dog getting rinsed with a hose

Wet Dog Smell: Inside The Stinky Science, Plus Ways to Prevent It


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Ever notice an unpleasant odor on your pup post bath? Wet dog smell is a common occurrence for many pet owners.

When dog owners bathe their pooches, they expect them to come out smelling like roses. Well, maybe not roses exactly, but man's best friend should have a rather pleasant smell after all the suds and scrubbing. Unfortunately, if you have tried using shampoos on your dog's fur to get rid of the smell, it likely did not do the trick.

As a pet parent, it can get pretty frustrating when your pooch has "that" stink following them around. Famous for its stench, but rarely understood, what causes that wet dog smell? It turns out the reason your pup smells when they are wet, whether it's post-bath or after jumping in a pond, has nothing to do with what shampoo you use. In fact, the stink has everything to do with what's living on your dog's skin.

What Causes Wet Dog Smell?

wet dog stands in shallow water

Doggy odors can be an assault on your sense of smell, but where do these odors come from? Dog hair and skin regularly produce chemical compounds, though some have more odor than others. For example, dry dogs can have a musk smell. However, the musky smell isn't as bothersome as the wet smell. According to Science Focus, the wet dog smell isn't coming from your dog. Instead, the smell comes from microorganisms, namely bacteria and yeast, living in your dog's fur. As water evaporates off of your pup's fur, the volatile compounds of yeast and bacteria hit the air creating a foul smell. A wet dog increases the humidity surrounding them, and that humid air creates an environment that keeps foul odors hanging around. So your dog's coat will retain the odor for as long as they are wet, and the microbes can also multiply, increasing the strength of the scent.

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Can Those Microorganisms Harm Your Dog?

wet golden retriever

RELATED: 10 Stinkiest Dog Breeds Taking "What's That Smell" to a New Level

While the smell may bother your senses, the microbes do not actually bother your dog -- They are naturally a part of your pup's microbiome living on their skin and fur. The more sebum oil a dog has on their hair shafts, the higher the likelihood of extra odor. However, some dog breeds have a stronger scent than others, especially dogs with wrinkly skin. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs with folds have a tendency to retain their smell. Keep wipes on hand for pups like Basset Hounds, Chinese Shar-Pei, Pugs, Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs. These pooches can get a build-up of oils and moisture, increasing their wet dog smell.

Getting Rid Of Wet Dog Smell

dog being towel and blower dried

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The best way to keep wet dog smell at bay is to get your pup dry quickly --The longer your dog's hair is wet, the stronger the smell will grow. Sometimes a towel dry does not do the trick, so having a blow dryer handy is usually the best way to go. Washing your dog one to two times a month should help as well. Of course, you can always take them to a professional groomer every couple of months to help manage lingering smells.

Another way to keep on top of the smelly organisms is to keep your dog's bedding and collar clean. Run your dog's nylon collar through the wash, along with their harnesses and bedding. If they have a leather collar, use a leather cleaner and do not run it through the washing machine. If your dog's cover is not removable, you can clean it with baking soda and vinegar to neutralize the wet dog smell.

Does your dog have a wet dog smell? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page. 

READ MORE: 12 Dog Breeds That Need Consistent Grooming