A healthy dog should not have much of an odor at all. An offensive smell indicates a health problem. This may be from dental disease, a skin condition, allergies, blocked anal glands or simply a result of an inappropriate diet. Instead of frequent bathing and deodorant sprays to mask a doggie odor, find natural ways to make your dog smell better.
Determine the Cause
If your dog has an unpleasant smell, determine the cause. Unless it's something obvious like skunk spray (see Resources for home remedies) this means a trip to your veterinarian. Foul odor from the mouth can indicate dental or gum disease or digestive problems. (While very common, bad breath is never normal for a dog. A dog with a healthy mouth has sweet breath.) Dull fur, skin irritation or dryness and an overall doggie odor can be from bacterial skin infections, mange, skin parasites or blocked hair follicles. Anal glands are located at the ten and two o'clock positions on either side of the dog's anus. These naturally expel an odiferous substance when the dog defecates. If they become blocked, it can be hard to determine where the smell is originating from and it smells really awful. They need to be expressed and cleaned out. Poor diet can contribute to blocked anal glands. Food allergies and intolerances can lead to yeast overgrowth. Dogs with yeast build-up in the ear or on the skin often have dull, oily fur and waxy brown debris visible in the ear canal. There may also be a very yeasty smell in the dog's ears.
Whatever the cause, it needs to be treated appropriately. When the condition is under control, there are many things you can do naturally at home to keep your dog smelling sweet.
Grooming and Basic Care
Groom your dog regularly. This doesn't need to be extensive, but running a brush through her coat a few times a week keeps you aware of her overall condition. Dogs with long hair, especially around the head and face, can get a smelly build-up of old food caught in the hair. Consider trimming facial fur.
Keep her teeth and gums healthy with appropriate chew toys, especially if you feed dry pellet food. Brush her teeth and massage her gums with a doggie toothbrush or rough washcloth wrapped around your finger. This helps dislodge food particles and prevents build-up of tartar.
Bathe her infrequently (no more than once a month at most), using a very small amount of dog shampoo. Rinse well and finish with a rinse of white vinegar and water. Swimming in clean lake or river water naturally freshens and softens the coat, as well as being great exercise.
Feed a high quality, appropriate diet. If the doggie odor is due to yeast or possible food intolerances, consider switching to a raw or home-cooked diet, or grain-free kibble. Do your research carefully if considering a natural raw or cooked diet: it is easy to feed this way but it's also easy to do it wrong.
The best natural deodorizer is proper care and a healthy dog who needs no special odor control. For dried mud and dirt, simply brushing a dog both removes the dirt and distributes healthy skin oils through the coat. However, a little deodorizer once in a while won't hurt.
Sprinkle corn starch or baking powder on her coat. Rub it through with your fingers, then brush out well. A spray of white vinegar and water in equal parts helps dissipate a "wet dog" smell quickly. Your dog will stop smelling like a tossed salad once she's dry and the vinegar will not disrupt natural pH of the skin.
White vinegar and water can also be used as a safe, natural ear wash for drop-eared dogs who require regular ear cleanings. Double check with your vet before putting anything in your dog's ears.
Be extremely careful with essential oils. Many are toxic--even lethal--to dogs, especially small dogs. They may be safe when diluted appropriately. Avoid the use of any perfumed product intended for humans on dogs (or cats). They metabolize many chemicals--even natural chemicals-- differently than humans.