Why do dogs smell?

Author picture Jessica  - updated: 19/05/2020

At Pawshake, we love to give pats and belly rubs to every dog we see. But yep, some dogs can smell a bit stinky. That typical 'dog smell' can be extra strong after a walk in the rain or a swim, but that's completely normal. Generally, a healthy dog doesn't smell too bad. But if your dog's odor is starting to get really nasty, that might be a sign that something's wrong. In this article, we share with you why dogs have that typical smell and what to do if your dog gets a bit stinky.

The natural smell of a dog differs between individual dogs and breeds. Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, and Retrievers often may quite a strong odor. Some dog breeds like Labradors and other water dogs also have a somewhat oily coat, which you might notice when you pat them - the oily fur protects them from the water and cold. Other breeds such as Poodles, Akitas, Shi Tzus or Greyhounds hardly smell at all.

Why do dogs sometimes smell bad?

Although we might think that healthy dogs don't have a strong smell, they do have a natural body scent and it's there for a reason. Dogs spread their individual scent to show to the world 'this is me' and to mark their territory. Dogs excrete their odor from around the ears and through the soles of the feet: that's why many dogs scrape the ground with their paws after peeing. Dogs also have glands in and around their ears which produce a specific scent. If the dog is healthy, you might be able to smell it, but it's not stinky. If your dog's ears start to smell really bad, it could indicate a bacterial or fungal infection.

Why do dogs like to roll in the dirt?

Many dogs just LOVE to roll in stinky stuff like rotten fish, animal carcasses, rotten food or even other animal's droppings. The most obvious explanation is that they just like stinky stuff!

Obviously, dogs experience smell very differently to us humans. We love nice perfume and flowery scents, but dogs really don't. If you bathe your dog with a perfumed shampoo, you might see them rolling in the dirt afterward to get rid of that 'horrible' perfumy smell. 

Rubbing themselves in the dirt also has an evolutionary reason. Wild dogs would use this 'disguised' smell as a tactical trick to deceive their natural enemies. If you want to wash your dog after they've rolled in something nasty, make sure to use an odorless dog shampoo. Preventing your dog from want to roll in the dirt is very difficult, but you can learn to recognize when he or she is about to do this and distract them in time in order stop the behavior.

Oh no! My dog smells bad

Does your dog's fur smell worse than usual? This may have various causes. First of all, the condition of your dog's coat might be a factor. Dogs with lots of fur and with a thick undercoat and dogs that swim a lot they have the perfect conditions for bacteria and fungi to grow and accumulate.

Therefore, it's really important to take good care of your dog's coat. By brushing your pooch and removing dirt and excess fur, their coat will stay nice and clean. You can also trim any excess fur around the ears and wipe the outside of the ears clean with a damp cloth to allow them to 'ventilate' and prevent bacteria and fungi taking hold. Be sure to not over-shampoo your dog however, as this disturbs the natural oil balance of the skin and make it produce more oil to compensate.

Hund mit Shampoo im Bad

Cuddling for inspection

By regularly brushing and patting your dog's coat, you slip in an easy 'fur and skin' inspection. This is a good way to quickly detect skin problems such as flakiness, infections, and pests such as ticks and fleas. A coat that smells really bad can also indicate underlying problems such as food allergies, poor nutrition, thyroid problems, reduced immunity or other internal health problems. Does your dog's fur smells bad despite a regular grooming routine? Better be safe than sorry and pay your vet a visit.

Is your dog growing older? Then the smell might become a bit heavier because your dog's physical processes slowing down a little. This just means that the skin will excrete more waste, and that's what you can probably smell. Don't worry too much, but keep an eye out for any signs of illness or pain.

At Pawshake, we love ALL dogs, and we even like that healthy, happy dog smell :-) Not such a fan? Then make sure to keep the area around your dog's favorite places extra clean. Wash your pooch's pillows and blankets regularly (with perfume-free detergent of course). Also, don't forget to clean the floors and walls where your dog spends much of his time with eco-friendly detergent. That way, your house will remain fresh and breezy!

Enjoy cuddling with your furry friend!:-)