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Have you ever heard the saying, "there's nothing in the world friendlier than a wet dog"? While that may be true, the smell of a wet dog isn't so friendly to our noses. The actual quote is from American writer Ambrose Bierce, who said “the most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog.” That version may be more accurate, given the funk. But why do wet dogs smell? Find out here.
The short answer is that dogs smell when wet because they have a natural collection of microorganisms found on their body. When a dog is dry, these microorganisms are virtually unnoticeable. But when your dog gets wet, that alters the ecology of the skin and fur, causing changes with their microbiome.
The more complex answer is that this "microbiome" includes bacteria, fungus and yeast that produce waste in the form of chemical compounds. Water makes the microorganisms and their waste multiply, which produces that "wet dog" odor. It also loosens them from the skin and coat, accentuating the smell. To get scientific, the smell comes from moisture evaporation that carries those microorganisms and waste with it.
Some dogs smell worse than others when wet. Here are a handful of factors that may exacerbate that wet dog odor.
There's no real way to completely eliminate wet dog odor because you can't get rid of the microorganisms on your dog. And you wouldn't want to - while it may sound gross, these microbiomes are healthy and normal, even for us. Dogs have approximately 350 to 16,500 bacteria per square centimeter and humans have around 100 trillion microbes on and in the body.
That being said, there are ways to minimize the funk. In terms of grooming:
Things you can do to avoid wet dog odor when your pup is outside:
You can also use pet-friendly products (both over the counter and prescription) to reduce or mask the smell, such as:
What you can do around the house:
While it's not the most pleasant part of having a pup, wet dog smell is completely normal and natural. It's just one more thing that makes a dog, a dog.