Golden Retriever Ear Care [Plus Common Mistakes To Avoid]

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The floppy ears of a Golden Retriever are just one of the many things we love about them! But, those cute floppy ears trap moisture and dirt, and without proper care, can become red, and irritated and produce a foul odour!

This article is all about Golden Retriever ear care.

If you’ve landed here, chances are your Golden Retriever has dirty ears, they are red, or they stink! Or, you just want to know how to properly clean and care for your Goldens ears.

Don’t worry you’re not alone! As a proud owner of this wonderful breed, I know firsthand how important it is to keep your Goldens ears clean and healthy.

My Ellie has suffered from a couple of ear infections in her lifetime.

Ear infections are pretty common in Golden Retrievers, mainly because they love to swim, and their floppy ears trap moisture.

Ear infections are painful to your dog, which is why they need to be treated immediately, if not prevented in the first place.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to properly clean and care for your Golden Retriever’s ears.
  • The signs of an ear infection.
  • Common mistakes to avoid when cleaning the ears.
  • The best ear cleaning products for your Golden Retriever.

Are Your Golden Retriever’s Ears Healthy? (How To Tell)

Golden Retriever Ear Care - Golden Retriever puppy looking at you.

When you lift the flap of your dog’s ears, the ear canal should appear pale pink and be free of odour.

A minimal amount of wax is okay, it’s part of the ear’s self-cleaning system, but the ear canal should be quite clean. It should not be moist.

Rubbing your dog’s ears is also a good indication of any problems. Dogs like having their ears rubbed, especially a Golden Retriever, (the more petting the better!).

If your dog enjoys all the ear rubs, chances are the ears are healthy, but if your dog pulls away and doesn’t want you touching his ears, chances are they are tender from an infection or injury.

Signs That Your Golden Retriever Has An Ear Infection

A Golden Retriever puppy rolling on the grass.

Ear infections are one of the most common dog health problems, according to pets WebMD. They can come on quickly, be very painful for your dog, and should not be left untreated.

Here are the signs to look out for:

  • Ears are sensitive to touch.
  • Head shaking.
  • Foul odour.
  • They are red/swollen.
  • Frequent scratching at ears.
  • Your dog rubs his ears on the ground, furniture, or carpet.
  • There is a yellow or brownish-black discharge.
  • The ears feel hot to the touch due to inflammation.
  • There is crusting or scabs in the ears.

What Causes Ear Infections In Golden Retrievers?

There are a few reasons why your Golden Retriever may have developed an ear infection:

The Anatomy Of The Ear Canal

Dogs have a long and narrow ear canal that is “L” shaped.

The ear canal is naturally deep and dark, and it is because of this anatomy that dogs are very susceptible to getting ear infections.

Moisture, debris and wax are easily trapped inside.

Moisture In The Ears

A Golden Retriever laying in a shallow wading pool.

This is probably the main reason why Golden Retrievers get ear infections. This breed loves to swim, just try to keep a Golden Retriever out of the water, it’s not easy!

The moisture gets trapped inside and because of their floppy ears, air cannot circulate and help dry them out, therefore causing a breeding ground for bacteria.

After swimming, or when your Golden Retriever has wet ears, you should always dry the ears as best you can to prevent an infection.


Food allergies can cause your dog’s ears to become red and irritated.

The most common food allergies include beef, chicken, wheat and soy, but there are many other ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction in your dog.

Head shaking and frequent scratching at the ears are signs that your dog may be allergic to something.

Foreign Objects

A Golden Retriever puppy rolling in the mud.

Golden Retrievers love to roll around in the grass, dirt and mud, and all that rolling can cause dirt, grass, tiny rocks, and other foreign objects to enter their ears.

These foreign objects can cause an infection or worse, damage the inner ear.

Foxtail plants are especially dangerous to your dog, according to, they’re the scariest thing about summer!

Foxtail plants are weed-type grass shaped like a fox tail, and their grass seed awns are super sharp and can easily embed into your dog’s fur, and ears, causing pain, infection and sometimes more serious conditions.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are more common in puppies than in adult dogs.

They are contagious and can transfer from one animal to another. If one dog is infected with ear mites, it is important to have all animals in your household treated for mites.

Ear mites are tiny parasites that feed off the wax and oils found in your dog’s ear canal. Excessive head shaking and vigorous scratching of the ears are signs to look out for.

They are super tiny and hard to spot, but if you look closely you might see tiny white spots moving around.

