Why Do Hounds Smell Bad?


Why do hounds smell bad? Let’s first clarify, it’s not like we are going around sniffing different types of dogs just to compare their smells, but the fact that many hound owners report that their dogs have a stronger odor than other dogs has raised our curiosity antennas.

Whether it’s referred to as “doggy odor” or the more downright, no-frills-attached, “hound stink,” hound organizations and rescues often alert potential adopters about the smell so that novice owners are given a head’s up before putting their groomer’s phone number on speed dial. What’s up with scent hounds smelling bad? There are various theories.

why hounds smell badA Matter of Oils

If we look at the coat of many hounds, we will find a common feature: an oily coat. The oil in the “wash-and-wear” coat of bloodhounds is meant to repel dirt and water, explains Terry Albert, dog trainer and author of the book; “Basset Hound: Your Happy Healthy Pet.”

While this feature may have been desirable in the past when bassets were working outdoors so the water would run off their coats when working in the field , this is what ultimately causes that musty doggy odor, which is more prominent in the basset hound compared to other breeds.

Blame the Skin Folds

Some scent hounds like the the bloodhound and basset hound have lots of skin folds. When these dogs drool, their saliva tends to get trapped in their wrinkles and dewlaps which can cause odors.

On top of that, their skin folds trap water, food and moisture which can predispose these dogs to skin conditions that can cause unpleasant odors. To prevent skin problems, keep your bloodhound’s skin around his collar dry and wipe his mouth and neck after drinking, suggests Dirt Road Bloodhounds.

Basset hounds are prone to skin conditions.
Basset hounds are prone to skin conditions.

A Skin Condition

While a light  smell is normal in hounds, a strong smell may at times signal an underlying skin condition.  The basset hound is a breed that is genetically predisposed to developing a skin condition known as malassezia dermatitis.

The reason for this breed being at higher risk compared to others is that fact that basset hounds have a higher number of Malassezia organisms on their skin, explains Paul Bloom, a board-certified veterinarian specializing in dermatology. Symptoms of this condition include scaling, a greasy exudate, presence of papules, itchiness and a musty odor.

Other Sources of Odor

While hounds are known for having a natural hound smell, there are also other causes of odor that may be due to health conditions. If you smell a fishy odor consider that it may come from the hound’s anal glands.

Other sources of odors in dogs are the ears which can be prone to yeast and bacterial infections, and the mouth, which can develop unpleasant odors in the case of dental disease, explains veterinarian Eric Barchas. When in doubt, always best to seek veterinary attention to rule out any medical problems.

basset hound smellTackling the Smell

Unless the hound rolled in something stinky or has an underlying medical condition, there’s not much a hound owner can do to completely remove the natural hound smell.

It’s something built-in that can’t be bathed out of existence, no matter how many baths you give, explain Kim Campbell Thornton and Michele Earle-Bridges in the book “Bloodhounds: Everything about Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Breeding, Behavior.”

The good news is that most hound owners eventually get “immune” to the aroma. Perhaps up until rainy season when you get a reminder about how much bassets smell. If you’re interested in a basset, you’ll have to “invest in plenty of fragrant oils and candles to keep your home smelling sweet” remarks Jon Buscall, a breeder of basset hounds and owner of Kennel Bjorkwood, based in Taby, Sweden.

beagle sin odorDid you know? According to Beagle Pro, the houndy smell in beagles is believed to stem from the fact that they work in packs and have a need for being aware of each member’s whereabouts throughout the fields.

There are therefore chances that throughout the many years of selective breeding,  this breed developed a stronger than average level of chemical emitters.