Labradors are the most popular dogs in the United States, which means they get a lot of attention.
They are beloved for their friendly demeanor, but along with that comes some misconceptions.
As a Labrador owner (or potential owner) you may have heard some of these myths, but we wanted to set the record straight.
Dog smell is a common problem so if you have a stinky dog you’re not alone.
But there’s a difference between normal dog smell and strong odors that can be avoided. Some nasty smells could also be a sign that your dog has a health problem.
You’ll find some common types of dog odor listed here.
But let’s start with natural Labrador body odor.
Do Labradors smell?
Most Labradors do have quite a distinctive smell.
Visitors from dog-free homes will notice it immediately they enter your house – even though you’re no longer aware of it.
“So what?” some of you may say, “What’s a bit of body odor between friends?”
You should remember though that people vary in disgust. Maybe you’ve noticed your friends aren’t visiting so much anymore. Or you might be reading this because even your family has started complaining.
You’re likely to have become used to the smells gradually but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. They might even be caused by a serious health problem that developed over time.
But why is it that some Labs are naturally a bit more smelly than other dogs? Let’s have a look.
We’ll start with general dog body odors.
Dog smell when wet
Bred to work in and around water, Labradors have a dense double coat with an oily outer layer that offers almost perfect waterproofing.
These oils in your dog’s fur are part of the source of his distinctive doggy smell.
And they can smell particularly strong when your dog is damp and drying off after a swim.
The worst of the smell will disappear once he is completely dry.
Toweling him thoroughly after a swim will help.
Give particular attention to drying between skin folds because remaining dampness can cause skin infections.
However, this ‘wet dog smell’ is part of being a Labrador and not something that you can avoid altogether.
You can reduce your dog’s body odor by bathing him with shampoo (just making him wet won’t really help).
But remember that this will interfere with your dog’s ability to keep himself warm whilst swimming, as it disrupts his oily waterproofing.
Sometimes, even though you bath him regularly, a really foul doggy smell just returns in a day or two. Let’s find out what might be the reason for this.
Dog’s coat smells worse than normal body odor
Odor is a common sign of skin infections – even some that are not clearly visible. Infections can be from bacteria, fungi, and other parasites.
The germs usually take hold when something disrupts the normal function of the skin.
A number of underlying conditions can cause a skin infection in dogs. These include:
- long-term dampness
- allergies (ranging from fleas and shampoos to foods)
- abnormalities in the glands that produce the natural oils
- metabolic disorders like thyroid problems
- a dry skin which can be caused by diet (too few fatty acids) or too much bathing.
Have your dog checked by the vet if you think that a skin condition might be the problem?
If you read the above list carefully you’ll have noted that too much bathing can make your dog smell even worse.
Bathing is, therefore, best confined to the summer, and to those occasions when your dog has decided to smear himself in something unpleasant. This brings us to roll.
Why does my Labrador keep rolling?
Labradors love rolling in stinky substances that we find disgusting – dead animals and fox poo are favorites.
If you walk in places with a lot of public access, your dog may also find discarded nappies and other sources of human feces with which to decorate himself.
This is perfectly normal canine behavior.
When you get home you’ll need to get to work with a hose to get the worst off. And then decide whether or not you need to bring out the shampoo.
Some people swear that rubbing tomato ketchup into the fur before bathing helps, but a good shampoo is probably more effective.
Dog smells like fish
If you notice a strong and rather fishy smell coming from your Labrador, this is not part of his normal Labrador smell but is probably due to an anal gland problem.
The anal glands are located on either side of your dog’s anus, just under his tail. They’re normally emptied regularly during defecation.
Your dog uses these glands to leave his scent around for other dogs.
This scent is also the reason why dogs sniff each other’s bottoms when they meet and greet.
These anal glands can become overfull and even clogged – and smelly. Together with the build-up of the secretion, clogging can also cause infection.
You may notice an unpleasant fishy smell in addition to your dog’s attempts to relieve his discomfort by scooting around on his bottom.
Anal glands are usually emptied when your dog passes a stool.
So if his stools are too soft, or without enough bulk, it can cause clogged sacs.
The problem can also be caused by poor muscle tone in obese dogs and some dogs just have excessive secretion from the gland.
If this is your problem a trip to the vet is in order, and you’ll need to take a look at your dog’s diet to ensure that the problem doesn’t recur.
Another part of your dog where an infection is usually the cause of a smell is its ears.
Why my dog’s ears smell?
It’s normal for your dog’s ears to have a light yeasty smell. An unpleasant smell coming from your dog’s ears is a sign of a health problem.
Labradors are more prone to ear infections and parasites than dogs with upright ears.
That’s because the ear flaps create a warm, moist environment where germs can thrive.
Excess wax in your dog’s ears can also cause a build-up of germs.
