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Why Does My Golden Retriever Smell?

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Dogs, especially golden retrievers, smell.

Golden Retrievers have a pretty strong natural odor, I can attest to that as my Goldens have always had a stronger “doggy odor” than my Labs.

But sometimes this natural odor grows into something intolerable.

Many have asked and today we shall answer…

Golden Retriever Smell - muddy dirty golden retriever

Why Does My Golden Retriever Smell?

All dogs have a distinctive dog smell, just as all humans have a distinctive human smell.

Some people like the natural smell of dogs, or at least tolerate it, while others hate it.

Over the years we read about Vizslas. In most of our readings it’s been said that they do not have that distinctive dog smell. If stinky dog smell is the only thing stopping you from getting a dog do some research on Vizslas.

In general, there is very little you can do about the fact that your dog smells like, well, a dog!

But what if your dog suddenly doesn’t smell like themselves and starts giving off an overly strong or particularly bad odor?

This can be a sign that something isn’t quite right with their coat, skin, or overall health.

It could just be that your golden has particularly oily skin and needs to be bathed more frequently, but it could also be a sign of an infection or other medical issue.

Below you will find a list of the main factors that can cause golden retrievers to smell bad.

I’ll talk about how worried you should be in each scenario and what you can do to deal with the smell and any underlying issues.

Excessive Body Oil

As I touched on above, all dogs have their own distinctive smell, which some people like and some people don’t.

But if their general smell is the same but seems stronger than usual, it might just be that it has been a while since they have had a bath.

The typical “dog smell” comes from natural secretions of body oil, which is kept close to your golden retriever’s skin by their thick double coat.

Over time, the build-up can start to give off a strong smell, especially if there is oil build-up in the folds of their skin.

If their smell is becoming too strong for you, then it is time to give your dog a bath.

Most vets advise against giving your dog a bath too often because it can leave their skin dry and make it prone to irritation.

The standard recommendation for golden retrievers is to bathe them once a month or less often if you can stand the smell.

However, if you are using a gentle shampoo designed specifically for your dog, you can get away with bathing them more often if you need to.

But regular brushing between washes can also help control their body oil levels, and therefore their smell.

Top 3 Shampoos For Stinky Dogs

Below are my three top dog shampoos from Chewy.

First off, you DO NOT want to use shampoos made for humans. They may be too harsh on your dogs coat and skin.

Second it’s best to avoid scented shampoos to “mask” the odor of your dog, as dogs don’t tend to like having a strange smell, like that of a shampoo, hanging around their body.

This can cause them to start running up against walls and rubbing their body against everything else in an attempt to wipe off the smell.

Burt’s Bees Puppy 2-In-1 Shampoo

Burt’s Bees Puppy 2-In-1 Shampoo

Burt’s Bees is our number one choice with our puppies!

In fact we use this shampoo when our newborn puppies needed a quick bath…4-8 week old puppies really like rolling around in their poop…

This mild shampoo is designed specifically for puppies, or can be used on older dogs that need regular baths.

It is made from 97% natural ingredients and is pH balanced for dogs so that it won’t strip their natural oils.

Buddy Wash Dog Shampoo And Conditioner

Buddy Wash Dog Shampoo And Conditioner

This is a coconut-based, soap-free shampoo that won’t irritate your dog’s skin and is a natural deodorizer to keep smells under control.

It also lightly conditions the skin with botanical extracts and is mild enough to use on a regular basis.

Zesty Paws Itch Soother Dog Shampoo

Zesty Paws Itch Soother Dog Shampoo

This mild shampoo is great for dogs that have itchy skin as it soothes with oatmeal and aloe vera.

It also includes vanilla bean extract, which is good at combating bad odors. Vitamin E keeps their coat soft and healthy.

Infection

If your dog has some type of infection, the bacteria or yeast associated with that infection can also be the source of a bad or unusual odor. 

For example, ear infections are common among dogs like golden retrievers because their long ears cover the ear canal.

This creates a nice, dark breeding ground for bacteria, which can in turn result in a very unpleasant smell.

Cleaning your dog’s ears regularly can help keep bacteria growth under control.

Unfortunately, one of our Labs used to have chronic ear infections. Regular cleaning helped but it wasn’t a cure all. If your dog has chronic ear infections, talk to your vet and get more information on how to best keep your dog’s ears clear of infection.

Alternatively, if your dog has a skin infection, perhaps associated with allergies, they can scratch a lot and break the skin, creating wounds that can easily become infected and start to smell.

If your dog suffers from these kinds of infections regularly, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian to find a reliable, effective treatment and pinpoint any underlying causes of the infections.

Mouth Smell

If your dog has an unusually bad smell, give their mouth a sniff and see if it is the source of the odor.

Any dental issues can cause bacteria to build up in their mouth, which can smell very bad.

The first thing to do is to look for anything lodged in their mouth that shouldn’t be there that could be the source of the problem.

Also examine their teeth for any that might be cracked or broken and require a trip to the vet.

Your dog’s mouth can also give off a bad smell if there is something wrong with their digestive system or kidneys.

Smells can emerge up the esophagus and exit through their mouths. This is a signal that you should visit the vet, as related conditions can be serious if not treated promptly.

Bad breath can also just be the result of bad dental hygiene.

Did you know that most vets recommend brushing your dog’s teeth daily?

This is something that few pet parents do, but regular brushing and using tools such as dental chews can keep your dog’s breath from smelling.

We use and recommend Arm and Hammer toothbrush and toothpaste and our favorite type of chews are bully sticks which themselves will often be quite stinky.

Digestive Gas

Today’s article reminds me of a song from friends.

Smelly cat (dog), smelly (dog), what are they feeding you?

Funny thing is there’s some truth to that line. What you feed your dog could be the cause of his stinky smell.

