How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell After Bath? Causes Included

Somehow, a bath can make your dog worse than before. The “wet dog smell” is the unfortunate effect of soaking your pet in water. I know whenever I used to bathe my dogs, I was stumped why I couldn’t get the wet dog smell to go away and I started to wonder what causes that wet dog smell, and how can you prevent it?

The wet dog smell after a bath can be avoided with a thorough bath, completely drying the dog, regularly grooming the dog, and washing the bedding and the other spots where the dog hangs out. The wet dog smell comes from bacteria that builds up in the dog’s coat and is activated with water.

There are a few reasons for the wet dog smell, and a number of steps that you can take to prevent it. There are also a couple of reasons why your dog tends to smell so much better when coming from a groomer than after you washed them which I go over in this post.

Where Does the Wet Dog Smell Come From?

The wet dog smell is one of the unfortunate downsides to having a pet dog and it was my mission to avoid getting my dogs wet for this reason, including trying to stay on top of the weather forecast so i didn’t have to walk them in the rain!

The strong stench that comes when your dog gets wet is a side effect of a bath, swimming, or other situation when your dog gets wet. It’s strange to consider; after all, water should make your dog cleaner, right?

The wet dog smell is primarily caused by bacteria that build upOpens in a new tab. in the fur. This bacteria can cause your dog to smell bad normally, but water can increase the intensity of the smells of this bacteria as it releases the bad smell into the air.

A few different types of bacteria contribute to the wet dog smell. This is because the signature smell isn’t just one scent but a combination of many different smells and compounds that do not mix well and create the foul wet dog smell.

I wrote an article about dog shedding after baths and why it increases that also includes important tips that I linked below.

Read Now: Why Dogs Shed So Much After Bath; Causes, When to Furminate

The contributing scents include sulphur and fecal smells, but they also involve mushroom, earthy, fruity, and floral scents.

The fecal and sulphur scents come from dimethyl trisulfide, phenol, and p-cresol.

The mushroom smell is from 1-octen-3-ol.

The fruity smell comes from 2-nonanone, while the floral smell comes from â-damescenone. The earthy scent is from 3-diethyl-5-mehtylpryazine).

None of these bacteria alone causes the wet dog smell, but the volatile combination causes the wretched stench. The smell is compounded when a dog’s fur gets wet, making it stronger and smell even worse.

Wet fur also increases the speed of the bacteria’s growth because the fur becomes a better environment for the bacteria to grow.

How Can I Get Rid of the Wet Dog Smell?

Now that you know what causes the wet dog smell, you can start to take steps to prevent or eliminate it.

Unfortunately, there isn’t just one solution.

Every dog is different, and some will smell worse than others, so you may need to do more work to make your dog smell better than you would for a different dog.

Though the smell is essentially only caused by the bacteria, this bacteria can come from a few different places. There are a few important things that you can do to get rid of the smell.

Below are 5 ways to reduce or eliminate wet dog smell.

  1. Thorough Bathing to remove smell-inducing bacteria and debris

One of the best ways to eliminate the wet dog smell when bathing your dog is to clean your dog well.

Rushing through your dog’s bath means that you are leaving a lot of bacteria and other material in your dog’s fur instead of scrubbing it out and washing it away. The bacteria that is in your dog’s fur is the cause of the wet dog smell, so it is important that you wash it out.

Make sure to put in the proper amount of elbow grease when washing your dog. Thoroughly wash every inch of your dog’s fur, paying particular attention to the areas that tend to smell worse: the hindquarters, between the toes, around the mouth, etc.

Scrubbing these areas is especially important because these are where most of the stench comes from.

It’s also important that you use the right kind of shampoo. You can’t just use human shampoo for your dog’s cleaning. Human shampoo tends to be milder and less effectiveOpens in a new tab. at cleaning since dogs need a lot more cleaning. Human shampoo may be less effective and increase the smell.

Dog shampoo has a different pH to be safe for the sensitive skin of dogs, which has different needs than the skin of human scalps. If the shampoo you are using doesn’t seem to be helping much, you may want to consider changing brands.

Remember to follow the instructions for use on the dog shampoo bottle. Most dog shampoos should be diluted before being used on the dog in order to spread more easily.

I wrote an article I will link here if you want to know more about dog shampoo dilution. Do You Have To Dilute Dog Shampoo? How to Tips and Chart!

2. Completely Drying your dog to prevent bacterial growth and skin conditions

Once the bath is done, another way to eliminate the wet dog smell is to make sure your wet dog is no longer wet.

Drying your dog properly is an imperative step in getting rid of the wet dog smell.

When the dog’s fur is wet, it makes the smell worse and makes an ideal environment for the bacteria to grow. It is important to dry the dog quickly and thoroughly.

You need to towel off your dog after a bath. Depending on your dog’s size, you may need to use a few towels. Towels can’t completely dry your dog’s fur, but it is good to get rid of as much moisture as you can immediately after the bath is done.

At that point, the dog is less wet and more damp.

Some dog owners will towel off their dog and call it good, but you need to make sure your dog is completely dry.

You can allow your dog to air dry after a bath, but only if you do it properly. For me, I never let my dogs air dry because I found no matter what the wet dog smell returned.

Letting your dog curl up somewhere and go to sleep after a bath will not ensure that it will dry out properly. The moisture can get trapped and not dry quickly or properly if your dog is laying on the ground or curled up in a ball.

If you prefer to let your dog air dry, you might consider taking them on a walk. This may be the better option if your dog is scared of the blow dryer.

