How to Care for Golden Retriever Ears (Step-by-Step Guide)

Golden Retrievers have sensitive ears that are prone to infections. Their ears need a lot of care to keep them nice and healthy. To make sure your golden’s ears stay in tip-top shape, you will need to attend to them on a regular basis. 

To care for your Golden Retriever’s ears, you will need to touch their ears a lot to get them used to it, check their ears and groom the surrounding hair often, clean them weekly (especially after swimming or baths), and take them to the vet if they show signs of an ear infection. 

This guide will cover all the steps you should take to properly care for your Golden Retriever’s ears.

Checking a golden retriever's ears.

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Touch Your Golden Retriever’s Ears as a Puppy

If your golden is a puppy, you should do a training exercise with him called touch-desensitization. This is when you touch your dog in sensitive locations on his body to get him used to it so that, later in life, he won’t react negatively when you, a veterinarian, or anyone else touches him in these areas. 

Most dogs are sensitive when their ears, paws, hind end, or tail are touched. 

The ears are an especially sensitive location for most dogs. You’ll need to touch your puppy’s ears on a regular basis to make him feel comfortable with the sensation. Start off by gently touching your puppy’s ears. After you do so, praise your pup. Make sure to start slow and do these exercises a couple of times per week for the best results. 

Don’t touch all of your pup’s sensitive locations at once. Work on one area first then slowly integrate other areas when he becomes more comfortable. 

For example, start by desensitizing his ears. After that, desensitize his paws. Once he is fairly comfortable with you touching both locations, you can work on touching his ears and his paws at the same time. 

By desensitizing your puppy’s ears, you are making ear care much easier in the future since he won’t react adversely when you need to clean them, or the vet needs to check them out. 

You can also practice touch-desensitization if you have an older dog but be aware that they might not always react well if they didn’t experience this kind of touching when they were puppies. Over time, they will learn to trust you and begin to feel more comfortable being touched this way.

Check the Ear’s to Determine if They Need Cleaning

Healthy golden retriever ears are shiny, free from discharge, don’t smell bad, and are a pale pink color on the inside. 

If you’re trying to determine if your golden’s ears need cleaning, there are a few physical and behavioral signs you can look for. 

One sign is if your dog is shaking her head a lot. This indicates that her ears feel uncomfortable and need to be cleaned. 

As for the ears themselves, check to see if they look dirty or are a little bit smelly. This is a good sign that they need to be cleaned. Look inside to see if there is built-up dirt, debris, or ear wax. If you notice any of these signs, then it’s time to get out your ear cleaning supplies. 

Even if your dog’s ears don’t look too dirty, they may still need to be cleaned. Golden’s ears are floppy and have a lot of hair around them. These kinds of ears are prone to retaining moisture inside, which can cause bacteria and yeast to grow. Therefore, you’ll need to check and clean your golden’s ears on a weekly basis to avoid ear infections. 

(Infected ears aren’t the only reasons Golden Retrievers may smell bad. Take a look at our article here to find out all the reasons your Golden stinks).

Groom Hair Around and Inside the Ears Regularly

Once you’ve determined your golden’s ears need to be cleaned, you need to make sure the hair in and around the ears is trimmed before getting down to business. 

Goldens have a luscious coat that grows all over their bodies, including in and around their ears. This hair can block air from getting in and can stop drainage from occurring, allowing moisture to be trapped inside. As mentioned above, moist ears are not a good thing since they can cause ear infections. 

You’ll need to regularly trim the hair around your dog’s ears to keep them moisture-free. Also, it’s easier to clean their ears when all of that hair isn’t in the way. 

How Do I Trim My Dog’s Ear Hair?

You can pay a groomer to trim your pup’s ear hair, but a lot of owners choose to do it themselves. 

To learn how to groom your golden’s ears, check out this video by eHow. In the video, a groomer demonstrates how to effectively trim inside and around your golden’s ears using a comb, thinning shear, straight shear, and a stripping knife:

Here’s how to trim the hair around a golden retrievers ears.

You will definitely need to purchase thinning shears and straight shears to keep the hair inside of your pup’s ears thin and the hair on the outside of the ears short and neat. 

In the video, the groomer also recommends using something called a stripping knife. While not absolutely necessary, this tool is useful for getting hairs off of the outside of your golden’s ears that are difficult to remove using a comb or a brush. 

If you need to purchase some grooming shears and a comb, check out Chibuy Professional Pet Grooming Scissors on Amazon. Chibuy offers a set that comes with straight shears, thinning shears, and a comb. The shears come with rounded edges to better protect you and your golden while trimming. 

