What is that Wet Dog Smell?

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A few weeks ago we wrote about “Frito Feet”, that weird phenomenon that makes your dogs feet smell like Frito corn chips. Turns out it’s caused by a combination of sweat and bacteria on your dog’s feet.
 
But what about that “wet dog” smell? I’ve had many dogs when I was young (my grandfather raised collies and owned a boarding facility) and many dogs since I reached adulthood. They all had the same wet dog smell, no matter the make or model of dog, they all smelled pretty bad when wet with the same distinct smell. What is it that causes that pungent odor? And why does Jack smell like that only when he’s wet?
 
wet dog

Turns out it’s the partially due to the same culprit that creates the frito feet smell – bacteria. Bacteria combines with other yeasts found on the dog’s skin and coat and these molecules are called organic acids. They are always there on your dog, just as there is always bacteria on your skin, but when the dog is dry, the acids don’t emit much of an odor. When the dog gets wet however, and the organic acids are combined with water, the molecules breakdown and are released into the air. A wet dog also emits much more moisture into the air, making the air around him more humid and and humid air holds more odors than dry air. The higher the concentration of the odor laden molecules in the air, the more your dog will smell.

 
There really isn’t much you can do about the smell, it is a natural process. You can diminish the odor with regular bathing and then a thorough drying, complete with hairdryer for your dog.

 


Additional Reading:

What’s Up With That: The Gross Chemistry Behind That Funky Wet-Dog Smell

What Causes Wet Dog Smell (and how can I prevent it?)

Why do wet dogs smell?

 

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27 Comments

  1. Ahhhh, this explains why our dogs rarely get that wet dog smell. 4 dogs combined used to be what 2 dogs would smell like eons ago. I believe their diet produces least yeast build up in their system.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Serendipitous Saturday | 3 Reasons Why I Hate Dog ParksMy Profile

  2. Mom says some dogs have a much worse smell than others. She is laughing as Bailie and I had ORT tests last night. We spent 4 hours mostly sitting in the car in the dark with Mom waiting for our turns. Problem? It was pouring rain, so she was not only stuck in the car in the dark, but she was trapped with two wet dogs! We passed all our runs, so it was worth it in the end. She threatened us if we didn’t pass 😉
    Emma recently posted…4 Uses For A Travel Organizer Kit {Giveaway}My Profile

  3. Lucky for us, the brown dawgs have coats that dry quickly so they usually don’t have the wet dog smell.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Stay In The WaterMy Profile

    • Forgot to mention that brown dawgs do not normally get the wet dog smell, but the “skunked last month” smell is a whole different story and appears each time Storm gets wet. 🙂
      2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Stay In The WaterMy Profile

  4. Very interesting ~ I didn’t realize that humid air holds more odors than dry air. I have to say that our pups’ don’t smell too bad when they’re wet. They retain more of the wet-dog-odor you talk about when it’s been a bit longer since they’ve had a bath, but usually they just smell like a more wet version of their usual selves when they’ve been out in the rain or in their pools.
    However, I have smelled a lot of wet dogs over the past 4 years since I’m a dog walker & pet sitter, and some definitely have had that distinct wet-dog-smell!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Don’t Let Your Lost Pup Become Another Statistic! #NationalPetIDWeekMy Profile

  5. the worst is when Easy dries his wet coat in my bed….this “perfume” is a little too much dog for me :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog GO ORANGE…My Profile

  6. I knew about frito feet, but this one’s new to me. Really cool little bit of information.

  7. Ew! lol I actually had no idea that is what caused it!!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…“Phantom Dog” Rescued From A Hot Dog StandMy Profile

  8. Over time, I’ve gotten somewhat used to it – Doodle Dad is a different story. PAWhaps I shall forward this post to him LOL Maybe if he understands it, he will tolerate it a bit more #youthink? Because Harley is bathed regularly it’s not really that offensive, but a wet dog smell is pretty distinct anyway you look at it.

  9. That is such an interesting article. Although Bentley strongly disagrees, there is not much more pungent than a wet Basset Hound. We try to refer to it as a ‘gamey’ smell, so not to hurt his feelings! ROFL
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof News 4/20/2015My Profile

  10. Very interesting! It’s funny how you can still smell a hint of it even after bathing your dog. I love it when Haley’s coat finally dries after a bath and only the smell of the shampoo is detectable.
    Elaine recently posted…Max’s Guide to a Dog-Friendly YardMy Profile

  11. How interesting! Thanks for sharing! Luna gets Frito Feet pretty often, but her wet dog smell isn’t too bad. Maybe the bacteria just like hanging out on her feet!
    Jessica Shipman recently posted…Pet Friendly Shopping at Merrifield Garden CenterMy Profile

  12. Interesting! In hot weather my dogs try to get wet everyday! They stink all summer long 😉
    Taryn recently posted…The Weekend Report: Odd MistakesMy Profile

  13. I love Frito Feet but am not so enamored of wet dog smell. Tucker is the smelliest — and of course the hardest to bathe. We’ll be working on that this spring and summer.
    –Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats
    Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats recently posted…Cats and Boxes: A (Not-So-Scientific) StudyMy Profile

  14. So funny!! But it makes sense. 🙂 Our pups don’t tend to get that wet dog smell, but we do so much trail running/getting muddy that they are constantly being at least rinsed off in the shower if not bathed with soap.
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Meet JackMy Profile

  15. interesting, wet dog skunk smell is the worst, seems like it sticks around forever.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Great News~Nellie’s UltrasoundMy Profile

  16. I’ve always kind of liked that smell; reminds me of wet wool. When I’m on the bus on a snowy day, nearly everyone smells like a wet dog in the crowded and confined space and I just have to smile because it reminds me of my pup and not that I’m on the way to work. Weird, huh? 🙂
    Monika recently posted…Velcro DogMy Profile

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