Why Does My Dog Stink After Going Outside? (Reasons)

Perhaps your dog smells fine when in the house all day, but after a few minutes outside, they come back smelling awful. You may be wracking your brain trying to figure out, “Why does my dog stink after going outside?”

Most of the time, outdoor smells on your dog aren’t serious. The stink typically comes from sweat or ambient odors that absorb into your pet’s fur. However, some scents may indicate something is wrong, like impacted anal glands.

why does my dog stink after going outside

Here are the most common reasons your dog stinks after going outside:

Environmental Reasons

Several environmental reasons cause your dog to have a foul odor after being outside. Typically, these odors aren’t anything to worry about.

Ambient Odor

You’ve probably heard of the wet dog smell. Your pup may have been running around in a creek or puddles. 

dog looks inside the house
The dog looks inside the house and through his old doggy door.

Consider where you live. Your dog’s fur may have held onto the nearby pollutants if you’re near large buildings or factories. On the other hand, if you’re near a water source, your pup may have gotten wet.

There’s also the smell of dirt to consider. Even if your dog doesn’t appear dirty, it’s possible they rolled around in the grass and got dirty.


If you live in a woodsy area, your dog may have gotten some bug smell on them. Stink bugs, for example, emit chemicals from their glands and into the air if they sense danger.

small dog enters doggie door
A small dog being trained to enter the doggie door!

When a dog spooks or steps on a stink bug, it may have gotten some of the nasty residues on its fur. Some people describe this smell as similar to cilantro or coriander but significantly worse. Others describe it as ammonia, sulfur, or rotten meat.


You’ve likely smelled the intense odor of a skunk. If your dog came face to face with a skunk or found a dead skunk, you’re sure to recognize the distinct smell.

freckled Pitbull
Freckled Pitbull smells bad and should take a bath after playing.

When threatened, skunks spray their opponent with foul-smelling secretion from their anal glands. Not only does it stink, but it may irritate your pup’s skin. Heavy exposure to skunk spray can destroy your dog’s red blood cells in rare but severe cases.

It’s crucial to act immediately to remove the skunk smell. Use the following recipe:

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoonful of liquid dish detergent

Scent Marking

Dogs use their natural scent to mark their territories by urinating or defecating. Your dog may also scratch the ground after doing their business to help spread the pheromones.

brown Dachshund digs hole
Brown Dachshund digs a hole in the ground.

If your dog sees a food source, for example, a dead animal, it may scratch or roll on it to get its scent all over it. Unfortunately, your dog will also get the smell of the animal on their bodies.

Bodily Functions

Like us, dogs have several natural bodily functions that may emit foul odors. Some of which will be more present after your dog’s been outside.


Although dogs don’t sweat the way humans do, they do perspire. Instead, dogs sweat through their paw pads or the merocrine glands.

Chihuahua looks worried
Chihuahua looks worried with his tongue out.

Dogs also have apocrine sweat glands throughout their bodies. When they sweat, they don’t cool down but release pheromones that help other animals identify them.

Dog sweat smells similar to human sweat, so if you smell that salty scent after your dog’s been outside, that’s likely what it is.

Impacted Anal Glands

Impacted anal glands can emit a foul odor whether or not your dog has been outsides. Like other scent glands, their anal glands serve as a method of marking their territory after defecating. Anal glands can also help your dog pass hard stools.

dog licking base of own tail
A small dog licks the base of his tail

Since your dog is likely doing their business outside, it may have activated the odor. If you notice your dog struggling with bowel movements or scooching on the ground, your dog may have an impacted anal gland.

If you notice either of the above, take your pup to the vet so they can help express the anal glands.

What To Do When Your Dog Stinks After Going Outside?

So, your pup comes inside and has an awful smell. What do you do next?

Know Which Smells Mean Danger

Pay attention to your dog’s activities when they are outside. You may notice your dog heading to a particular area where a dead animal’s body is located. In this case, dispose of it.

dog sniffing the grass
A dog sniffing the grass.

Not only is it gross and smelly, but the roadkill may have a transmittable illness or contain dangerous parasites, both of which can be highly harmful to your dog’s health.

If your pup smells sour, like a rotten egg, or vinegar, your dog may have gotten into some outdoor trash. Ensure the garbage is in a safe location where your dog can’t rummage through it.

Once you find the cause of the odor, you can eliminate it. If there isn’t an apparent cause, it’s likely something harmless like sweat or an environmental factor.

Controlling the Odor

You can eliminate most odors with a good old-fashioned bath. However, avoid bathing your pup daily as it can strip it of its healthy bacteria and oils.

English Bulldog on a bath tub
English Bulldog gets ready for a cooling bath!

The best way to control the odor is to prevent it in the first place. Observe your dog during walks to avoid rolling around on something nasty and keep the garbage out of reach.

Prevent the Stink

Once you identify and remove any potential causes, there are a few other things you’ll want to do to avoid the scent sticking around.

Maintain Cleanliness

Your dog requires routine grooming sessions, and you should clean all of your pup’s items. Wash their toys, bedding, cloth leashes, and collars regularly.

different dog toys on the grass
Dog toys should be cleaned and sanitized.

Each dog needs a specific grooming routine, so talk with your veterinarian to determine how often your pup should get a good bath. Brushing your dog and keeping up with trims (when necessary) can help reduce the amount of odor-absorbing fur from holding onto smells.

Keep Your Pup Dry

Keep your dog dry. Wet dogs may get their scent all over your furniture or pet beds and then continue to stir it up with every use.

Siberian Husky with towel
Siberian Husky wrapped in a white towel while sitting on a couch.

Don’t let your dog run through creeks, puddles, or streams of water. If your dog does get wet due to a water source or heavy rainfall, ensure that you sufficiently dry them afterward.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most frequently asked questions others have about their dogs’ odors after they’ve spent time outside.

Why does my dog smell so bad all of a sudden?

There are several reasons your dog may suddenly start to stink. One issue may be an ear infection, one of the most common medical conditions resulting in a foul odor. If you notice any unusual and persistent smells, consult your veterinarian.

checking dogs ear
A vet checking a dog’s ear.

How do you fix a stinky dog?

Regular grooming is critical to keep your dog from stinking. Regular baths, daily brushing, and keeping your dog’s items clean should keep any unwanted smells at bay.

bathing a Great Dane
A dog groomer baths a Great Dane.

How do you get rid of the dog smell without a bath?

Aside from grooming and keeping things clean, there are a few ways to remove the stink. You can purchase pet wipes to gently remove any odors in the fur without disturbing the natural oils. There are also several deodorizing sprays and dry shampoos on the market for pets.

dog wipes gray background
A dog wipe is a useful tool to thoroughly clean you pet’s coat.

So, Why Does My Dog Stink After Going Outside?

There you have it! If your dog smells different after spending time outdoors, it could come down to a few things. First, consider environmental factors, then their bodily functions, such as sweat or impacted anal glands. 

Always keep your dog’s toys, bedding, and collars clean, and groom and bathe your dog regularly. If your pup enjoys playing in the water, have a towel handy to dry them before they head indoors.