Dog Smell


Want to know why your Golden Retriever smells like an old dish towel?


Here are some simple solutions that work.

The most common complaints that we hear from our Golden Retriever (and other similar coat breed) owners are that their dogs smell like old dirty towels. Here are the most common reasons Golden Retrievers smell, and the solutions to cure the problem.

dog smell

Dishtowel stench: Eight times out of ten, the cause of the dirty dishtowel smell is water on the dog’s skin that is not able to dry quickly or completely. This is caused by two typical sources: the dog swims daily, and the dog has knots or thick undercoat that will not allow rapid dry time. When the dog’s coat cannot dry quickly, this promotes ‘hot spots’ on the skin which typically starts with the dirty rag smell, and can progress to a full-blown oozing and blistered spot on the skin that requires antibiotics to heal. Common hot spot areas are behind and under the ears, in the folds of the neck, at the base of the tail, and on the back and inside of the thighs where the hair is the thickest.

Solutions: For a natural coat, regular brushing with proper tools for the dogs coat will remove excess undercoat and expedite the drying process. If there are mattes present that cannot be brushed out without pain, then spot shaving those areas will give relief to the dog and the owner. If the matted area is already red and inflamed, the clipping process will cause the redness to worsen typically within 6 hours of clipping. Using Neosporin, Bag Balm, Emu Oil, or Castor Oil to relieve the irritation is advised (usually for 1-3 days). After the matted areas have been clipped away, and the dead undercoat brushed out, a thorough scrubbing bath with a force dryer and complete drying process is needed (not a human hair dryer). This will clean the skin of bacteria or debris and promote air flow around the hair follicles. The last step to promote a clean smelling dog is to use Listerine on the areas that were shaved or smelly – provided they are not full-blown hot spots that require antibiotics (visible oozing discharge).

Solutions for a shaved coat: Some owners find that brushing, bathing, and spot shaving problem areas is not enough to rid their dog of the dishrag smell. This is especially common in the summer when the dog is swimming daily. In this situation, if the dog is not being shown, I advise owners to shave their Golden Retriever down to 1/8″ (or a # 7 A-5 blade). The hair will grow back with a slightly different texture, but the average dog owner would not know or care about the difference. The hair takes about 3 or 4 months to grow back. Most owners that try shaving their dishrag-smelling Golden Retrievers continue to shave their dogs each spring or summer because it alleviates hot spots, cools the dog, and promotes healthy dry skin throughout the swimming season. It also cuts down on vacuuming and sweeping! Sunburn can be a factor to consider if you have a very light-colored Golden Retriever, or the dog has no shade the first two weeks after being shaved. If sunburn is a concern, use regular human sunscreen on your dog with spf of 15 or higher, and waterproof, if your dog swims. Two weeks after being clipped, they typically have enough hair to avoid sunburn.

Solutions for musky-smelling back end: If your Golden Retriever has been washed and smells great everywhere except for his back end (butthole area), then the solution is easy, but a bit gross. It is very a very common occurrence in Golden Retrievers and I don’t know why, but the anal glands are full and need to be expressed, which produces a musky, unpleasant smell. You can empty the anal glands at home, but it is foul. You will need gloves, a strong stomach, a tub, and some Listerine to do this at home. There are lots of videos on YouTube and also at the Pooch Parlor website,

about anal gland expressing. You can take your dog to the groomers, typically as a walk-in, for a fee around $10, or you can take your dog to your veterinarian for an office call fee. Once the anal glands are emptied and the area cleaned, the musky smell should disappear.

Solutions for smelly ears: Golden’s get ear infections very commonly, most typically from swimming. If you notice a funky smell coming from inside the ears, and the dog is shaking his head often, check for redness of the ear tissue, and clumps of black or brown gunk in their ears. Yeast buildup is brownish with a cottage cheese texture. Your local vet has a great variety of solutions for your dog, but if the problem is small, you can use miconazole nitrate cream for typical yeast infections sold over the counter to women every day. Ear mites look like clumps of black sticky pepper inside the ears and are very contagious between dogs and cats. Ear mite solution is sold at pet stores and vet clinics. I recommend the pest topical treatment, Revolution, to treat ear mites as it also treats fleas and ticks, and you don’t have to annoy your dog by rubbing around in his ears. In addition to ear infections, wet mattes underneath the ears are the most common cause of smelly ears. Smelly mattes need to be shaved and the skin cleaned to clear up the problem.

Golden Retriever’s make perfect family pets, and keeping them from smelling like dishrags is not hard if you know what to do. Keep your dog groomed regularly. Check for mattes, hotspots, dead undercoat, and take appropriate action at home or at your local groomers. Give each end your dog the ‘sniff test’ to see if ear or anal issues are a concern. Keep Listerine and Monistat 7 on hand, and enjoy one of America’s favorite family dogs, the beautiful and clean-smelling, Golden Retriever.