Check your dog’s ears regularly and clean them if needed.
Dogs with ear infections may scratch at their ears and rub their heads on the ground.
Even if your dog isn’t doing this he needs to see a vet about any odor coming from his ears.
You may need to treat him with antibiotics or use an ear cleaner prescribed by your vet.
Why my dog’s urine smells?
Concentrated urine smells a bit stronger than very dilute urine. If your dog hasn’t had enough to drink his urine may smell stronger than usual.
Persistently strong-smelling urine in a dog that is well hydrated, or urine that smells foul, maybe a sign of a health condition.
Usually an infection in your dog’s bladder or urinary tract.
You’ll need a vet to diagnose a UTI and to prescribe an antibiotic treatment if the test comes back positive. It will save time if you can take a urine sample with you when you visit your vet’s office.
Another sign of ill health is if your dog has bad breath.
Why my dog’s breath smells?
Although we talk about ‘dog’s breath’, bad breath is actually not normal in dogs. It can indicate a problem either with the dog’s teeth, or his digestive system, or even another disease.
Have a look in your Labrador’s mouth. Are his teeth clean and free from cavities? If you’re unsure, get your vet to check this out.
Dogs should have clean and white teeth.
If his teeth are dirty, you need to do something about it.
If you are feeding your dog on kibble, you may need to clean his teeth for him each day.
Check out our article on dental hygiene for dogs.
We all know that a dog will have a stinky breath after eating something smelly – and you’ll want to clean his mouth!
Also, make sure that his bad breath isn’t from something foul he eats regularly, but that you’re might not aware of. Like your cat’s poo in the garden.
Some diseases can also cause bad breath in dogs.
These include diabetes, kidney and liver disease, and digestive problems.
If teeth are not the cause of the problem, the next step is to consider his diet and his digestive health.
Poor diet or digestive problems can also cause problems at the other end of your dog!
Why my dog has bad gas?
Some dogs have a really bad gas problem. So much so, that at times it’s unpleasant to be in the same room as the dog.
Just like us humans, most dogs get gas occasionally. Constant gas is not normal in a healthy dog. It can be caused by problems with the dog’s diet, or by digestive troubles.
You could try switching to a different brand of kibble or to a raw food diet.
If you know that your dog has an appropriate and balanced diet then a trip to the vet to make sure he is well is a good idea.
Labrador - smells and health checks
Other than the natural doggy body odor we talked about at the beginning of this article, your dog should not stink, and his breath and ears should not smell foul.
Being unwell can sometimes cause body odors.
Now, let’s return to the issue of general ‘doggy’ body odor, a particular problem in Labradors, and how to get rid of that doggy smell from your home.
How to get rid of dog smell in your home
We’ll take a look at a few things you can do to keep your home smelling fresh and clean.
Once you have dealt with any medical issues that are causing your dog to smell, it’s time to tackle the basic causes of Labrador body odor.
The first is dead hair. Labradors shed in small quantities of hair all year round, and a lot whilst molting.
This is a key source of the odor – both on the dog and in your home – because shed dog hair is surprisingly smelly.
Daily grooming is a great way to help minimize this problem.
Unless the weather is terrible, you’ll want to do this outside as it generates a lot of ‘floating’ hair around the dog.
Using a de-shedding tool on your Lab when he is shedding will help to reduce the smell.
You need to be careful with these tools as they can damage your dog’s coat if used too enthusiastically.
Once you have removed the dead hair, a good quality dog shampoo will help get your dog smelling sweet again.
Many dog owners are saying that applying coconut oil to your dog’s coat keeps it odor-free and shiny. Not much research has been done in this area and most of the reported benefits are from dog owners themselves.
There is some evidence that coconut oil has some action against germs when applied to the skin. And it can’t do any harm – so if you want to, give it a try to see if helps your dog.
As you know, dog hair doesn’t stay on your dog.
So the next step would be to rid your home of loose dog hair.
The next step is to vacuum your home very frequently to get rid of any hair that you miss during your daily grooming sessions.
Remember to clean your vacuum regularly.
If the air it blows out smells doggy, wash those parts that you can and replace the filter when necessary.
- Air fresheners and filters
Once the hair problem is under control you should see a big improvement in general Labrador body odor in your home.
If you’re still unhappy then you can try out a doggy deodorant that you spray on your dog’s fur (though arguably your dog won’t approve).
Less offensive to your dog is natural charcoal air purifying bags.
You simply place these in the room and they help to absorb unpleasant smells.Another option is to purchase a free-standing automatic release air freshener Or an air freshener that you plug into a socket in the rooms that your dog spends the most time in.And a final option is an electric air filter.
I own one – not for dog smells but because it helps to reduce dust and I have a dust mite allergy. But it leaves a room smelling very clean too.
Sometimes the best medicine is a Dog who thinks their love can cure you