How to Clean a Smelly Dog

10 - 45 Minutes
1 Week


Lucy is a black Lab who loves to spend time outdoors. She enjoys lying in the grass or the dirt in her yard, romping in the ravine behind her house, and if no one stops her, wallowing in the creek and associated mud. She also likes to roll in dead things and manure when she gets a chance! 

This is fine in the summer when Lucy sleeps outside, but after a summer of misadventures, as the weather gets colder in the fall, Lucy starts asking to come inside at night. Her owners don’t want her out in the cold, but she stinks! Really bad! Lucy is going to need a good cleaning before she can come in for the night.

Dogs have fur that traps smells and skin that produces natural oils, they also clean themselves by licking. Some do a better job of this than others, and some dogs have stinkier tongues than others!  An imbalance in body oils, a buildup of bacteria or fungus, or just plain old foul, soiled hair caused by dirt, urine and fecal build up, can cause your dog to smell. Cleaning your dog while keeping in mind that causing an imbalance in natural flora will not help in the long run will make your pooch smell pretty, or at least not as putrid!  A little effort and the right tools can be used to counteract smelly dog syndrome.

Dog's Perspective

From your dog's perspective, smelling bad is not really a problem. Ever noticed your dog stop to smell poop and dead things on a walk? Ever seen him recoil in horror at the smell? Not likely! Dogs don’t have the same esthetics as us when it comes to smell, apparently. However, your dog will appreciate the pets and cuddling and being close to you that are more likely to occur when he does not smell so bad. Cleaning up that smell is to your dog’s benefit, even if he does not get the connection!

The Bathe It Off Method

Most Recommended
1 Vote
Add lavender
Thoroughly wet, shampoo, rinse, condition, rinse, and dry your dog with a shampoo that neutralizes smell. You can add lavender oil to any shampoo to help make your dog smell better.
Use gentle shampoo
Use a gentle, moisturizing shampoo, like an oatmeal shampoo, that does not dry out skin and make it susceptible to imbalances or infections, or kill natural microflora that helps balance your dog's skin pH.
Add vinegar
Wash your dog with apple cider vinegar mixed with shampoo. Use 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon Dawn dish soap mixed with 1 cup water. Vinegar neutralizes smell and works as an anti-fungal.
Use anti skunk smell spray
Use an anti skunk spray shampoo. Some treatments are sprayed on, left to dry, and then washed off. If it works for skunk smell, it may also neutralize other smells.
Add baking soda
Wash your dog in water with baking soda; baking soda absorbs odors. Do not mix baking soda and vinegar as they will react.
Recommend grooming method?

The Quick Clean Method

0 Votes
Slicker Brush
Pin Brush
Use absorbent dry shampoo
Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch over your dog to absorb odors, dirt, and oils. Sprinkle over your dog and let the powder sit on fur and skin for 20 minutes--prevent your dog from licking it off. Brush out the powder, you may want to do this outside, or in a mudroom so as not to get contaminated baking soda or cornstarch everywhere.
Clean mouth and ears
Check your dog's teeth for dental problems and infections, and also ears, for yeast and bacterial infections. Lift ear flaps and look for signs of parasites and bacterial or yeast infections that are common in dogs. Smelly and/or crumbly red or brown discharge in the ear canal usually indicates a yeast or parasite infection that needs treating. Clean out ears thoroughly and get appropriate medication from a veterinarian. Check your dog’s mouth , gums, and teeth for signs of redness and inflammation. A particularly foul smell in the mouth may indicate dental issues your veterinarian needs to address. Brush teeth regularly to prevent smelly breath. Use a doggy toothpaste.
Brush and remove soiled fur
Brush your dog to remove debris and fecal matter stuck to the hair. Remove matted, soiled hair with scissors and spot clean with a wet cloth or dog wipes. Clean your dog's backend with a dog wipe or wet cloth to remove fecal and urine contamination on fur.
Use lavender oil
Rub a few drops of lavender oil in coconut oil between your hands until the coconut oil is liquefied, and then rub on your dogs hair. Get his belly and nooks and crannies where yeast may build up. This mixture has anti-fungal properties and smells great, two benefits.
Spray with vinegar
Make a spray with apple cider vinegar and water, use 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 2 cups of water. Spritz your dog. The vinegar has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and will help neutralize smell.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Excessive smell on your dog could be caused by a medical condition.  Get veterinary treatment for any bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections as required.
  • Diet can contribute to smell.  High quality, high protein diets are usually best to prevent your dog from smelling bad.
  • Examine your dog for skin infections, hot spots, or sores that may be causing a smell.
  • Regularly clean teeth and check for dental problems.
  • Regularly clean ears and check for yeast infections.
  • Avoid overbathing with harsh detergents that can dry skin or cause an imbalance of natural microflora.
  • Keep shampoo and water out of your dog's eyes and ears when bathing.
  • Dry your dog thoroughly to prevent wet dog smell.


Nobody wants to cozy up on the couch with a stinky dog. Although your dog may not mind his body odor, chances are you do! A smelly dog can be a sign of a fungal or bacterial infection or parasites, so be sure to check your dog thoroughly to rule this out. Also, metabolic disorders and other conditions can contribute to smell, as well as diet. Try to find the source of your dog's smell.

To clean your dog, use spot cleaning or dry shampoos like cornstarch or baking soda to absorb odors, and remove soiled hair. Better yet, a thorough bath with a shampoo or rinse that will counteract the smell is the ideal solution. Pretty soon your pooch will be smelling pleasant, just use the right products and scrub, and be sure to rule out diet or medical conditions.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd