What is Hound Smell And Why Does it Happen?

What Is Hound Smell?

What Is Hound Smell?

What is hound smell? Why does it happen? How do you “fix it”?

If you’ve ever owned a hound then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you’ve never owned a hound then you may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about.

Those who are inexperienced with hound dogs often put that characteristic smell down to not bathing enough, bathing too much, a bad diet, allergies…anything and everything has been blamed.

But what IS it that causes that hound odor? That’s precisely what I want to talk about today!

What is Hound Smell?

Let me begin by saying that I’m not talking about that Frito’s / corn chips/popcorn feet smell that results from sweaty paw pads. I’m talking about hound dog smell. A strong odor of “dog” that is common to hound dog breeds.

So…what is “hound smell”?

Particular breeds are reported to be more odorous than others, these breeds are almost always hound dogs which is how the term “hound dog smell” or “hound dog stink” came to be.

The cause of this strong odor is down to a few different factors…

Oils on the Coat Can Cause Hound Smell

Basset Hound Coat

Hounds were developed to be working dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors, in the field, trekking through the woods, etc. The oils that coat the hound coat in abundance are there to create a protective layer that repels dirt and water. This helps to keep the dog healthy and warm when they are out on the hunt.

Unfortunately, these oils can also smell very musty to the human senses. The odor is obviously not offensive to dogs, but to our delicate sense of smell, it is an unusual and not altogether pleasant odor!

Skin Folds and Wrinkles Can Contribute to Odor


The skin folds and wrinkles of hound dogs can also contribute to a unique odor. These folds trap warmth and moisture as well as dirt and bacteria. As a result, dogs with skin folds and wrinkles can develop a musty, unpleasant odor.

The Not-So-Hound Smell

Dog Ears

There are other odors that are sometimes referred to as “hound smell” by dog owners but that are not actually exclusive to hound breeds. These odors are the result of other factors and include:

  • Ear infections – These are particularly common in dogs with large/long and pendulous ears which trap moisture and warmth promoting bacteria and yeast growth.
  • Skin infection – Dogs of all breeds can develop skin infections that have an unpleasant odor to them. These infections can be the result of a wide range of causes but often are due to allergies.
  • Poor diet – A poor diet can also result in an unpleasant odor. This can be due to malnutrition, excessive gas, allergies to foods, and a diet low in necessary fatty acids.
  • Anal glands – Dogs have two glands on either side of their rectum that excrete a very odorous and oily substance. This substance is a scent marker, if you will, to let other dogs know that your dog was “here”. Occasionally, these glands can become full or blocked. Normally the glands empty themselves when your dog defecates, however, some dogs have thick excretions that are harder to express naturally and some dogs simply have anal gland difficulties. These dogs must have their glands manually expressed. Failure to express the anal glands will result in a musty and fishy odor and left untreated for too long, the glands will become infected and abscessed and then they become REALLY bad. (I’ll tell you about Jet’s anal gland abscess some other day).

So What Can You Do About Hound and Not-So-Hound Smell?

The most frequently asked question about that hound smell is “how do I get rid of it?”

Well, let’s tackle the causes one by one.

Oils in the Coat

Nothing can be done about hound smell!

The oils on your dog’s coat are naturally produced and there really is little you can do about it. Hey, you either get used to it or you don’t.

Just don’t think that repetitive bathing will help, it can actually worsen the problem by drying the skin and forcing the oil glands to produce MORE oils to soothe dry skin.

There are plenty of “home remedies” and commercial products out there for “getting rid of hound smell” but the truth is that unless your pup has a medical condition leading to overactive oil glands, there is just nothing you can do. Think of it as your sweat glands – there’s nothing you can do to stop your sweat glands from producing sweat, it just is what it is. Sure, you can cover up that odor, but it’s still there, only now you’re exposing your dog to a variety of chemicals and substances that interfere with the natural balance of their skin.

Skin Folds and Wrinkles

Dusting Powder can help with moisture

Now odor that results from skin folds and wrinkles IS something you can do about.

Skin folds and wrinkles should be washed and dried regularly (think sponge bath, not full shower or bath) to eliminate any food particles, saliva, dirt, moisture, or bacteria that can lead to odor. Fragrance-free baby wipes are a great way to do this.

If you notice that your pup’s skin is getting exceptionally irritated in the areas of wrinkles and folds, consider a product like Wrinkle Paste to reduce irritation and utilize corn starch based baby powder without talc or aloe to dry folds after cleaning and drying.

Ear Infections

Gentian Violet Ear Cleaner

As a Lab lover, I know ear infections far more intimately than I wish I did. If your dog has pendulous or large folded or drop ears you can prevent ear infections with once weekly preventative cleaning (we use a natural cleaner from Carnivora, but white vinegar and warm water can work too) and thorough drying after any exposure to water or moisture.

If you suspect an ear infection has already taken root you will smell a strong musty odor in the ears. Your pup will scratch and itch and shake their ears. You will likely also see discharge in the ears which may be tinged with blood. When you notice these symptoms head to the vet ASAP to prevent the infection from doing any structural damage to the ear.

Skin Infection

Skin Scrapings are Needed for Skin Infections

Skin infections can happen for a range of reasons so it’s important to get to the vet and have a skin scraping done so that you can treat the cause of infection or irritation directly.

Poor Diet

Improved Diet Can Help

If diet is the cause of your pup’s odor, you can make a difference by switching your dog to a better quality diet.

Anal Glands

Anal Glands could be the culprit

The odor of anal glands is recognizable and once you have experienced it, you’ll be able to identify it again pretty easily. If anal gland issues are the cause of your dog’s odor you will likely see them scooting their bottom along the carpet, biting at their rear end, or leaving an odor where they sit.

Anal gland issues are easily remedied when caught soon enough so as soon as you notice that odor, get to the vet or a groomer with experience expressing anal glands. Here your dog’s glands will be emptied manually which will eliminate that odor and provide your pup a lot of relief.

If not tackled soon enough, anal glands can become impacted, infected, and abscess. This is one of the worst sights/smells you will ever see/smell as a dog parent as far as bodily issues go. If this does happen, you need to get to the vet immediately. Your vet will then drain the abscess, pack it with antibiotics, and give them a course of oral antibiotics.

Once your dog has experienced trouble with their anal glands, it’s important to monitor them and even take them for regular manual anal gland expression.

So There You Have it…

Hound smell itself – there is very little you can do about it. A dog is going to smell like a dog and if you find that smell unpleasant, then maybe you should consider a goldfish instead…

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