If you’d also like to purchase a stripping knife, take a peek at the Mars Stripping Knife. This wonderful product will remove that pesky hair from your golden’s ears in no time. The Mars Stripping Knife is made with quality materials, including a stainless steel blade and a wooden handle. 

Ear Cleaning Supplies for Your Golden

Listed below are the supplies you’ll need to have to clean your golden’s ears: 

  • Cotton balls or cotton pads. Avoid using Q-tips. They can actually damage your dog’s ears by moving dirt and other harmful substances deeper into their ear canal. This can lead to a host of problems, including infection or even puncturing your pup’s eardrums. 
  • Vet approved dog ear-cleaning solution. Do not use hydrogen peroxide to clean your goldens ears. This product can cause their ears to become irritated, and it can even harm healthy skin cells. 
  • Towel. A towel is useful for clean-up and to help prevent the cleaning solution from getting on everything when your dog shakes his head. However, it’s also recommended that you clean your dog’s ears outside or in a place that is easy to clean since this process can get a little messy. 

Next, we will go over some highly rated and vet-approved ear cleaning solutions. 

Nutri-Vet Ear Cleanse for Dogs (Amazon)

This wonderful vet formulated ear cleaner will do wonders for your golden’s ears.

The ingredients in Nutri-Vet Ear Cleanse are gentle yet efficient, meaning it will effectively remove wax, dirt, and other substances from your pup’s ears without harming them. 

This product also deodorizes your pet’s ears, making them smell clean and healthy. 

This formula is made for dogs of all sizes, so whether your golden is a puppy or is fully grown Nutri-Vet Ear Cleanse has your covered.

Other than cleaning your pet’s ears, this solution also helps eliminate itchiness caused by eczema, fungal infections, insect bites, fleas, and contact dermatitis.

Vet’s Best Dog Ear Cleaner Kit (Amazon)

The vet’s best dog ear cleaner is the perfect product for a golden. This kit comes with two products, including Ear Relief Wash and Ear Relief Dry. 

The Ear Relief Wash reduces irritation, removes wax and debris, relieves itchiness, and gets rid of odors. 

The Ear Relief Dry helps to dry out your pet’s ears. This is especially important for Golden Retrievers since their ears have a tendency to capture moisture. This formula dries to a powder and absorbs excess moisture to protect your pet from developing ear infections. 

These solutions include natural ingredients such as chamomile, clove oil, tea tree oil, and aloe vera. Additionally, neither formula includes alcohol, meaning they won’t sting your furry friend’s ears. 

Vet Organics EcoEars (Amazon)

If you prefer organic products, then EcoEars may be the perfect product for you! This ear cleaning solution doesn’t include any synthetic chemicals, steroids, solvents, or antibiotics. It’s safe for your pet to use and is especially effective for pets with sensitive ears. 

This product will stop itching and will get rid of any foul smells, grime, or wax that has accumulated in your golden’s ears. It will also reduce inflammation and redness. This solution will have their ears looking and smelling healthy in no time.

If you don’t completely love EcoEars they have a 100% money-back guarantee. However, I don’t think you’ll be needing it.

How to Clean Your Golden Retrievers Ears in 5 Easy Steps

Listed below are the five steps you will need to follow in cleaning your golden’s ears. 

Step #1. Get Your Dog and the Supplies 

Gather your golden and your ear cleaning supplies. Try to clean your golden’s ears when he’s in a calm mood. If your dog is sitting calmly, you can reward him with a treat. 

Some dogs may need to be on a leash while they’re having their ears cleaned to keep them close to you and to prevent them from moving around too much. 

Step #2. Hold Your Dogs Ears Up 

You’ll need to firmly hold your golden retriever’s ear up before you fill it with the solution. Always make sure that there is no hair in the way and that you have a clear view of the ear canal. 

Step #3. Apply the Ear Cleaning Solution 

Put the ear-cleaning solution in your golden’s ear. Make sure to fill the entire ear canal with the solution. Next, gently massage the base of the ear for approximately 30 seconds. This will clean the ear and will remove any dirt, ear wax, or other substances that are lodged inside. 

Step #4. Dry Your Golden’s Ears

After 30 seconds, let your golden shake his head to get the liquid out of his ear. You can hold the towel above your golden’s head on either side of his ears to catch some of the liquid when he shakes. 

After he shakes, gently wipe his ear with a cotton ball or cotton pad to remove dirt or any other gunk that was dislodged. Make sure to never wipe deeper than the depth of one knuckle to avoid injury. 

If his ear still doesn’t look completely clean, it’s ok to repeat the process over again, and then repeat these steps for the other ear. 

