There's nothing quite like the smell of wet dog (or dog that has rolled in something unmentionable). But are some breeds smellier than others?

Q: I would like a springer or working cocker spaniel to train as a gundog, but my father is not keen. My grandparents had a show-strain cocker who was a lovely dog but she really smelled, no matter what my grandparents did to try to stop it. Should I get a Labrador instead? Do spaniels smell more than Labradors?

A: The simple answer is no. Working cocker spaniels do not smell any worse than any other dog. You can get smelly spaniels, smelly Labradors and smelly Jack Russells. (Particularly when they have been swimming or rolling in manure.) The question of why some dogs naturally smell more than others, however, is more complex.

Why dogs smell

  • Dogs do not sweat like people but they do perspire from their paws, and produce a scent from their hair follicles. These normal body odours can usually be kept to a minimum, but become unpleasant if they develop skin infections or scratch excessively, for example with an allergy or fleas. The smell becomes worse if the dog develops an oily skin.
  • Dogs have glands in their ears, which produce a light yeasty smell and, if infected, the smell from their ears can become particularly unpleasant. Some dogs, especially those with a lot of hair in their ears and those with long floppy ears, can be more susceptible.
  • Dogs also have anal glands, which produce a secretion with a strong musky odour. These glands normally empty each time the dog passes a firm stool. The scent is particular to each dog as a means they have of identifying each other and explains why dogs tend to sniff each other’s rear end. Dental problems often associated with excess tartar on the teeth, gum infection and decay are also a source of bad smells.
  • Finally, dogs produce intestinal gas as flatulence. Some is normal but if it smells unnatural or is happening all the time, you may want to talk to your vet about what your dog is eating.