ears.

  • Use a prescribed cleaner or vet approved premixed solution for deep cleaning. (see comments regarding vinegar and water homemade solutions)

  • Massage cleaning solution in ear gently.

  • Clean and re-wipe ears after your dog shakes his head.

  • If your golden has an ear infection or ear health issue, see your vet immediately! 

About the author

Cory Eckert

Cory is the co-creator of GoldenRetrieverLove.com and a life long dog enthusiast. From training livestock dogs as a child to working with obedience classes as an adult, it's hard to imagine Cory without a dog. Currently enjoying being a dog parent to Remi (a chocolate lab) and Annie (a golden retriever).