If you notice a dark brown discharge that looks like coffee grounds in your dog’s ears, it is an ear mite infestation.

It is important to see your vet as soon as possible to get treatment.

Excessive Hair Growth In & Around The Ears

A Golden Retriever with one ear flap flipped up and one ear flap hanging down.  The dog is looking off to the side.

Golden Retrievers have a lot of hair, which grows all over the place including in and around the ears.

All that hair traps moisture and debris and prevents airflow from getting inside, thus creating a breeding ground for bacteria, causing an ear infection.

Should You Trim Golden Retriever Ear Hair?

It is important to trim and tidy up the hair around the ears to allow proper airflow so the ears can dry.

Using blunt-nosed scissors, you can easily do this at home, or have a groomer do this for you.

Be careful not to let any hair fall inside the ear. Read my guide on How To Trim A Golden Retriever at home.

Some groomers or vets will also pluck the hair inside the ears, I recommend that you do not do this yourself!

Overplucking the hair can cause more damage. Instead, I would suggest that the hair inside of the ear be trimmed short.

Caring For Your Golden Retriever’s Ears At Home

With proper care and cleaning, ear infections can be prevented. Here is what you can do at home:

  • Check Ears Daily: Make sure there is no redness, odour, or discharge.
  • Clean Your Dog’s Ears When They Are Dirty: Make ear cleaning a part of your dog’s grooming routine. Clean them at least once a week, more or less, depending on your dog’s lifestyle.
  • Only Use Ear Cleaners Meant For Dogs: Use ear cleaning solutions or wipes that are specially formulated for dogs. Find out my top picks below.
  • Dry Your Dog’s Ears: After swimming, walking in the rain, or after baths, make sure to dry your dog’s ears as best you can to avoid infection.
  • Feed A High-Quality Diet: A diet that consists of natural healthy ingredients is best. Avoid ingredients that can potentially cause food sensitivities in your dog. The most common allergy triggers include chicken, beef, wheat and soy.

Cleaning Your Golden Retriever’s Ears (Step By Step)

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Gather your supplies, you will need:

Step 2: Position Your Dog & Apply The Cleaning Solution

Have your dog sit in front of you with his back facing you, then lift up the ear flap and squeeze the ear-cleaning solution inside the ear canal.

Be careful to not allow the tip of the bottle to touch the ear, as this can spread bacteria.

Step 3: Massage Ear

Gently massage the base of the ear for about 30 seconds to allow the cleaning solution to dissolve all of the dirt, debris and wax.

Naturally, your dog will shake his head, this is okay. It allows all of the gunk to be removed from the ear canal. Have your towel handy to prevent a mess.

Step 4: Wipe Out Ear Canal

Use a cotton ball or cotton pad to wipe out the ear canal, be careful not to go in too deep, and wipe only the visible ear canal.

Step 5: Reward

Reward your dog with a treat, and repeat the steps for the other ear.

If you prefer a visual guide, check out this short but helpful video demonstrating how to clean your dog’s ears at home:

Recommended Ear Cleaners For Golden Retrievers

An ear-cleaning solution is going to clean the ears more thoroughly than ear wipes.

But, I know many dogs hate having liquid squeezed into their ears, and even run away at the sight of the ear-cleaning bottle. For those dogs, ear wipes are a better option.

Regardless of which type of ear cleaner you choose, here is what you should look for:

  • Gentle Soothing Ingredients: Look for ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile and oatmeal.
  • Antibacterial/Antifungal Ingredients: Look for ingredients such as witch hazel and tea tree oil.
  • No Harsh Chemicals: Avoid ingredients such as alcohol, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. These ingredients will irritate your dog’s ears.

My Top Picks:

Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash For Dogs

Vet's Best Ear Relief Wash For Dogs.

This ear cleaner from Vet’s Best is gentle but effective and contains all-natural soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, and chamomile.

It also contains tea tree oil and witch hazel which are effective antibacterial and antifungal ingredients.


  • Gentle, soothing and all-natural ingredients.
  • Alcohol-free and non-stinging.
  • Controls odour and itching.
  • Contains aloe vera, tea tree oil, witch hazel, and chamomile.
  • Easy to use.
  • Cleans the ears thoroughly, and controls wax build-up.


  • Some say that the smell is unpleasant, smells like cloves.

Earthbath All Natural Ear Wipes

Earthbath Natural Pet Care Ear Wipes.

