The best way to restrain a dog for ear drops is to lay your dog on the side with their paws facing away. Gently place your knee on their shoulder and place one hand lightly on their head to hold the dog down. If possible, have another person feed your dog treats during the process for distraction.
Ear drops. The bane of every dog owner’s existence. You might have the most obedient dog in the world, but when it comes to ear drops, a different side of them comes out. A classic Jekyll and Hyde situation. It makes sense why dogs don’t like ear drops. All they know is that each time you try to put them in, they get pinned down and something uncomfortable gets poured into their ears.
We know giving ear drops to your dog is no easy feat. Not to mention the fact that it can be heartbreaking doing something to your dog that you know they hate! That’s why we are here to offer some advice to make you and your dog’s life easier. Giving your dog ear drops will never be a pleasant experience, but we can turn it into a manageable one.
Prepare The Medicine
Before you try to restrain your dog, make sure all medications are open and ready for use, and that you have plenty of treats on hand to make the process as quick as possible. The last thing you want is to get your dog restrained, only to find out you don’t have a spare hand to open the medicine.
It helps if the medication is room temperature. No dog (or human!) would enjoy cold liquid pouring down their ears. This shouldn’t be a problem since most medicine can be stored at room temperature.
Remember to always use positive reinforcement, and to not lose your patience. Getting angry at your dog will only make this more stressful. Which then makes your job harder. Remind them in a friendly voice how good of a job they are doing. As much as they may not enjoy the process, they do want to please you.
The Muzzle Method
Muzzles are the most frequent go-to for dog restraint, especially if your dog has aggressive tendencies when anxious. Be gentle and remain positive when muzzling your dog so you don’t stress them out. Make sure your muzzle is fitted correctly to ensure your dog cannot bite you, but loose enough so it does not constrict his or her face. You should be able to fit just 2 fingers under the muzzle strap behind their head.
Once your muzzle is fitted, get behind your dog while they’re sitting down, and place him/her between your legs with one hand holding his muzzle. With your other hand, administer the ear drops.
You may need to switch arms to get the other ear. Once you finish with the drops, take the muzzle off, and immediately give your dog their favorite treat!
P.S. if your dog is not aggressive, apply this restraint technique the same, just without the muzzle
The Lay Down Method
Sometimes it’s best to lay down and let your troubles disappear. Lay your dog on their side. With their paws facing away from you, place one of your knees on top of their shoulder. Not too heavily, just enough to keep them from getting up.
Hold their muzzle with one hand to keep their head still, and administer ear drops. As always, relieve all pressure and give your dog a yummy treat. Then, have them lay on their other side and repeat the process.
Table Topper Method
Placing your dog on a bellybutton height table makes this grueling task more manageable, especially if you have a small dog. You don’t have to worry about bending yourself in half to reach your dog’s ears.
Put a treat on the table before you start to ease your dog’s nerves. Then, make sure you restrain your dog in a method that is both safe and comfortable for you and your dog (you can use the restraining method above).
While your dog is restrained on the table, dispense the drops, immediately giving your dog a treat when finished. To take your dog off the table, hold them tight and move slow. You don’t want to frighten them, causing them to jump off themselves.
The Extra Hands Method
For those extra wiggly dogs, it’s helpful to have a second set of hands. Make sure to use someone your dog is familiar with and trusts, such as a close friend, roommate, or significant other.
Restrain your dog the same way you did in the Lay Down Method by placing your knee gently on the dog’s shoulder. But this time, have your helper hold your dog’s head down while you do the ear drops. Your dog may feel more secure if you’re the one holding him close, and your helper puts the drops in their ears.
Divert The Attention Method
For dogs that are not keen about being held, have your friend continuously give your dogs a delicious treat while you’re taking care of their ears. Make sure your friend has your dog well distracted before you start the drops. Otherwise, they will stress about what is going to happen rather than focus on the treats. Your dog will learn to associate ear cleanings with treats, and gradually get less anxious about it.
To restrain them, you can either use the laydown method or the straddle method discussed above.
The Peanut Butter Method
Is there a single dog that does not love peanut butter? We don’t think so. Its deliciousness and the time it takes to eat it makes peanut butter the perfect distraction for dogs.
Put however much peanut butter you think you’ll need into a bowl or on a plate. It’s easiest to place the bowl or plate on a mat or up against something, so they don’t move around too much. While your dog is distracted by his or her delicacy, you should be able to sneakily put the drops in their ears. Make sure you work quickly without making a big fuss about it so your dog does not sense that something is about to happen.
If your dog is too short for you to reach their ears by bending over, no worries! This tip is a little different, but it works wonders. Sit on a chair and wrap a layer or two of plastic wrap around your knee, just enough so it sticks to you without coming off. Smear some peanut butter on the plastic wrap so your dog can enjoy licking while you clean their ears.
The “Say Cheese” Method
If you do not want to use peanut butter, spray cheese is a good alternative. Rather than putting it in a bowl, spray it in a line on the ground. While your dog is busy cleaning up the line of cheese, sneakily put the drops in their ears. Just be prepared to walk with your dog, so you don’t draw attention to their ear by pulling on it.
You can drop treats in a line as well so long as you can administer the drops before they eat all of them.
The Massage Method
Put the ear drops on a cotton ball and hold it with one hand. With your free hand, start by petting or massaging your dog from his back and work your way up to his head. Once you feel he is relaxed and unsuspicious, softly wipe his ear clean with the cotton ball. Repeat with the other ear. This method is not recommended for fearful or aggressive dogs, but for dogs who are generally good with new things.
Calling In The Experts
The bottom line is, you know your dog better than anyone. If you do not feel comfortable using any of the methods listed above, do not hesitate to contact your vet or a professional trainer. A vet might offer some sedation or experience derived advice. The last thing you want to do is scare your dog and have them accidentally hurt themselves or you.
Be Prepared For a Fight
Ear drops don’t come naturally to a dog. I’ve yet to see a dog not put up a fight the first few times the owner places ear drops in their ears. At this point, many dog owners give up and don’t bother with ear drops. It’s important you don’t give up. If your dog needs ear drops, they need them for a reason! Go in with the proper mindset that the first few times, it’s not going to be easy.
It Gets Easier
You’ll notice we included treats in almost every single restraining method mentioned in this article. There’s a reason for that! When giving your dog treats right after (or even during) ear drops, they’ll begin to associate ear drops with a reward. Because of this positive association, every time you give your dog ear drops, they’ll put up less of a fight.
Ear drops and dogs don’t go hand in hand. But when adequately restrained, giving your dog ear drops doesn’t turn into the nightmare you thought it would be. If you have an extra set of hands, use the partner methods mentioned in this article. If you’re doing it solo, that’s fine! Start with the straddle method. If that doesn’t work, then switch to the lay down method. Before you know it, you’ll be a champ at giving your dog ear drops!
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.