You take care of your dog all year round. You give them a bath when it is needed, or take them to the groomer on a regular basis. But it never seems to fail that the moment it starts to rain, your dog comes inside and smells like … a wet dog—a unique scent that everyone can identify. And it always seems to be worse in the rain, and it does not matter if they don’t get muddy, they still smell. But what is wet dog smell, and why does it happen? What can you do to keep your pooch stink-free during the winter or wetter months?
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs have a lot more complex grooming needs than humans do. They require a delicate balance of care—washing enough, but not too much. If you tried to bathe a dog every day, you would probably do more harm than good, since a dog’s skin and coat require natural oils to stay healthy. That is why most vets recommend only giving your dog a bath around once a month. Even the soap or shampoo you use should be a certain type. Soaps that strip away oils can dry out your dog’s skin. Dog shampoo or baby shampoo is best, which is gentler on their skin and coat than regular soap or human shampoo.
Some dogs may become smelly quicker than other dogs. If your dog’s odor is offensive, you can bathe them up to weekly, but no more often than that, unless directed by a vet. Over-bathing can exacerbate skin problems in dogs, especially if the shampoo you use has a fragrance. Dogs with allergies or skin problems, like Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, Spaniels, Poodles, and several others may require more specific treatments to alleviate their condition. You should ask your vet before treating your dog’s skin problem with any medication or product. Bathing less, rather than more, may help reduce symptoms. You can give your dog a quick wipe down with a damp rag between baths.
A dog’s skin contains a smorgasbord of all kinds of tiny micro-organisms, including oils, bacteria, and yeast. Some dogs, like many hounds, tend to have more oils in their fur than other breeds. Those oils, called sebum, protect your dog’s fur by coating it. When your dog comes in from the rain, all the water in their coat displaces the organisms living there. As water evaporates, those particles make their way from your dog’s fur to your nose (ick!), which results in that funky wet dog smell.
Encouraging the Behavior
What can you do for your dog’s wet smell? Bathe them more often. A
dog without a build-up of those bacteria or yeast micro-organisms on their skin
will not smell as much when they get wet. If you are already bathing your dog plenty
and they still smell, there are other things you can do to help. A dry dog is a good-smelling dog. When your dog comes in from the
rain, dry them with a clean towel. This will help reduce the stink. If your dog
has a longer coat, a towel alone may not be enough to get to the root of the
problem. A hair dryer will penetrate deep into the coat and dry it more
thoroughly than a towel can. If your dog is uncomfortable with the noise from a
hair dryer, there are quiet models you can purchase, or you can train your dog
to tolerate or enjoy the drying experience. Reward your dog for holding still
while you dry them. Remember, if your dog is nervous or unwilling, you can try
again, just do not force your dog into a situation they are scared of; they may
react aggressively. If you are still desperate for other solutions, and you want to
remove wet dog smell from your house, you can use a mixture of water and
vinegar in a spray bottle to deodorize your furniture, and baking soda
sprinkled over your carpet to remove dog smell from your floor. Both are safe
to use around animals.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Since bacteria and yeast are both natural products of your dog’s skin and coat, you will never be completely free of the smell entirely. But a regular grooming routine and caring for your dog’s fur will help reduce the amount of stink when wet. There are also grooming sprays you can ask for at the groomers or purchase in store. Used after bathing, they may help your dog smell better for longer. And remember that bathing too much is possible. You can consult a vet or a groomer for frequency advice. Some dogs require special attention and should be groomed carefully and with the right products.
Wet dog smell is just one of the required sacrifices we make when we have dogs. But you can make your dog a little easier to live with—with the right care and attention. Between baths, a quick rinse or a damp cloth wipe-down will keep them cleaner and smelling better. And don’t forget daily brushing. Your dog will appreciate the attention, and it will keep their fur healthier and shinier, too.