Why Does My Dog Smell After Going Outside? (9 Common Reasons)

Categorized as Why Does My Dog
dog smells after going outside

I always wondered why my dog smelled so bad after he went for a walk. He would come back, trot up to me with his tail wagging, and then I’d smell it, the odor of death on him. It was really unpleasant.

I thought maybe he had rolled in something dead or rotting along the way but that didn’t seem like something he would do. Maybe he had been playing with other dogs and getting himself dirty. But then I realized that even when he was clean, he still smelled bad.

I did some research and found out that there are a few reasons why my dog might smell after going outside. Here are 9 common reasons:

1. They’re Rolling in Something Stinky

Dogs will be dogs, and that means rolling around in all sorts of things they shouldn’t. Whether it’s rotting meat, feces, or just something that’s been sitting in the sun for too long, dogs have a knack for finding the stinkiest things and rolling in them.

2. They’re Playing With Other Dogs and Has Gotten Dirty

Dogs love to play with each other, and it’s a great way for them to get some exercise. However, it can also lead to them getting dirty. If your dog has been playing with other dogs, it’s likely that they’ve picked up some dirt and mud. This can cause their fur to smell bad.

3. They’ve Been Digging in the Dirt

Dogs have a natural instinct to dig, whether it’s in your flower bed or the backyard. You may not be able to prevent them from digging altogether, but you can try to redirect their digging behavior by giving them their own special spot to dig.

If your dog has been digging in the dirt, it’s likely that they’ve picked up some interesting smells that they want to share with you. When you come in from outside, take a good sniff of your dog and see if you can identify what they’ve been up to.

4. They’re Rolled in Something Dead or Rotting

When your dog comes inside after a long day of playing in the yard, it’s natural for them to be a little stinky. But if they’re rolled in something dead or rotting, that’s a whole other level of stench.

If you notice your dog smells particularly rank after spending time outside, it’s possible they’ve rolled in something foul. While it may be gross, it’s actually not uncommon for dogs to do this. They may be attracted to the smell of rotting flesh or simply enjoy the sensation of rolling around in something smelly.

5. They’ve Been in the Garbage

Dogs will be dogs, and that means they will always find a way to get themselves into trouble. My dog is no exception. He loves to rummage through the garbage, looking for anything and everything that he can get his paws on.

The problem is that this often leaves him smelling like, well, garbage. No matter how many baths I give him, the stink always lingers.

6. They’ve Been Marked or Skunked by Another Animal

If your dog has been marked or sprayed by another animal, it’s likely that they’ll come home smelling like that animal. This is especially true if they’ve been sprayed by a skunk.

Skunks are known for their distinct and potent odor, and it can be very difficult to remove the smell from your dog.

7. They May Have Become Wet

Dogs can smell bad for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common is that they’ve become wet. When your dog gets wet, their fur can absorb the water and become matted. This can lead to a musty smell that is difficult to remove.

8. Because of an Infection or Skin Condition

If your dog is smelling bad, it may be because of an infection or skin condition. This is especially true if there are other symptoms such as excessive scratching or licking.

If you suspect your dog has an infection or skin condition, it’s important to take them to the vet for an evaluation.

9. Because of Anal Gland Problems

Another common reason for a bad smell is anal gland problems. Dogs have two small glands located near their anus that secrete a foul-smelling fluid. If these glands become full or infected, they can cause your dog to smell bad.

Anal gland problems are fairly common in dogs, and they can be quite uncomfortable.

When Should You Be Concerned?

If you’ve noticed that your dog smells bad, it’s important to figure out the cause. In most cases, the problem can be resolved with a little investigation and some bath time.

However, there are some cases where the bad smell could be a sign of a more serious problem. If your dog is also scratching excessively, licking their fur, or seems to be in pain, it’s important to take them to the vet for an evaluation.

What To Do About Dogs Who Smell Bad After Going Outside

If you’ve determined that your dog’s bad smell is due to one of the reasons we’ve listed above, there are some things you can do to help.

1. Give Them a Good Bath

If your dog is smelling bad, one of the best things you can do is give them a good bath. This will help to remove any dirt, debris, or foreign substances that may be causing the odor.

Be sure to use a dog-specific shampoo and avoid using human shampoo, as this can be irritating to your dog’s skin.

2. Watch Where They Go

If your dog is prone to rolling in things they shouldn’t, it’s important to keep a close eye on them when they’re outside.

Whenever possible, try to walk them in areas where there is little chance of them coming into contact with anything smelly.

3. Train Them to Stay Away from Stinky Things

If your dog is prone to rolling in dead things or getting into the garbage, you may need to train them to stay away from these stinky things.

You can use commands such as “leave it” or “away” whenever they start to approach something that you don’t want them to get into such as the garbage can.

With some patience and consistency, you should be able to train them to stay away from these things. If they follow your commands, be sure to praise them and give them a treat so they know they’re doing what you want.

4. Take Them to the Vet

If you suspect your dog’s bad smell is due to an infection or skin condition, it’s important to take them to the vet for an evaluation.

Your vet will be able to determine if there is an underlying medical problem and provide you with treatment options.

If your dog has anal gland problems, your vet may recommend that you have their glands expressed on a regular basis.

This is a simple procedure that can be done at the vet’s office and involves squeezing the glands to release the fluid.

Anal gland expression should only be done by a professional and should not be attempted at home.

5. Use Vinegar Solution

If your dog’s smell is due to skunk you can use a vinegar solution to help remove the odor.

To make the solution, mix two parts of water with one part of vinegar. Then, soak your dog with the solution and let it sit for five minutes before rinsing it off.

You may need to repeat this process a few times to completely remove the skunk smell.

6. Dry Their Fur Right Away

After your dog goes for a swim or gets caught in the rain, be sure to towel them right away to help remove the moisture from their fur.

Leaving their fur wet for too long can lead to skin problems and a bad smell.


If your dog is smelling bad, it could be due to a number of different reasons. The most common reason is that they have rolled in something smelly or gotten into the garbage. Other reasons can include an infection, skin condition, anal gland problems, or being wet for too long.

There are a few things you can do to help reduce your dog’s bad smell including giving them a good bath, training them to stay away from stinky things, and using a vinegar solution to remove skunk odor.

By taking these steps, you can help keep your dog smelling fresh and clean.

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By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.