Earthbath Ear Wipes are great at cleaning out the visible ear canal. They are made with all-natural ingredients, and they make your dog’s ears smell fresh and clean.

These wipes contain witch hazel, which helps fight bacteria and prevent ear infections, and chamomile helps soothe irritated ears.


  • Convenient and easy to use.
  • Wipes away dirt and odour, and controls ear wax.
  • Contains natural ingredients including witch hazel and chamomile.
  • Leaves your dog’s ears smelling fresh and pleasant.


  • Wipes are small, you need a few to clean the ears.
  • Not as effective as an ear-cleaning solution, as you can’t get all the way inside the ear canal with a wipe.

Vet’s Best Ear Relief Finger Wipes For Dogs

Vet's Best Ear Relief Finger Wipes For Dogs.

These finger wipes from Vet’s Best are super convenient to use, and gently clean and deodorize your dog’s ears.

They contain all-natural ingredients such as aloe vera, tea tree oil, and witch hazel.


  • All-natural single-use finger wipes.
  • Quick, easy and convenient ear-cleaning wipes.
  • Contains soothing aloe vera.
  • Contains antibacterial and antifungal ingredients like witch hazel and tea tree oil.
  • Removes dirt and dissolves waxy buildup.


  • They are single-use, you may need to use a few to clean your dog’s ears.
  • Contains alcohol.
  • A few complaints about the strong scent.
  • Some say the wipes are too large for their finger, others say they are too small.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Cleaning Your Golden’s Ears

The following is a list of some of the common mistakes people make when cleaning their dog’s ears.

  • Using Q-Tips: Q-Tips can damage the eardrum and actually push dirt and debris further down the ear canal.
  • Over-Cleaning The Ears: Cleaning the ears too often especially when they don’t need cleaning can actually do more harm than good, causing excessive irritation.
  • Using Harsh Ingredients: Alcohol, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide are very irritating to your dog’s ears and can change the pH level and cause irritation.
  • Cleaning An Infected Ear: When your dog’s ear is red and inflamed, cleaning it can do more harm. If you suspect an ear infection, it is best to see your vet.
  • Treating An Ear Infection At Home: If your dog has an ear infection, it is best to seek veterinary care. Your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. Leaving an ear infection untreated can cause permanent damage to the ear.

Final Thoughts

Golden Retriever ear care should not be overlooked, instead, it should be part of your dog’s regular grooming.

This breed especially is prone to ear infections because of their floppy ears and their natural love of water.

There’s no way you should prevent a Golden from doing what they love, swimming, just because they are prone to ear infections.

With proper care and cleaning, your Golden can have healthy ears and avoid ear infections.

However, infections may happen, and it is imperative to get the infection treated right away.

I hope you enjoyed this article, I would love to hear any comments or thoughts you may have.

Has your Golden Retriever ever had an ear infection? How do you clean your Golden Retriever’s ears? What ear-cleaning products do you use?

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4 thoughts on “Golden Retriever Ear Care [Plus Common Mistakes To Avoid]”

  1. Super helpful website for first-time dog owners. I don’t think people realize that just like humans, animals also have some basic hygiene needs that need to be met, and ear care is very important to keep your pup healthy and happy.

    The steps you outlined for ear cleaning are simple and helpful. Not only for our goldies but I think most dogs. Doing this once a week is not a lot of time investment but could have such a positive impact on your pup.

    • Hi Chrisna,

      Dogs with floppy ears especially, need ear cleaning more frequently.  Once you incorporate ear cleaning into your dog’s routine, it’s so easy to do it once a week to keep the ears fresh and clean.  Ear infections can be minimized as well.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  2. Hello,
    Thank you very much for such an informative post. Thanks for the signs of recognizing healthy ears and for letting us know how to recognize an ear infection. This is great stuff.

    I’m really surprised that excessive hair around the ear could cause problems. Good to know.

    I especially enjoy reading about how to care for my dog at home. Vet bills can be excessive at times, so being proactive is a must.

    Thank You.
    Candy Benn

    • Hi Candy,

      Breeds such as Golden Retrievers can have a lot of hair around the ears as well as inside which can lead to a blockage of airflow.  That’s why keeping the hair around the ears as well as inside trimmed neatly, will help dry out the ears and may prevent ear infections.

      I agree that vet bills can get pretty expensive!  Doing everything you can at home to prevent an ear infection is a must.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



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