Step #5. Reward and Praise Your Dog 

You want your golden to view ear cleaning as a positive experience. Always praise him after you finish cleaning each ear and provide him with a treat. This will make the experience happy (or at least tolerable) instead of scary. 

If you’d like to observe someone else cleaning a golden’s ears before you try it out yourself, check out this video by AnimalCareTV. They demonstrate how to properly perform each of the steps described above:

How to properly clean your golden retrievers ears.

Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!

Clean the Ears Every Time They Get Wet

Every time your furry friend goes swimming or her ears get wet, you’ll need to clean them. Goldens typically love to swim, so this is something you may need to do frequently. 

WikiHow has provided us with four steps to effectively clean and dry your dog’s ears after they get wet. 

In the case of swimming, it’s more about making sure that the insides of your dogs ears are dry.

Use a Towel to Dry the Ears

Right after your dog gets a bath or goes swimming, dry their ears off using a clean towel or a washcloth. You’ll want to get as much water out of the ears as possible. 

Only dry your dog’s outer ear and the surrounding fur with the towel. Do not shove the towel into the inner ear as this could cause injury. 

After you’ve dried your golden’s ears as much as you can with the towel, use a cotton ball or gauze to finish drying the outer ear. 

Apply a Drying Solution

Some ear cleaning solutions come with a drying agent in them. Others, like the Vet’s Best Dog Ear Cleaner Kit mentioned above come with a separate drying solution. Regardless of which solution you choose, always make sure that it will effectively dry your pet’s ears.

Apply the drying solution to your pet’s ears. Follow the instructions on the bottle to determine how much you should use and how long it should be left in the ears. 

After you’ve applied the solution, you should massage it around your golden’s ear canal to make sure it is being distributed throughout the entire area. 

Clean Out the Ear

After you’ve applied the solution you’ll want to clean out the ear canal with a cotton ball to remove any liquid left in your pup’s ears. Dry thoroughly, but do not press too hard as this may hurt your pet. 

Check the Ear With a Flashlight

An additional measure you can take to ensure that your dog’s ears are dry is to check them with a flashlight. Shine the flashlight down into your dog’s ear canal. If you spot any remaining liquid in your dog’s ears, wipe them again until they’re completely dry. 

If your dog still has liquid in their ears after your second attempt at drying, you may want to call your vet to get some recommendations for additional drying techniques you can try. 

Go to the Vet if Your Dog’s Ears Are Infected

Cleaning your dog’s ears when they are infected may do more harm than good. 

Some signs of an infection include: 

  • Discharge coming from the ear
  • Yeasty smelling odor coming from the ear
  • Your dog is excessively scratching or rubbing the ears
  • The ear canals look very red 
  • Your dog feels pain or is sensitive when you touch the area around the ears
  • Swelling of the ears 
  • Unusual masses forming around the ear 
Veterinarian checking a golden retrievers ears.

If you notice your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, stop what you are doing and call your vet. These are signs that your pet’s ears are infected. Therefore, they will need specific treatments and medications to treat the infection, depending on what’s causing it. 

Learn About Potential Causes of Infection 

Ear infections are typically caused by a mixture of yeast and bacteria. These nasty pathogens love spaces that are warm, dark, and moist, making wet dog ears the perfect refuge. One common infection that arises from bacteria entering the ear canal is swimmer’s ear. 

Ear infections can also arise when little critters, such as fleas and ear mites, inhabit your dog’s ears. Your pup’s ear infections could also be caused by allergies or thyroid problems. Below I’ll go over these issues in detail.  

Swimmer’s Ear in Golden Retrievers

Swimmer’s ear is an infection that occurs when water is trapped in the external part of the ear canal. 

This affliction is common in humans but is even more common in dogs because of their L-shaped ear canals. This “L” shape makes their ears more susceptible to holding water. Bacteria love warm moist environments, so if your dog’s ears are retaining water, they will thrive.  

These bacteria can cause swimmer’s ear. This ailment makes your dog’s ears painful and itchy. It can also affect their hearing, making everything sound muffled. 

If you recently took your dog swimming and he is shaking his head a lot and scratching his ears, then he may have swimmer’s ear. Sometimes, swimmer’s ear is also accompanied by a bad odor.


Fleas are hungry creatures that can eat up to 15x times their body weight in blood per day. 

