Animal Hospital – Training Dogs and Cats for Ear Cleaning and Handling
Many dogs and cats get ear infections or need treatment at the Animal Hospital at some point in their life. By just taking a few minutes a day you can condition your pet, by following these steps, to allow you to handle their ears and prevent problems down the road.
Step 1 – Rub the skin or fur near the ear vigorously while feeding treats. Feed the animal long enough so that you can rub the skin for 3-5 seconds. Your dogs mouth should be physically on your hand eating treats the entire time. Make sure you start on an area that does not cause the dog to react to the handling.
Step 2 – As your dog finishes the treats, remove both the treat hand and the hand that’s rubbing the dog or cat.
Step 3 – When you can rub the ear area in this manner several times in a row while your dog eats, begin to rub an area closer to the ear base, or rub the pinna (ear flap) instead. You might need to start with light pressure. Make sure the dog has begun eating the treat before you start rubbing the ear.
Step 4 – As always, remove both the treat hand and the rubbing hand before your dog is finished eating. When your dog is good at this step for several trials, move on to the next step. Systematically work your way into the ear and use more rigorous handling, but take care not to move along too quickly and elicit a bad reaction.
Step 5 – Get to the point where you can stick your finger in the ear while giving treats. As your dog finishes the treat, stop handling. Your dog should be focused on you with the expectation that he/she will get more treats.
At this point your dog should now be accepting rigorous ear handling while receiving treats. Next, you’ll use the treat as a reward for good behavior.
Step 1 – First rub around the ear, your dog should not react (if your dog does react, go back a few steps and condition a little further). Stop before your dog gets irritated. Immediately after stopping, reward him for holding still and allowing you to handle him. You can use a rewarding word such as “yes” right as you stop handling the ear, if you have already trained your dog with this. That way he knows exactly when he’s done something good and what the reward is for. If you say “yes” just as you are finishing the rub, he’ll understand the reward is for holding still the entire time.
Step 2 – Now rub more vigorously but stay below the dog’s threshold of tolerance. Stop before he becomes irritated and reward him for holding still when you handle him.
Step 3 – At this point, you should be able to stick a finger in the ear for several seconds prior to rewarding with treats. Once you can rub any area for several seconds prior to giving a treat, increase the amount of time you can handle the ear before giving the treat. Eventually you might not need treats, and you can switch to praise and petting.