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What Causes Wet Dog Smell (and how can I prevent it?)

Written by: Renee Moen
| Published on September 23, 2014

Spending the day frolicking in the water with a four legged companion can be so much fun! Most breeds love water, splashing and swimming. It’s the horrid smell emanating from a wet dog that causes a fun experience to turn a bit sour, pardon the pun. Why do most dogs smell so bad when they get wet?


Some breeds, most notably the hound group, have more oils in their coats than other breeds. The specific oil is called Sebum, it collects on the hair shaft and follicles to protect a dog’s skin from dehydration. When the dog gets wet, like after a day at the beach or a bath, the oil and the water together create a bacteria which causes the unpleasant odor. The dog needs to be properly dried to avoid smelling like a… well… a dog.


There is a way to prevent the stench of a beloved furball, it involves proper drying. Toweling off the dog isn’t enough; a towel can’t get all the way down to the skin. Even dogs with extremely short coats need more. The heat and force from a blow dryer penetrates the densest of coats and is a start to getting to the root of the problem.


Most veterinarians recommend bathing a dog every couple of weeks. Bathing a dog too often could result in dry, itchy, flaky skin.  Wash the dog with a high quality shampoo and rinse well. Shampoo left on the skin due to improper rinsing will bring on skin issues.

There are thousands of dogs who have anxiety attacks at the slightest provocation. A hair dryer may cause a dog to have a heart attack. Luckily there are several quiet dryers available on the market that would work for the nervous pooch. Use a quality brush wile drying to get the under coat.

Once the dog has been thoroughly washed and properly dried, try spritzing her with a grooming spray. These sprays aren’t designed to eliminate the smell, but they do help the dog smell better.

Helpful Hint

No matter how many baths a dog gets, the smell will remain in the dog’s living environment. One of the best natural deodorants is white vinegar. Not only is it a powerful disinfectant, it is completely natural and safe to use around animals. Use two parts water to one part vinegar in a spray bottle to spritz the furniture.

Baking soda, another natural cleaning product that is safe to use around animals, is an inexpensive carpet freshener. Vacuum, sprinkle the soda, let it sit for ten minutes or so and vacuum again. Viola, fresh carpets with no wet dog smell. It may take several treatments if the dog has a particular spot he likes to sleep in. The smell may be ground in.

It is possible to cut down on the doggy odor, even eliminate it completely. With a little effort and a bit of patience an owner may reclaim their living area and their sense of smell.

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