Walking to dry out the fur is especially a good idea if it is sunny and warm outside. This will allow your dog to shake the water out of its fur. There will also be plenty of air circulation through the fur as your dog walks, drying it more quickly. The sun’s warmth will also help dry out the fur more quickly.

An alternative to air drying your dog’s fur is to use a blow dryerOpens in a new tab.. Blow dryers aren’t just effective on human hair but on dog hair as well.

However, it is important that you take precautions to blow dry your dog properly.

If the temperature is too hot, it can irritate or dry out your dog’s skin, making them uncomfortable. Skin irritation can also be a result of putting the blow dryer too close to your dog.

Make sure you hold it at a safe distance and keep the temperature low. This will dry your dog’s fur more quickly and effectively and help keep the bacteria from spreading more. It can also keep your dog from getting any of your furniture or carpets wet, which will spread the wet dog smell further and create breading grounds for bacteria.

3. Grooming efficiently to prevent matting that will accumulate debris and bacteria

You don’t just need to bathe your dog every once in a while and make sure to dry them after to keep the wet dog smell at bay. It is also important that your regularly groom your pet.

Grooming isn’t just about making sure your dog looks good every day. It is also about hygiene and keeping their skin and coat healthy.

Brushing your dog’s fur clears out shed hair, debris, and dead skin, which can all contribute to the wet dog smell if left alone. Make sure to brush their fur daily to clear out the regular fur and debris that gathers in your dog’s fur. Clearing it out can keep your dog’s fur much cleaner.

Using a brush that reaches underneath the undercoat is best. I use a regular brush first to remove bulk and loose hair, then I go in with the furminator to clean the undercoat.

You also need to make sure to clean up any discharge that comes from the ears, eyes, mouth, or nose.

Snot, saliva, and other liquids can cake your dog’s fur around these areas, which have their own host of bacteria, and smells associated with them. Dogs that drool a lot will often smell a lot worse. I remember stepping into some of my friends houses growing up that had a drooly dog, it’s all you could smell.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop your dog from drooling. You can, however, make sure that they have good dental health so that their slobber doesn’t result in worse smells.

4. Washing Dog Bed/Favorite Spots

Another good way to keep your wet dog from smelling like one is to make sure to regularly clean areas that your dog frequents.

This includes their dog bed, couches or chairs, or even patches of carpet that your dog tends to choose when deciding where to settle in and rest for a while. Some dogs tend to flit from place to place, while others go to the same places every day.

If you are able to regularly clean your dog's favourite spots, this can help limit the number of bacteria that gathers in your dog's fur. 

Areas, where your dog spends a lot of time, can often build up bacteria from both the dog and outside influences such as dirt and bacteria. Definitely make sure that you wash your dog’s bed because they will tend to spend a lot of time there and gather bacteria in their fur.

I clean our pets bedding once a week, I use a dry rubber glove to gather the bulk of the hair, then vacuum, spot clean and then put in a hot wash and dryer cycle. I only buy pet bedding that I can wash and keep clean.

If you can identify any other areas where your dog spends a significant amount of time, try to clean those often as well.

5. Keep the Dog Clean

Obviously, you can’t keep your dog completely clean between the times when you bathe them. However, making sure that they don’t get too filthy will also prevent the growth and spread of the bacteria.

Avoid letting your dog swim in unclean or stagnant water. Bacteria, mold, etc., can all grow in stagnant water.

If your dog swims in this water, the bacteria will be caught in their fur, increasing the wet dog smell both when they get out and anytime after.

Also, try to keep your dog from rolling around a lot in the mud, which can also get in their fur and leave bacteria behind.

When your dog gets dirty, whether rolling in the mud or swimming in stagnant water, wash them as soon as possible. If you can clean your dog up as much as you can soon after, you can avoid letting more bacteria grow in your dog’s fur.

If you keep up all of the above habits for a long period of time, you will definitely cut down on the wet dog smell. Keeping your dog’s fur as clean as you can for as long as possible will prevent wet dog smell and reduce the intensity of the smell.

How Do Groomers Get Dogs to Smell So Good?

It is also important to take your dog to a professional dog groomer about once a month. As hard as you work to keep your dog clean, a professional will be able to do that much better than you can.

Professional dog groomers are specialized in certain techniques that are extra effective at keeping dogs clean and use high quality products and grooming tools that cannot be purchased by the regular consumer.

You’ll notice that your dog usually smells good after coming back from the groomer’s. This is the result of a few different things.

Again, groomers just tend to do a more thorough jobOpens in a new tab. at washing the dog than owners do. Professionals have a lot more practice washing many different types of dogs because they do it every day rather than every couple of weeks. They also learn techniques that make the washing more efficient and effective.

For example, groomers will trim your dog’s hair in a way that makes it dry faster. They know the right way to wash dogs, while dog owners often don’t.

Groomers also have access to higher quality and more effectiveOpens in a new tab. shampoos and conditioners. There are many products that aren’t available in pet stores but can be purchased by groomers. The products tend to be stronger and can remove more of the bacteria that causes the wet dog smell.

Instead of smelling like a wet dog, your pet will have a strong scent of whatever product the groomer used, which often has a strong and pleasant smell.

If you cannot bring your dog to the groomers that often due to cost or access, continue to do what you can at home, because every bit counts.

I hope you have found this information useful!

Have a great day,

Holly 🙂


Hi! My name is Holly. I am currently the fur mom to my beautiful three ragdoll cats, and I have owned multiple dogs over the years, including Siberian Huskies! To say the least I am experienced with all aspects of pet hair!

Recent Posts