Why do dogs smell?

Author picture Katy

We at Pawshake just love to pet every dog we see on the street and we love to run our hands through their fur. But yes, some dogs can smell a bit funny. That typical dog scent is extra strong after a heavy shower or swim but that's completely normal. In general, a healthy dog doesn't smell bad. But if your dog's odour is starting to get really unpleasant, 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 per individual dog and breed. Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, and Retrievers often have quite a strong odour. Some dog breeds like Retrievers and other water dogs also have a somewhat oily coat, which you'll notice when you pet them. The oily fur protects them from the water and cold. Other breeds such as Poodles, Akita's, Shi Tzu's or Greyhounds hardly smell at all.

Why do dogs sometimes smell bad?

Although we think that healthy dogs never smell bad, 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 that odor mainly around the ears and through the soles of the feet: that's why many dogs scrape the ground with their paws after a pee. Dogs also have glands in and around their ears which produce a specific smell. If the dog is healthy, you can smell it but it's not stinky. If the 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 dirty stuff like rotten fish and other dead animals, but also in rotten food or even poo. The most obvious explanation is that they just like stinky stuff!

Obviously, dogs experience smell very different than us humans. We love stuff like perfume and flowery scents, but dogs son't. If you bathe your dog with a perfumed shampoo, he might want to roll in the dirt afterwards, just to get rid of that 'horrible' perfumy smell. 

Rubbing themselves in the dirt also has an evolutionary reason. Traditionally, wild dogs used to have a tactical advantage not to smell like a prey. So taking on another smell is a trick to deceive the enemy. If you want to wash the dog after such a stinky rub, 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 is about to do this and distract him in time in order stop the behavior.

Oh no! My dog smells bad

Does your dog's fur smell worse than usual? This can have various causes. First of all, the coat condition itself is a factor. Dogs with lots of hair 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 important to take good care of your dog's coat. By brushing him, removing dirt and excess hair you can keep the fur nice and clean. Also by keeping the outside of the ears clean and if necessary cutting away excess hair, the ears cab 'ventilate' so that bacteria and fungi don't get a chance. Washing your dog with shampoo too often works counterproductive, it disturbs the natural balance of the skin, which makes the skin produce extra oil.

Hund mit Shampoo im Bad

Cuddling for inspection

By regularly brushing and petting your dog's coat, you add a 'fur and skin' inspection to your routine. This way you can quickly detect skin problems such as flakes, 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 skin resistance or other internal health problems. Does your dog's fur smells bad structurally? 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 resistance and physical processes slow down a little. This 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 on whether your dog shows any signs of illness or pain.

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

Enjoy cuddling with your furry friend!:-)