Why Does My Golden Retriever Smell So Bad?

Quick Answer

Golden retrievers often smells bad because of moisture and particles trapped in their coat, because of excess oil and bacteria growing on or in their fur, or because of something smelly they rolled around in while you weren’t looking.

wet, dirty, happy golden retriever
A wet, smelly, but happy golden girl

We all love our furry friends, but sometimes they have an unpleasant odor. If you own a golden retriever, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

But why do golden retrievers often smell bad? There are a number of reason why your furry friend may be giving off an unpleasant scent:

1. Golden retrievers are animals, and animals smell

Do you think you’d smell great if you didn’t shower and brush your teeth every day? Well, neither do goldens that aren’t properly groomed and cared for. You shouldn’t bathe your pup that often – it strips away the natural oils that keep their coat looking and feeling great, and it can cause issues like dry skin and dandruff when done excessively.

But, the occasional bath is absolutely necessary for your golden. Luna gets a bath just about every month, and that seems to be the sweet spot for her.

Outside of these baths, your golden is running around, sweating, rolling in the dirt, and generally doing things that will dirty him up over time. This is simply your golden living his best life and there’s not much you can (or should) do about it. But if you find your pal smelling especially ripe, a bath using a high quality golden retriever shampoo and conditioner should be your first line of defense.

2. Thick coats, oil, and bacteria

Golden retrievers are known for their thick coats and beautiful fur, but unfortunately this can lead to an unpleasant odor. The combination of dirt and oil that gets trapped in their fur is a common cause of smelly dogs. This can be due to playing outside, rolling in mud or other substances, or just from natural oils produced by the skin if not groomed properly.

Additionally, bacteria can build up in their fur if it is not cleaned regularly, leading to a musty smell.

3. Health and dietary issues

Health and dietary issues in golden retrievers can sometimes cause a smelly dog. These can range from allergies to ear infections to yeast infections to anal grand expressing issues, and are typically localized and result in a particularly offensive or abnormal smell around that part of the body.

If you suspect a health issue beyond being dirty, take your pup to the vet to get him checked out. Ear infections are characterized by a noticeable “earwax” smell around your golden’s head, and can be confirmed by the presence of waxy buildup or dirt-looking particles visible in the shallow parts of their ear. Your golden’s ears can smell bad simply because they’re overdue for a cleaning, or because of an outright ear infection.

Yeast infections will often result in your golden’s armpits or groin area, and you might also notice the skin in these areas appearing darker, more oily, and “thicker” looking.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “why does my golden retriever smell like fish?“, anal gland expression issues are likely the cause. These anal sacs expel liquid that’s often extremely noticeable due to a fishy odor lingering around your golden retriever, and you may see your dog “scooting” along the ground to try and relieve the issue.

Last but not least, dietary issues can also cause a smelly dog. This one is typically less of a body odor and will often present as bad breath, particularly smelly poops, passing gas, and so on. These symptoms can indicate a food allergy, and you can take your dog to a canine dermatologist to get an allergen panel done if you suspect an allergy problem.

Keep your golden smelling good!

At the end of the day, most owners can keep their pups smelling fresh with a regular and thorough grooming routine. A bath every month or two will do wonders to stave off the famous golden retriever stink.

If you’ve fixed up your grooming routine and still notice your dog smelling abnormally bad, it’s probably worth a trip to the vet to get everything checked out by a professional. Ours was struggling with a persistent breath/stool smelling issue for a while, and after we got her looked at professionally it turned out she had a chicken allergy! Changing her food to a sensitive stomach, salmon-based formula took care of the issue in no time at all.


Is it normal for golden retrievers to smell bad?

Goldens always have a “dog smell” to them that many people like. That being said, it’s not normal for your golden to smell acutely bad. If the bad smell persists longer than a day or two, it’s worth digging deeper to find out the root cause of the smell or taking your pup to a professional to get checked out.

How do I get rid of my golden retriever’s body odor?

The easiest answer to this question is to begin bathing your golden retriever regularly (once every 6-8 weeks is a typical timeframe). If you notice your dog continuing to smell bad after a bath, you may want to take him to a vet to get checked out for any health or diet issues.

Related Reading

roger stanley site owner and primary author
Meet The Author Roger Stanley

Co-owner of goldenretrievergoods.com. 15 years of experience living life with Golden Retrievers and 15 years of experience spending way too much money on them – I believe life’s not worth living without a Golden involved!

We want to remind our readers that the articles or content found on goldenretrievergoods.com do not constitute nor replace professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided on our website is purely educational and informational, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed veterinarian.