This diagram illustrates the basic anatomical landmarks of the canine ear canal. For general cleaning to be done at home the points of interest are the ear flap, vertical ear canal, and the horizontal ear canal.
The vertical canal is the longest section of the external ear. As long as cleaning is performed straight down the vertical ear canal, the horizontal canal and the ear drum will be avoided, thereby preventing injury to the ear drum.
The ear flap is gently pulled up and the opening to the vertical ear canal is visualized.
Point the tip of the cleaning solution bottle into the opening of the vertical ear canal and infuse a generous amount of cleaner into the canal. The goal is to fill the entire canal (the vertical AND the horizontal canal). Next, while holding the ear flap with one hand, massage the ear canal with the other. Some fluid and debris will likely start coming out of the ear at this point. Release the ear and allow your dog to shake his/her head for 2-5 minutes. This will help bring more debris out. (You may want to do this in an area of the house that can get a little dirty, as ear discharge may be flying out of the ear).
Wipe the ear clean using a cottonball. Another technique that can be used is to push a cottonball into the canal and lightly soak it with the cleaner. Allow a few minutes for the cotton to dry. When the cotton is removed much of the debris will adhere to it. DO NOT push the cotton so far down that you cannot remove it. We recommend keeping a pair of tweezers available to remove the cotton if you are having trouble removing it with you fingers. Q-tips are optional. Many veterinarians do not advocate the use of Q-tips as they can cause serious damage to the ear canal, or even the ear drum if they are not used properly. In our practice we will use Q-tips GENTLY to clean the folds of the canals that are difficult to clean with cottonballs alone. As long as you are gentle, the tip of the swab can be seen at all times, and the tip is pointing straight down and NOT TOWARDS THE HEAD this technique is usually safe.