How do you know if your dog's ears need to be cleaned? Some dogs, particularly our floppy-eared friends, are ear infection magnets. If you have one of these breeds or a dog with a history of ear issues, you'll need to check his ears weekly. While there can be any number of issues, allergies are likely the main cause of most ear problems, and they are seen equally amongst all types of breeds. If they look normal, smell good and your dog is behaving normally, leave them alone. Most healthy dogs do not need to have their ears cleaned and in fact, cleaning a healthy ear can damage its ability to self clean. To determine if your dogs ears need a bit of help follow the instructions below. Ye' Old Smell Test Yes, it's not the most pleasant of tasks but go ahead and sniff around. Make a habit of sniffing your dogs ears from the time they are puppies so you're familiar with his natural smell. Healthy ears don’t have an odor so if his ears smell moldy or generally off, it’s possible that an infection is brewing. Take a Look Using a flashlight (never a lighter) take a look inside his ears. The interior skin should be nice and pink with a small amount of pale yellow wax. This is part of the ear's self-cleaning system and is totally normal. If the ears look red or are demonstrating any sign of discharge, make an appointment with your vet. Additionally, if your dog pulls away from you and seems in pain during this inspection process, paws at his ears or rubs them against objects, make a vet appointment immediately. How to Clean the Ears Tilt your dog’s head downward with one hand and squirt a gentle cleanser (recommended by your veterinarian) into the ear, filling the canal. Holding the ear closed, gently massage the ear making sure to move the cleanser around throughly in order to soften any gunk. A number of new products include soft application tips and clever devices to apply just the right amount of product. That may be enough to stop an infection before it takes hold. Now step back and let your dog shake. (You might want to hold a towel up between you so you don’t get splattered.) Wipe away any remaining cleanser with soft, dry gauze or tissue, not going any deeper than your first knuckle. That’s all you need to do. Just as with human ears, never mess around with cotton-tipped applicators. They can drive dirt and debris deeper into your dog’s ear. And whatever you do, don’t clean ears with alcohol or witch hazel. They dry the ear out and can sting if your dog has abrasions inside his ear. If the smells or your dogs behavior continues to worsen after the cleaning, make an appointment with your vet. He may need a deep cleaning and a course of antibiotic drops or ointment to resolve the infection. Your best bet for preventing ear infections is to keep your dog's ears clean and dry. Bacteria and yeast love a warm, moist environment. Dry your dog’s ears thoroughly after a swim or bath and try to keep them held closed when wetting his head.