Why Do Wet Dogs Smell?

We all love our dogs – we take the good with the bad – but let’s face it, wet dogs smell!

Why do wet dogs smell? In this video by the American Chemical Society, you can learn all about the science behind the wet dog smell!

Why Do Wet Dogs Smell

Dog smell comes from yeast and bacteria that live in your dog’s fur. Nick Stockton at WIRED explains that while bathing your pooch might make him or her cleaner, it also releases the odor of whatever is living on the body.


So what’s water got to do with it? When dry, these microscopic pieces of dung don’t emit a scent. H20 breaks down the chemical bonds that hold the micro-excreta together, releasing a fog of musty molecules into the air. As water evaporates it also raises the relative humidity in the air surrounding your dog. Humid air can hold more molecules (warm air does this too, and together heat and humidity can have a compounding effect on smell), and the higher concentration of molecules in the air means more can make their way into your nasal cavity to assault your olfactory receptor neurons.

So the next time you give your dog a bath, just imagine all the itty bitty bits of bacteria and fungi shooting into your nose.

The American Chemical Society also points out that wet hair isn’t the only stinky dog-related smell. Dog food is another thing.

Dogs love the smell of molecules, such as putrescine and cadaverine — so named for their distinct dead body smell. Your pooch would like his kibble to smell like a rotting corpse while you’d like it to smell like steak so dog food chemists have to come up with something that makes both you and your dog happy.

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