Do Labradors Smell?

Do Labradors smell, wet chocolate lab

Labrador Retrievers are beautiful, sweet, and friendly dogs. They get along well with adults, kids, and other pets, including cats. But do Labradors smell? We answer that question, and give you ways to keep your Labrador smelling clean and fresh.

Do Labrador Retrievers Smell

A clean, dry, and healthy Labrador should not smell bad. However, just like any other dog breed, Labrador Retrievers can develop a bad odor. There are many different causes that could lead to a bad smelling dog. The causes of the smell may include:

  • Natural metabolic secretions
  • Poor diet
  • Yeast or bacterial infections
  • Rolling in smelly substances
  • Normal wet dog smell

It is essential to determine the cause of the smell before looking for a solution. Once you have determined the cause, you can use various techniques to prevent and eliminate the odor.

Why Labradors Smell (sometimes)

Why Labradors smell sometimes, yellow lab

Metabolic reactions, including skin oils, can cause Labrador Retrievers to smell. Moist areas have the most concentration of bacteria and usually produce the most odor.

The moist areas include the:

  • Mouth
  • Nose
  • Under the tail
  • Ears
  • Skin folds

Apart from metabolic secretions, there are many other causes of bad odor in Labrador Retrievers.

Health Problems

Several health problems may cause Labrador Retrievers to smell. Some may have bad breath caused by diabetes or kidney failure.

Although normal dog breath is a bit smelly, excessively smelly dog breath may be a sign of poor health. Teeth and gum diseases may also cause bad breath in Labrador Retrievers.

Gum and teeth diseases may also cause increased drooling. Some of the saliva in a drooling dog may get to its fur, which may cause it to smell even more.

The bad odor may also be caused by bacterial infections in the ears, which may cause the dog to shake its head excessively.  Watch for this in your Labrador and make sure you keep their ears dry and clean.

Flatulence can also cause bad smell in dogs. Persistent flatulence may be caused by a poor diet, infection of the intestines or other areas of the gut, or consistently eating non-dog food items.

An infection of the anal sacs may also cause bad odor in Labrador Retrievers. The anal sacs are marking glands located in the anal area. Dogs squeeze the anal sacs during pooping, which causes the sacs to release a smelly secretion.

Labrador Retrievers can also secrete the smelly secretion onto their fur when scared or excited, which may cause them to smell.

Cheese-like Smell

These infections tend to occur in moist areas of the dog’s body. Bacterial and yeast infections may cause itching, which prompts the dog to scratch the itchy part.

Scratching may cause inflammation, which may worsen the infection. Treating the infection may eliminate bad odors.

If you notice your Labrador having a cheese-like smell, consider checking its ears. Labrador Retrievers are susceptible to ear infections due to the overgrowth of yeast.

Signs of yeast infection in the ears include:

  • Moldy odor from the ears
  • Red, itchy ears
  • Debris on the ear lobes

Ear infections may also be a sign of hypothyroidism, a more serious health complication.

Skin Infections (Pyoderma)

Labrador Retrievers are vulnerable to pyoderma, a form of skin infection. This condition is more common in dogs with double coats.

Common causes of pyoderma include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Allergies
  • Cancer
  • Thyroid diseases
  • Liver diseases

Signs of pyoderma include:

  • Hair loss
  • Scales
  • Itchiness
  • Pustules
  • Foul smell

Canine Atopic Dermatitis (Allergies)

This is one of the most common health complications among Labrador Retrievers.

Symptoms of canine atopic dermatitis include:

  • Red, dry, or oily skin
  • Hair loss around the muzzles and eyes
  • Mild to severe itching
  • Chewing at the paws
  • Skin lesions
  • Repeated ear infections

Causes of canine atopic dermatitis include:

  • Flea bites
  • Contact with allergens
  • Intolerance to some foods

See our full article on Allergies in Labradors.

Rolling on Smelly Substances or Water

Your dog may become smelly if it rolls on smelly substances. Consider taking steps to ensure your dog does not roll on smelly objects, including grass and dirt.

Dogs that have been in water also smell bad. If your Labrador has been playing in rain or pool water, its fur may produce a distinct, unpleasant “wet dog” smell.

