My Dog Won’t Let Me Clean His Eyes – What to Do?

As humans, if we get a little gunk in the corner of our eyes we easily and quickly wipe it away without a second thought. Our dogs, however, may not enjoy having their face touched and that can make it very difficult for us, as their owners, to keep their eyes clean.

If your dog doesn’t enjoy having their face touched, how are you supposed to clean their eyes? There are a few different tricks you can try to help make your dog much more comfortable with having their face touched and you won’t have to wrestle them to help clean out their eyes anymore.


My Dog Won't Let Me Clean His Eyes - What to Do

Get your dog comfortable with their face being touched

This is kind of similar to having their paws touched: some dogs just don’t like having their face touched, for a variety of reasons. You can work with your dog to get them much more comfortable with having their face touched with some of the following tricks

Keep calm

If you start to get worked up for frustrated about your dog not allowing you to touch their face then your dog is likely going to get worked up as well. When you’re just hanging out on the couch with your dog, start with giving your dog regular pets that you would: across his back or maybe his belly – whatever your dog’s preference is.

After your dog is relaxed, you can move towards touching your dog’s head and then onto their face. If you do this in a relaxing environment when you aren’t trying to get them to do anything in particular then this can become an action your dog is comfortable with and your dog will not react if you try to do it at another time.

Give treats

Positive reinforcement works really well with training, and it makes sense that it would translate well into other areas your dog may be uncomfortable with. Get a few of their favourite treats and give them a little as you’re petting them. As they are getting those treats, they will create a positive association with having their face touched.

Introduce small steps at a time

If your dog has never had their face touched, or maybe hasn’t come from a good situation with positive associations, then introducing all of it at once might overwhelm them.

You may have to slowly move towards petting their face: the first time you try it your dog might suddenly jump off the couch or move away from you. Have patience and keep trying – your dog does trust you so if you’re calm with him you will get there.

Tools to Use for Cleaning Your Dog’s Eyes

If your dog has a build up in their eyes, and you can get close enough to wipe it away, you don’t want to use just anything to clean their eyes. Here are a few items that are safe to use in cleaning a dog’s eyes and you’ll likely having them around the house.

Wet Sponge

As long as the sponge has not been used for any other cleaning purposes and you know for sure there isn’t any kind of chemicals on the sponge then it safe to use to clean your dog’s eyes. Wet it with regular water and squeeze it out so it’s still damp, but not soaking wet.

My Dog Won't Let Me Clean His Eyes - What to Do


This is very similar to using a sponge, and you’ll want to make sure there isn’t anything on the washcloth that will irritate your dog’s eyes. You will want to make sure you avoid using extremely hot or extremely cold water as that can very easily irritate their eyes.

You will want to make sure you don’t use napkins or paper towels when cleaning out their eyes. Both of these materials will usually disintegrate when they become wet and that can lead to small pieces of paper being left behind in your dog’s eyes.

How to Remove Build up from Their Eyes

Once you have the sponge or washcloth you’re going to us, you are ready to remove the build up. Use gentle strokes with the sponge or washcloth, moving the build up away from your dog’s eyes. If the washcloth is a little on the warmer side this can feel really relaxing and soothing for your dog.

In no case should you ever use any kind of soap or shampoo around your dog’s eyes. If it gets into your dog’s eyes then it can cause extreme irritation and even pain for them, which will erase any progress you may have made with them being comfortable with you touching their face. Make sure you only use water when wiping build up away from your dog’s eyes.

Does your dog have excessive eye build up?

Some dogs, depending on a variety of reasons, can have excessive build of eye gunk. It’s important that you figure out why your dog has this, and if it’s something that needs to be treated by the vet or if you just need to keep an eye on it and keep them clean.

You will need to determine if your dog needs to see the vet, and you can do that by looking at the kind of build up your dog has in their eyes.

Clear discharge

If the build up in your dog’s eyes is clear there is a really good chance it’s from allergies – likely seasonal allergies similar to what human’s experience.

Watery discharge or mucus from one eye

This could be a sign of a foreign object – like an eyelash or debris – in your dog’s eye. Your dog’s eye will flush the object out like our eyes will, so it’s important to keep an eye on it and make sure it stops after a day or so and your dog’s eye isn’t red or swollen.

Yellow-green mucus

This could be a sign of a serious infection in your dog’s eyes. If this is happening you need to talk to your vet as it could be a sign of conjunctivitis.

The cause behind conjunctivitis varies, depending on the dog. Some dogs suffer from allergies, and the reaction happens in their eyes. Some dogs might have a birth defect that causes them to have recurring infections.

In other cases, there may have been something that has gotten into their eye and it caused an infection.

My Dog Won't Let Me Clean His Eyes - What to Do

Treatments for frequent discharge

If you have determined your dog needs to visit the vet for their eye build up then they may require medication or other treatment. If there is an infection then you may have to give your dog antibiotics or medicate eye drops to help fight the infection.

Your vet will work with you to determine the best course of treatment based on your dog’s unique needs.


Some breeds of dogs, usually smaller breeds, have epiphora which is also known as watery eyes. This condition leads to excessive tearing, and that can look like a lot of build up in your dog’s eyes.

If your dog has this condition, it’s important to make sure you don’t wipe their eyes too often as it can cause discomfort or their eyes to dry out.

This condition can also be the result of health conditions like allergies, abnormal eyelashes, tumors, or inflammation. If you notice this with your dog make an appointment to visit your vet and get it checked out. It may not be a big deal, but always a good idea to get it checked out.

Breeds that may be affect by epiphora

    • Pugs
    • Pekingese
    • Boxers
    • Bulldogs

These dogs are known as brachycephalic, and their eyes are usually more prominent and that can lead to issues with tears draining.

Breeds that may have ectropion

    • Bloodhounds
    • Cocker spaniels
    • Beagles
    • Saint Bernards

These breeds can have eyes that roll outwards, also known as ectropion, They may also suffer from a condition known as cherry eye, which is where the gland in the eyelid falls out of its natural position.

These breeds can be especially prone to watery eyes due to their natural features.

Your vet may prescribe steroids or a topical antibiotic to help with tear duct inflammation, which can help with this condition.

My Dog Won't Let Me Clean His Eyes - What to Do

If your dog has watery eyes or you notice a lot of build up in their eyes, you can get your dog used to having their face touched so you can keep their eyes clean.

With some patience and positive reinforcement your dog can easily get used to you touching their face. Making sure you don’t use any soaps or shampoos that will further irritate your dog’s eyes is really important – especially if there’s an infection going on that you don’t know about. Take your time and be patient with your dog so that they are comfortable with you and you won’t have to wrestle them to check out their eyes.

If you have concerns about why your dog has build up or watery eyes you should make an appointment with your vet so that you can be absolutely sure your dog is healthy and there’s nothing that could be affecting your dog’s health long term.

Leave a Reply