Fleas commonly inhabit dogs’ ears, neck, back, abdomen, and tail. When fleas take up residence on your dog’s body, it can lead to a host of problems, including: 

  • Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin disease in American dogs. If a dog has this, a flea bite will make him have an allergic reaction. Some of the common symptoms include itchiness, irritation of the skin, scales on the skin, and hair loss.
  • Anemia occurs when dogs experience a lot of blood loss. Since fleas are able to eat so much blood, they can quickly make dogs anemic, this is especially true with puppies. 
  • Tapeworms can be found inside of fleas. If your dog eats a flea that is carrying around tapeworm eggs, the eggs will go down your pup’s digestive tract. They are able to hatch and mature inside of your dog’s small intestines. Luckily, tapeworms tend to be harmless and are fairly easy to treat. 

To prevent these problems from occurring, you need to know what fleas and flea bites look to determine if your golden has a flea infestation. 

Fleas typically have light brown to black bodies. They are 1- 3 millimeters (.04 -.12 inches) long, so they are visible to the naked eye. They leave flea bites on your dog, which are red raised bumps. However, fleas and flea bites are often hard to see, especially on dogs like Golden Retrievers that have so much fur. 

An easier way to determine if your dog has fleas is to look out for “flea dirt.” Flea dirt is small specks of dried blood that resemble pepper flakes. You can find flea dirt by combing your golden and taking a look at what is left on the comb. 

As mentioned, flea bites can cause ear infections, so be on the look out for flea dirt in or around the ears.

If you think your dog has fleas take them to the vet immediately. You’ll need to talk to your vet to determine the best way to remove the fleas from your golden and your home. Don’t let your pup sit on furniture or sleep with you when he has fleas as this can spread them around the house and even onto you. 

Ear Mites 

Ear mites are mean little creatures that enjoy living in your dog’s ear canal. They feed on the waxes and oils that your pup’s ears produce. 

While ear mites don’t actually bite your dog, their mere presence makes your dog’s ears very itchy. Your dog will persistently scratch their ears to try to get rid of the itchy mites. This frequent scratching can harm their ears and cause cuts that lead to infection. 

To determine if your dog has ear mites, look for a dark reddish-brown discharge that resembles coffee grounds coming from the ears. This is actually dried blood that has accumulated from all of the scratchings. You may also notice wounds, inflammation, and infections around the base of your dog’s ear. 

If you think your dog has ear mites, you need to take them to the vet ASAP. Ear mites easily spread from one pet to another so, if you have more than one dog or even a dog and a cat, you’ll need to get all of your pets checked out to determine if they also have mites. 


Allergies are common in Golden Retrievers and often lead to ear infections since they make your dog’s ears itchy, which can lead to inflammation. 

As mentioned above, flea allergy dermatitis is a common allergy experienced by dogs that can cause them to experience a host of problems in their ears and on other parts of their body. 

However, Golden Retrievers can also get allergies from food or from substances in their environment, such as pollen. If your dog often develops ear problems during a specific time of year, like in the spring, then allergies may be the culprit.

If you think your dog is suffering from allergies, make sure to contact your vet. 

Thyroid Problems 

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This problem is very common in Golden Retrievers, often arising when they are between 4-10 years old. However, it can occur in younger dogs as well. 

Hypothyroidism occurs in both male and female goldens. However, some studies have found that it occurs more frequently in spayed than intact females. 

The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism in goldens include:

  • Frequent ear infections
  • Dull wiry coats
  • Loss of hair or excessive shedding
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Dandruff
  • Oily skin
  • Rough skin
  • Frequent skin infections
  • Persistent scratching 
  • Hyperpigmentation (when the skin develops dark spots) 

If your golden is experiencing frequent ear or skin problems, then she may be suffering from hypothyroidism. 

Make sure to contact your vet if your pet is experiencing any of these issues. Your vet can do a simple blood test to determine if your pet’s thyroid hormone levels are abnormal or not. 

Luckily, once your pet is diagnosed with this disease, it’s often easy to manage. Most symptoms go away within a few months of starting treatment. 

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To take care of your golden’s ears, you will first need to touch them frequently to desensitize him to the sensation. This will make him feel comfortable when his ears are touched or cleaned later. Once your dog is comfortable with his ears being touched, you should check and clean them on a weekly basis. 

To clean your golden’s ears, you’ll need to purchase a vet-approved ear cleaning solution that cleans and dries your dog’s ears. Make sure to clean and thoroughly dry the ears every time he goes swimming or gets wet. 

If your dog’s ears look infected, don’t clean them and contact your vet. Sometimes, cleaning infected ears can exacerbate the problem instead of making it better. Some common causes of infection include swimmer’s ear, fleas, eat mites, allergies, and thyroid problems. 

I hope this step-by-step guide helps you keep your golden’s ears healthy and infection-free. 


Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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