4 min read


Why Do Golden Retrievers Smell



4 min read


Why Do Golden Retrievers Smell




Golden Retrievers are lovable dogs. They have big hearts and they genuinely care about people. They are great for rescue missions and are also reliable assistance dogs. And their ‘soft mouth’ makes them a preferred hunting breed because they don’t crush their prey when retrieving it. But the Golden Retrievers’ most obvious positive quality is their dense fur, which varies in color from golden to a deep brown depending on the breed.

This thick, water-repellent coat, however, can be a source of a bad odor. Though all dogs smell especially when not subjected to regular grooming, dogs with folds or a thick coat are more susceptible to bad smells. Even a seemingly healthy golden retriever that is active, eats well and has no health problems can smell, and this can be very puzzling to the dog owner. Often, bad odor can lead to disease, not to mention, it is a nuisance to the dog owner. So why do golden retrievers smell? We try to answer this question below. 

The Root of the Behavior

As mentioned above, all dogs, at one point or another, smell bad regardless of their physical characteristics. Yeast and bacteria are to blame for this. Just like all humans (even healthy ones) have yeast and bacteria all over their body, dogs too have these microbes. Usually, the presence of these organisms goes unnoticed as long as they don’t get an environment to breed and multiply. When a person fails to take a bath for a few days, they emit bad odor because bacteria and yeast have multiplied and are feeding on the dirt present on the body. Similarly, your Golden Retriever’s thick fur traps dirt easily and if not given a regular bath, the population of microbes on his skin will increase, resulting in bad odor. 

In addition, since dirt brings about itching, your dog will scratch all over to relieve his itch, causing more blood to flow to his skin and creating more heat in the process. The increased temperature amplifies the smell. This cycle continues unless and until you give your dog a thorough bath. Dogs that enjoy swimming get a bacterial infection on their skin, known as pyoderma. The infection causes hair loss, pus-filled swellings, and lesions. If your dog’s bad odor is accompanied by these symptoms, you should take him to a vet for treatment. 

Another common area for smelly infections is the ears. Symptoms that point to infected ears include redness, itching, a visible accumulation of debris, and obvious bad smell (especially with yeast infections). Dog experts warn about ear infections as they are a symptom of hypothyroidism and hence need to be ruled out as a cause. Bad odor emanating from the groin and armpits is a sign that your dog has a yeast infection. The skin in the infected areas will appear thickened and greasy and have a darker pigment as compared to the surrounding areas. 

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Encouraging the Behavior

Although there are times when you shouldn’t be concerned if your golden retriever smells bad, more often than not, bad odor, especially when it is persistent, is an indication of a serious infection in one on more of your dog’s body parts and should not be ignored. Bacterial infections need to be treated with antibacterial medication as prescribed by the vet. You should not neglect to give the full dose of antibiotics. Veterinary expert Dr. Pippa Elliott warns that skipping antibiotics or getting the dosage interval wrong creates resistance to antibiotics. That means that if your dog suffers from another bacterial infection in the future, it will be a lot harder to treat.

Yeast infections should be treated with antifungal prescriptions, either oral or topical. These medications should also be administered with strictness as failure to do so will cause the infection to recur. It’s also worth adding that as infections are usually accompanied by itching, ignoring them may cause your golden retriever to itch his skin raw and open it up to more infections.

Finally, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, bathing your dog too often is never a good idea. The more you bathe your dog, the more he is likely to smell. This is because bathing will dry his skin, causing it to produce excess oils to act as a protective barrier. The resulting greasiness, in turn, creates an environment for bacteria and fungus to breed. A lot of dog experts advice limiting dog baths to once a month unless the dog has collected mud or feces on his fur.

Other Solutions and Considerations

A dog’s diet can also cause smelliness. For instance, if your dog has food allergies, his skin might react by producing more oils, emitting excess dandruff or developing itchy lesions. The wrong diet can also cause increased gassiness, a sign that should prompt you to change your dog’s food formulations. Dogs also have anal glands that emit a fishy smell if they become engorged or infected. These glands are located just below the anus and they need to be expressed by a vet if they are the source of smelliness. Lastly, airing and cleaning your Golden Retriever’s bedding is advisable as dirty sleeping areas may be the source of bad odor. 


Your dog’s health depends on how keen you are and how fast you act. It is important to regularly inspect your dog especially if he is not usually in your care all the time. This will ensure that you catch anything troublesome early on before it becomes serious. But, if it is a case of nuisance smells like feces stuck on his fur, just give him a good bath with his shampoo. 

Written by a Golden Retriever lover Maryanne Gaitho

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 08/24/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

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