Smelly Golden Retrievers (What Stinks? Explained!)

Those soulful eyes. That long, beautiful golden coat. Golden Retrievers are a pleasure to look at–but they aren’t always a pleasure to smell. In fact, you may be wondering: Why does my Golden Retriever stink?

The top reasons for a smelly Golden Retriever are ear or skin infections. Ear infections, in particular, are very common in Golden Retrievers and cause a strong unpleasant odor. Other reasons for a stinky Golden Retriever include dental infections, kidney problems, oral cancer or even just rolling in something gross.

A dirty, smelly Golden Retriever lays in a mud puddle.

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Keep reading to learn more about the variety of things that can cause your Golden Retriever to smell bad, why grooming is so important for them, and how their diets and behaviors can contribute to smell–and what you can do to limit the problem.


Several canine health conditions can create bad smells. All dogs, not just Golden Retrievers, can develop these health problems. Goldens are more susceptible to ear and skin infections than some other breeds because of their skin folds and long double coats.

Ear, Skin and Bacterial Infections

The ears, area under the tail, and skin folds on a Golden Retriever are moist and prone to yeast and bacterial overgrowth. A Golden Retriever’s ears in particular tend to be a problem.

When the inside of the ear gets wet from swimming or bathing it can be very difficult to dry out due to a Golden’s hairy, floppy ears and deep ear canals. This moisture can quickly turn into a yeast infection.

Yeast infections give off a characteristic “cheese” or “beer” smell. A dog that is shaking its head a lot and has a foul smell around its ears likely has an ear infection.

If your dog is frequently scratching and has thickened skin or a thinning coat, a yeast skin fold infection is probably to blame. Because yeast problems tend to spread easily and Goldens are so prone to them, both ears and skin may be infected–see a vet if you suspect a yeast infection.

Bacteria, too, can cause nasty-smelling infections in Golden Retrievers. One such infection is pyoderma. The bacterial overgrowth that causes pyoderma can happen because a dog is frequently allowed to stay wet for long periods of time. Still, it can also have several other causes including: autoimmune issues, liver or thyroid disease, cancer, and allergies. It causes hair loss in the affected area, and because the itchy rash forms pustules, it can cause a musty odor.

If you believe your dog has a current infection, it’s time to make a vet appointment as your Golden most likely needs something stronger (i.e. antibiotics) than over the counter products to beat back the infection. After an infection is cured, however, prevention is the name of the game to keep the infection from reappearing.

Regular baths, brushing, and ear cleaning is important to keep infections like these from forming in the first place. A regular grooming schedule is necessary to keep the vet (and an expensive bill) away. The following items on can help form the basis of a good grooming routine:

You can also learn how to clean your Golden Retriever’s ears with vinegar and water from a veterinarian in this video:

How to clean your dogs ears

One last smelly skin condition to be on the lookout for is atopic dermatitis. This rash is often accompanied by the hair loss on the face and caused by allergies or flea bites. Be sure to consult with your vet about the right flea control for your dog.

Other types of infections can cause your dog to smell bad as well. An infection of the intestinal tract, for instance, can cause especially smelly flatulence. But a Golden that has a rank, fishy smell around its rear may also have infected anal sacs. A vet should see your dog if it develops either of these conditions.

Remember that your Golden Retriever’s bedding and toys can also become homes for the bacteria, yeast, and parasites that contribute to unpleasant odors. Keep them clean by washing in hot water and baking soda–avoid using scented laundry detergents or fabric softeners, though, which can cause allergic reactions and add to the problems.

Teeth and Gums

Like any dog, a Golden’s mouth can give off a rotten odor if the dog is suffering from tooth decay or gum infection. Dental problems may also cause extra drooling, causing areas of fur that contact the saliva to smell. 

Keeping a dog’s mouth clean is an important part of regular grooming. If you don’t already have dental care supplies for your dog, consider using these recommended items from on a regular basis:

Sometimes even dogs with healthy teeth and gums can have stinky breath. If your Golden has a healthy mouth but foul breath, you can sprinkle parsley or coconut oil on her food as a natural breath freshener. If you want a supplement made to fight doggy breath, you can try one of these (Amazon):

If you’re not sure how to brush your Golden’s teeth, have a look at this helpful video: 

Find out how to brush your Golden Retrievers teeth

Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure can cause a dog to have extremely bad breath, often smelling like urine. If an older Golden Retriever shows signs of kidney problems, like drinking or urinating more than usual, depression, eating less, vomiting, and diarrhea, you should contact your veterinarian asap!

Oral Cancer

If your dog’s mouth develops a rotten garbage smell, you should make a vet appointment. This smell is typical of oral cancer


Diet can cause smells in a variety of ways. Dry food is often mistakenly believed to clean the teeth, but the opposite is actually true. Because of the shape of dogs’ teeth, dry food can cause dental hygiene issues.

Food that is poor quality or that your individual dog is sensitive to can cause flatulence and a bad-smelling mouth. If you’ve recently changed your dog’s food and notice a worsening odor, the new food might be causing problems for your Golden. If you struggle to find high-quality food that your dog tolerates well, consult your vet.


Any dog will smell foul if it’s been rolling in something that smells bad–and most dogs enjoy a good roll in something gross. Try to limit this behavior by practicing recall training and carrying treats or a toy to distract your dog when you see something that could be smelly ahead.

Training your dog to come to you immediately when called, will prevent a lot of “My dog rolled in what!?” moments when you’re out and about on walks.

Not sure how to teach your Golden Retriever to come when called? Here’s a great training video: 

Teach your dog to come to you before she starts rolling in somthing gross.

Another common behavior that can cause a bad smell is playing in the water. Golden Retrievers love the water and we all know that wet dogs don’t smell good–and if the water they’re playing in contains certain kinds of algae, they can develop skin irritation or even become seriously ill. 

Not only do wet coats smell, but they can also provide a breeding ground for skin infections. Keep your Golden as dry as possible. After playing in the water, dry your Golden thoroughly and then bathe her as soon as you can. Try your best not to get water in her ear canal and dry her well when you’re done. 

More Golden Retriever Articles You’ll Love!


Golden Retrievers are loveable, beautiful dogs, but they are sometimes also pretty smelly. They are more likely than many other breeds to suffer from skin and ear infections, which can cause your best friend to stink. Other causes of unpleasant dog odors are certain infections of the intestines or anal sacs, dietary or dental problems, cancer, kidney disease, and allergies.

Many of these problems can be avoided with a good diet and good hygiene practices, but some are out of an owner’s control. If your Golden has an odor problem that you can’t find the source of or can’t resolve on your own, a visit to the vet is called for.


Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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