Why Does My Dog Smell Bad After Swimming in a Lake?

Have you ever taken your beloved canine companion for a refreshing dip in a serene lake, only to be greeted by an unpleasant odor once you’re back on dry land? If so, you’re not alone. 

Many dog owners have experienced the mystery of their furry friend smelling less than delightful after a swim. In this article, we’ll dive into the reasons behind this phenomenon and provide practical solutions to keep your dog smelling fresh and clean after a lake adventure.

The Science Behind the Smell 

To understand why your dog might smell bad after swimming in a lake, it’s essential to grasp the science behind it. Contrary to what you might think, the smell doesn’t originate from the lake water itself. Instead, it’s often a result of a combination of factors:

Bacteria and Algae: Lakes are natural habitats for various bacteria and algae. When your dog swims in the lake, these microorganisms can attach to their fur and skin. As they decompose, they release odorous compounds, causing the unpleasant smell.

Decomposing Organic Matter: Lakes are home to a myriad of organic matter like leaves, fish, and other aquatic life. When your dog splashes around, they can inadvertently pick up decaying organic material, which contributes to the odor.

Moisture and Skin Issues: Extended exposure to water can lead to your dog’s skin becoming damp for an extended period. This can create an ideal environment for the growth of odor-causing bacteria, particularly in skin folds and ears.

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Breed and Coat Considerations

Not all dogs are equally affected by the “post-lake funk.” The breed and coat type of your dog play a significant role in how strongly they retain odors after swimming:

Double-Coated Breeds: Breeds like Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Huskies have dense double coats designed to keep them warm in cold water. However, these coats can trap water and debris, increasing the likelihood of a lingering smell.

Short-Haired Breeds: Short-haired breeds may not retain odors as easily as their long-haired counterparts. However, they can still develop that distinctive “wet dog” smell if not properly dried after swimming.

Allergies and Skin Conditions: Dogs with allergies or pre-existing skin conditions are more prone to developing skin issues and persistent odors after swimming.

Tips to Prevent and Mitigate the Smell

Now that we understand the reasons behind the unpleasant odor, let’s explore practical steps to prevent it and keep your furry friend smelling fresh:

Pre-Swim Preparations: Before heading to the lake, brush your dog’s coat thoroughly to remove loose fur and debris. This minimizes the chances of organic matter sticking to their fur.

Rinse and Dry: After swimming, rinse your dog with fresh water to remove lake water and any potential irritants. Towel-dry them thoroughly, paying attention to their ears and skin folds.

Shampoo and Conditioner: Use a dog-specific shampoo and conditioner to clean your dog’s coat. Ensure the products are gentle and won’t dry out their skin.

Ear Care: Clean your dog’s ears after swimming to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to infections and odor.

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Regular Grooming: Regular grooming appointments with a professional groomer can help maintain your dog’s coat and keep it odor-free.

Consider a Life Jacket: If your dog is a strong swimmer but has a propensity for odor retention, consider using a doggy life jacket. It can help reduce water exposure and keep them afloat without drenching their coat.


Swimming in a lake is a fantastic way for your dog to stay active and cool off during the warmer months. While the “lake smell” may be an inevitable part of the experience, understanding the causes and taking proactive steps can significantly reduce the lingering odor. 

Remember that each dog is unique, so you may need to experiment with different strategies to find what works best for your furry friend. With the right approach, you can ensure that every lake day ends with a happy, fresh-smelling pup ready for more adventures.