Do Golden Retrievers Really Smell Bad?

Written by Teresa Eckert

All dogs smell, right?  As pet owners, we know that it does not matter what size, breed or gender a dog is, they all smell a little. It’s normal.  Nothing that a routine bath schedule will not cure. Oh, but you just got a golden pup and you have heard all sorts of stories, and they are not necessarily pleasant stories!

Well, it is true that Golden Retrievers do smell for the most part with a large part due to their most attractive feature – their beautiful, long-flowing coat.  If you have a very active golden or one that loves the water, special care needs to be given to their coat. Let’s see if we can look at the who, what, where, why and how your golden smells. 


Retrievers, especially G=golden retrievers are patient, intelligent, and eager to learn.  They are known for their positive personality, trustworthiness, and gentle temperament, which helps them bond perfectly with families that have children.

These majestic breeds are beautiful to look at, with their strong, smooth, powerful gait and gorgeous swaying coat.  As stated above, one of their positive qualities is their dense, water-resistant fur, which can vary in color from golden to a deep brown depending on the breed.  

What Causes The Smell?

There could be several reasons why your golden may smell worse than normal.  The first, may involve that beautiful dense coat that we just discussed above.  

Here are a few things that may contribute to that nasty smell:

  • Anal glands – If these have a fishy smell and become engorged or infected, you may need to express the fluids.  This is a very messy procedure that can be done by you, a groomer or vet.
  • Bacterial infection – The result of microbes on the skin that multiplies resulting in possible hair loss, pus filled swellings and lesions.
  • Bad diet – Your dog may be allergic to its food which could cause it to produce more oils hence causing multiple reactions.  Another symptom could be gassiness due to the formulation of the food.
  • Cleanliness – Your dog’s bedding may be the source of bad odors; these should be cleaned as well as all your dogs favorite areas.
  • Grooming – If you do not follow a consistent bathing routine, or if you do not adjust the number of baths due to how active your golden is and if water was involved, this may contribute to the smell.
  • Yeast Infection – Bacterial infections can cause yeast infections.  The skin produces excessive oil due to the overgrowth of yeast. Dogs scratching causing more sores and the bad odor.

Where Are The Affected Areas?

We know what causes the smell, but where are the affected areas?  Are the same areas affected by multiple causes? We know that a golden retriever’s coat plays a big role in possible causes, let’s look at this first.

If you have a routine bathing and grooming schedule for your golden, its coat is probably healthy, beautiful, and mat-free. There is probably no cause for concern.  But for those of you who do not consistently bathe or groom your golden, you are opening up the possibility of bad, smelly days ahead!

  • Armpit area – if there is a yeast infection
  • Coat or fur – especially if it was wet and not dried completely
  • Ears – if there is an ear infection or ear mites are present. Learn how to care for your dog's ears.
  • Groin area – if there is a yeast infection (peri-vulvar skin infection for females)
  • Mouth/teeth – if there is gum disease, an infection or sores
  • Rear/bottom or tail area – if there is an infection in the anal glands and/or gassy due to its diet
  • Skin – especially if it has been scratched and sores have developed. 

We know what causes the bad smell and where the affected areas normally are but why do these areas smell so bad?

Why Do These Areas Smell So Bad?

When we think about it, dogs and humans have a lot of similarities, especially in regards to health.  Humans are known to have healthy amounts of yeast and bacteria all over their bodies. An imbalance happens when these amounts, known as microbes, start to multiple due to uncleanliness.

The same can be true about our canine friends.  Golden retriever's long, thick coats are known to trap dirt and other particles.  If your golden does not bathe regularly, the microbes multiply and a vicious cycle begins.  Itching, scratching, increase blood flow, more heat which eventually leads to bad odor. 

Moist skin areas, such as the ears, mouth, skin folds and tail, are known to be the perfect place for bacteria and/or yeast to grow and multiply. These areas would have the strongest odors if not tended to.  

Goldens are also known to have skin conditions, one of those being hot spots, which is a form of canine pyoderma.   It is an infected area of the skin that is red, moist, itchy and painful. Pus is present either from a bacterial infection or inflammation which can cause an odor.  

There are several factors that could contribute to your golden getting hot spots

  • Matted and moist coat 
  • Allergies that are from the environment, fleas, or foods
  • Stress and/or boredom

Golden Retrievers are prone to ear infections which could be from yeast, bacteria or a combination of both.  Either way, the ears will smell bad. Yeast buildup in your dog’s ears looks brownish with a cottage cheese consistency.  If your dog has chronic ear infections, the causes may be from allergies or hypothyroidism. Ear mites are another stinky problem and look like clumps of black sticky pepper.

Yeast infections are commonly found on your golden’s armpits and groin area.  The skin is darker in color, thicker than normal, greasy and very itchy. Some female golden's vulvas have large skin folds which often grow bacteria.  Those that have a peri-vulvar skin infection will lick the genital area causing a brown stain around the vulva.

All infections emit a bad odor.

Your dog’s tail area and anal glands can also get infected, whether yeast or bacteria, it will emit fishy odors and needs to be treated.

How Do You Treat These Affected Areas?

Again, if you follow a routine bathing and grooming schedule with your golden, you should be able to avoid most types of infections.  Bathing your golden will help control excessive growth of bacteria and yeast which grows normally on your dog’s skin.  

However, over bathing can have the opposite effect, this will cause dryness in your dog’s skin.  Your dog’s skin will try to protect itself by producing more oil which can then become the breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.

Consistent grooming, making sure that your dog’s coat is completely dry, controlling mats, monitoring for hot spots, checking ears, mouth and teeth are preventative steps.  

But when an infection is present, your dog needs to see a vet who will be able to correctly diagnose the problem and prescribe the right medication and/or treatment.

  • For anal gland infection – may need to express engorged or infected glands (usually by a vet)
  • For bacterial infection – may need to be treated with antibacterial medication or antibiotics
  • For ear infection – need to be treated with topical medication; ear mite solution
  • For Hot Spots – may need to be treated with oral antibiotics and/or topical medications
  • For skin conditions due to food allergies – may need to put your dog on a different dog food to help with immune system problems, skin irritation and ear infections
  • Yeast Infection – may need to be treated with antifungal prescriptions, either oral or topical

It is important when administering any medication that you follow the instructions carefully in regards to the prescribed dosage and the completion of the prescription.  This will help prevent the infection from recurring and any future resistance to medications.

About the author

Teresa Eckert

Teresa is a co-founder of Golden Retriever Love and is the fur-mom to Annie the Golden Retriever and Remi the Chocolate Lab. Teresa enjoys spoiling her pups and occasionally writing some great content for us on this blog!