If your dog has been playing on dirty water, consider rinsing it before the dirty water sticks to its coat.


Common infections that may cause your Labrador to smell include yeast and skin infections. Yeast is one of the most common health complications in Labrador Retrievers.

A bad smell usually accompanies yeast infection. Common signs of yeast infection include smelly paws and ears.

Labrador Retrievers with yeast infection usually scratch their ears and paws regularly. Take your dog to the vet if you suspect a yeast infection.

Skin infections can also cause your dog to smell. Signs of skin infection include regularly scratching, thinning of hair, and flaking of skin.

If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, check out our article on Labrador Retriever Ear Infections for more information.

Bad Diet

A poor diet may also cause your dog to smell. Bad diet may cause flatulence and bad breath, both of which can cause your Labrador to smell.

If your dog starts smelling bad after a diet change, the diet could be the likely cause of the bad smell. Consult your vet for your dog’s diet recommendations.

How to Improve the Smell of Your Labrador Retriever

Various factors cause Labrador Retrievers to smell. Fortunately, you can use some tips to improve the smell of your dog. Below we list some of the most common ways you can get them back to smelling clean and fresh.

Tips to Ensure Your Labrador Doesn’t Smell

Keep Your Dog Dry

When your Labrador gets wet, it can become smelly. Wet dog coats may also cause infections. Be sure to dry your dog’s ears and skin when they get wet. In addition, check your dog’s ears regularly for signs of infections.

Diet and Hygiene

Consult a vet to determine the best diet for your Labrador Retriever. A bad diet can cause your dog to smell.

Wash and groom your dog regularly. Cleaning your Labrador gives your dog’s coat a fresh smell. Be sure to check out our articles on how to give your labrador a bath and the best shampoos for labradors.

Regular cleaning of your dog also removes loose fur on its coat, which may increase bad odor. Remember, Labrador Retrievers may be a bit smelly after cleaning, but the smell should go away once the coat dries.

Keep smelly objects and substances away from your dog’s play area. This will prevent your dog from playing or rolling on the smelly objects.

Be sure to clean all your dog’s beddings regularly. Your dog’s beddings may harbor fleas, bacteria, and parasites.

Wash your dog’s bedding with hot water and vinegar or baking soda to eliminate odors. However, avoid using a fabric softener when doing your dog’s laundry to prevent allergic reactions.

Regular Grooming

Take some time to groom your dog regularly through bathing, drying, and brushing. Regular grooming prevents infection-causing bacteria from accumulating on the coat of your dog.

Brushing loose hair helps to stimulate the skin to secrete oils, which prevents bacterial infection and yeast growth. Be sure to check out our article for The Best Dog Brushes for Labrador Retrievers.

An essential part of grooming is dental care. Consider cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly. Buy a dog toothbrush and use it to brush your dog’s teeth at regularly. Read our article about Labrador Retriever Teeth Care for more information.

Ask your vet for a dental check up and cleaning to insure that your dog’s mouth remains healthy. Your vet should also help you treat gum and teeth infections, if any are found.

Talk to a Vet

Consult a vet if you cannot determine the exact cause of the bad smell. This is a great option, especially if your dog has had the smell for a long time.

Visit a vet if you suspect a medical cause of the bad smell. The vet should provide you with expert advice tailored to your Labrador Retriever.

Your vet might ask you a few questions to help with the diagnosis, including:

  • When did the bad smell start?
  • When does the dog tend to smell bad?

Just remember to bring as much information as you can to the appointment. It helps to get an accurate diagnosis.


So, do Labradors smell? Like any creature, Labrador Retrievers can smell bad. Fortunately most do not and for those that do, the smell can be greatly improved if you can determine the causes. Using our tips above help to keeping your dog clean and smelling great!

Labrador Retrievers are beautiful dogs, and they can smell wonderful as well. It just takes a little time, effort, and love!

A great shampoo with very helpful with smell. Check out our picks for the Best Shampoo for Labrador Retrievers to see what we use for our dogs.

Dr. Anne Traas

Anne Traas, DVM, MS, DACT is a veterinarian and the President of Labrador Retriever Society. She is a specialist in canine reproduction. In her day job, she is a leader in a small biotech where she and a team of vets and scientists are working to develop new medications for pets.

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