Drop, droopy or floppy, whichever term you prefer for your Bernese mountain dog's ears, you must clean them at least once a week. While very cute, the flaps block off the air circulation that in his perky-eared counterparts helps to prevent a build up of bacteria.
Know the anatomy of a dog's ear. If you understand its basic structure, there is less of a risk of you going too far inside and damaging something. Nonetheless, the Dog Health Handbook site recommends that you only clean the parts you can see: the outer ear (the pinna) and the visible part of the inner ear (the auricular canal). You should leave the more detailed parts, the parts you can't see, to an expert.
Relax your dog with a belly rub and a few soothing words. Ear cleaning is not a procedure he will enjoy, so you must show him you are doing it out of love rather than malice.
Ask a friend to help you lift your dog onto a table. It will be much easier for you to clean your dog's ears if you are standing up. Your dog may struggle at the beginning, especially if he is not used to the procedure, so ask your helper to hold him still by placing one arm across his body and the other arm under his chin. With his fingers your helper should lift back the flap of your dog's ear.
Look inside your Bernese mountain dog's ear for ear hair. Floppy-eared dogs have far more hair both on the inside flap and the ear canal than pointy-eared dogs and these hairs are a breeding ground for bacteria. Luckily they are also easy to get rid of. With the tweezers, carefully pluck out a few of the hairs at a time until the inside of the flap and the ear canal looks as pink and smooth as a baby's skin.
Soak the cotton ball in ear wash solution.
Wipe the outer part of the ear with the cotton ball using gentle, upward strokes. It is important to squeeze out any excess liquid from the cotton ball. While you want the cotton ball wet, you don't want any liquid running into the ear canal.
Wipe the visible part of the ear with the cotton ball. This area is far more sensitive than the outer ear, so start off cleaning it very gently, and until your dog is used to the sensation.
Repeat Step 4 to 6 until the cotton ball stops picking up dirt.
Sprinkle a little ear powder into your Bernese mountain dog's ear. This will help to soak up any remaining moisture. This is especially important for a Bernese mountain dog whose floppy ears block out the air that they need to dry properly.
- British Mountain Dog Club of America: Bernese Dog Hygiene
- Dog Health Handbook: Cleaning Dog Ears
- Bernese Mountain Dog: An Owner's Guide to A Happy, Healthy Pet; Julia M. Crawford
- Your dog will be more willing to cooperate if he knows he will be getting a treat, such as a biscuit, after the procedure.
- Some owners tie up their drop-eared dog's ears for a few hours to let them dry out and increase their airflow.
- Never use alcohol to clean your dog's ears. Alcohol can dry out sensitive skin and leave it vulnerable to infection.
- Don't use cotton swabs to clean your dog's ears. You can easily go too far into the ear canal and damage the ear.
- Avoid cleaning the ears of a dog you don't know. It is an uncomfortable procedure so he needs someone he trusts.
Simon Thomas has worked as a writer and journalist since 2004. He has contributed articles to several online publications, including Smashing Magazine, an art-and-design e-zine. Thomas holds a B.A. in film and media from Winchester University.