Rather than coming from your dog’s mouth or upper digestive tract, the bad smell you associate with your dog may be coming from their farts.

Farting is normal for dogs. Gases build up in the body as a natural part of the digestive processes, and farting is the only way to eliminate that gas.

But if your dog is passing gas excessively or the gas has a very bad smell, an underlying health or dietary issue could be to blame.

If your dog is suddenly farting worse than usual, it is often a sign that something’s not right with their diet.

In their effort to digest something that doesn’t agree with them, they may be producing extra gas.

Your dog will often develop digestive issues when you change their food.

Despite the fact it seems like they will eat anything and everything, dogs actually have quite sensitive digestive systems, and any sudden change in their diet can cause issues.

However, these issues will typically go away on their own once your dog has become accustomed to the new diet.

Human food with spices and other ingredients that are not good for your dog, such as onion and garlic, can also upset their stomach.

This is one of the many reasons why you should never feed your dog food scraps off your plate despite those adorable, pleading puppy eyes. 

If your dog is exclusively eating dog food, make sure your choice doesn’t have any potential irritants in it, such as artificial colors and flavors.

If their food is not the culprit, then it could be that your dog has an allergy to something specific in their food, and you should consult your vet.

It is worth noting here that problems with grains are very rare among dogs, so while you might want to try grain-free dog food, this may not solve the problem.

One of the foods that our dogs love is the Farmer’s Dog. It’s a fresh dog food and is very expensive but our Golden, Raven loves it. We will usually mix it in with some dry kibble, Wellness Core.

Anal Sacs

Dogs have two glands either side of their anus that fill up with a bad-smelling substance as part of their digestive process.

They excrete some of this every time they poop, and that’s normal. This is part of their marking and signaling system, which is why dogs smell each other’s behinds when they meet.

However, if their anal sacs have become impacted or infected, they may be secreting this bad-smelling substance without pooping.

You will probably also notice them licking themselves in this area a lot or scooting to try and give themselves some relief from itchiness.

While a problem caused by a mild impaction will probably go away on its own after a day or two, an infection will usually only get worse and can become chronic.

In this case, it is time to visit the vet to manually express the anal sacs and deal with the infection.

Our older rescue, Linus used to have some anal sac issues. There would be a day or two when we had that fishy smell.

It’s definitely distinctive so if you’re running into this odor you should recognize the difference from regular doggy smell.

Lucky for us, we never had to have the vet express Linus’ anal sac but we still had to endure a day or two of stank!

Top Tips For Keeping Your Dog Smelling Good

While a bad odor can be a sign that something is wrong, a strong dog smell can just be natural for some dogs, especially for dogs with thick coats that like to rough and tumble like golden retrievers.

If you just want to keep your golden smelling good in general rather than deal with a specific bad smell, the following tips should help.

  • Give your dog a bath. About once a month with a shampoo for dogs that is balanced for the pH of their skin (which is different from the human pH) is ideal.
  • Brush them regularly between washes to control their skin’s natural oils.
  • Brush their teeth frequently, and daily if possible. This will maintain their dental hygiene and ensure pleasant breath.
  • Check their ears regularly. Your dog’s ears can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Remove dirt and debris at least weekly.
  • Wash their bedding regularly. This will remove bacteria and help keep odors under control.
  • Feed them a clean diet that doesn’t contain any potential irritants such as artificial additives or toxic human foods. If you change their diet, do it gradually by mixing their old food with new food at first so as not to cause excess flatulence.
  • Visit the vet if they start to smell differently for no apparent reason.

FAQs

Why does my dog stink even after a bath?

If your dog is stinky even after a bath, the source of the smell is likely to be something other than their natural body odor.

Look for signs of infection, especially around the ears and mouth, as these can be sources of a bad smell.

If the stench is coming from their backside, then it could be something in their diet or an infection of the anal sacs.

Why is my dog smelling all of a sudden?

If your dog’s new smell isn’t the result of them playing in something icky, then there could be a variety of causes.

The smell probably has a specific origin, such as the ears, mouth, or behind. If you can identify the origin of the smell, you will have a better chance of identifying the problem.

How often should you bathe a golden retriever?

Dogs don’t actually benefit from regular bathing and bathing too often can damage their skin and coat.

You should bathe your golden retriever no more than once a month, and wait longer if you can stand the smell.

Basically, bathe your golden when the smell is no longer tolerable for you.

Why does my golden retriever puppy smell?

Puppies often have a sweet milky smell that goes away within the first 8 to 12 weeks.

The source of this smell is unclear; it may be due to their milky diet or linked with the growth and loss of their milk teeth.

The Verdict

Dogs smell like dogs, but that doesn’t mean that they have to smell bad. If your dog is giving off an unusually strong or unpleasant odor, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

Consider my list of potential reasons why your dog is smelling bad to try and identify the problem.

Often a trip to the vet can ensure that your dog starts to smell better and keep them healthy and happy.

To recap, the following tips will help keep your golden retriever smelling fresh and clean:

  • Wash their bedding regularly, ideally weekly
  • Bathe your dog at least around once a month
  • Feed them a clean, healthy diet free of irritants and dyes
  • Brush their teeth often, daily if possible
  • Check and clean your dog’s ears weekly
  • See a vet if your dog begins smelling different for no apparent reason

So, how about you?

Do you have a smelly dog?

Tell us about your dog in the comment section below.

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Why Does My Golden Retriever Smell? - Stinky Golden lying on the ground.

Top Picks For Our Puppies

  1. BEST PUPPY TOY
    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs – Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
  2. BEST DOG CHEW
    We Like: Mighty Paw Naturals Bully Sticks – All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
  3. BEST DOG TREATS
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats – We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
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    We Like: The Farmer’s Dog – A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer’s Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.



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