Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

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Pew does not like people to mess with her body. Stay away from her toenails. Forget about applying that flea-and-tick preventative between her shoulders. And keep out of her ears!

Whenever I’ve tried to clip Pew’s nails or squeeze any medicine onto her, the results have been near disastrous. She tucks her tail between her legs, scurries around, pees and then hides in the corner under the kitchen table. When I finally get down to business, she wiggles violently, and if I try holding her still, she rears up in a panic.

Professionals have not fared any better. When we had Pew’s toenails clipped at the vet’s office, the vet told me the experience was “lousy.”

What gives? Clearly, Pew is afraid of these minor bodily intrusions, but why? And how can we help her overcome the fear so we can perform routine maintenance without trauma to her or us? I decided to play puppy psychiatrist and apply the kind of techniques they taught us at Basic Training to make these events rewarding rather than frightening.

Rather than trying to put Pew’s ear-wash solution directly in her ears (as the directions indicate), I squeezed some onto a soft paper towel in one hand, and stashed several treats in my other hand. After Pew spotted the ear wash bottle and headed under the table, I followed her and dispensed a few treats, speaking soft words of encouragement.

I continued the stream of goodies and praise and then, after a few minutes, began gently cleaning her ears with the paper towel. Afterward, I gave her even more treats along with vigorous praise. She looked very pleased with herself.

The process only took a fraction of the time it normally does and, miraculously, I wasn’t covered in sweat when it was over. Since then, I have successfully applied Pew’s flea-and-tick medicine using the same approach. She still hates being poked and prodded, but I now have hope that she can learn to live with it occasionally.

What do you think of my work, readers? Am I on the right track, or is there an even better way to teach Pew to “take her medicine?” What do you think could be the source of her fear? Has anyone ever taught their pet to enjoy being manhandled? How did you do it?