The Small-Space-Living Pet Lovers’ Guide to Dealing with Dog Stinkiness

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

No matter how much you love them—and, oh, how you love them—dogs get stinky. Between the dander, the slobber, the dear-god-what-did-they-eat and the I-can’t-believe-what-they-rolled-in, dogs have a unique way of filling your home with unwelcome odors. Those smells are bad enough when you have a few thousand square feet to spread out in, but when your home is on the small side, odors become especially odious.

It’s true that your home will always carry a whiff of pet ownership, but a little TLC for both your dog and your home will go a long way toward eliminating unsavory odors. They might not ever smell like a fragrant flower bouquet, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep you and your dog’s home smelling fresh and clean.

Raid Your Pantry

If you’ve been to a grocery store in the past year, chances are you have some of the simplest, most effective natural deodorizers sitting in your pantry. Baking soda and vinegar are two of the hardest-working, cheapest cleaners in your odor-fighting arsenal. Mixed with water, vinegar makes a great cleaning solution that pulls double duty as an odor-buster. Baking soda can be sprinkled on mattresses, carpets, curtains and other linens, then vacuumed off to remove odors.

Want to infuse your home with a more pleasant aroma? Raid your fridge and pantry for DIY stovetop potpourris.

Use Mother Nature

Nothing is more natural than throwing open your windows and letting a sweet breeze do its work. Stale air only seems to intensify bad smells, so take every opportunity to open your windows and get the air circulating.

To help during bad weather, you can get a pet-safe houseplant to help purify your air. Plants won’t eliminate pet odors, but they can help eliminate toxins from the cleaners you use on those odors.

Set up a Cleaning Schedule

Sticking to a regular cleaning schedule helps keep pet odors at bay. When setting up your schedule, make sure these tasks make the list:

  • Vacuum Floors: Sorry folks, but this is an every-other-day task if you’re serious about reducing odor.
  • Mop Floors: Provided you do it weekly, a simple 3:1 water/vinegar mix should do the trick.
  • Steam Clean Carpets: Carpets and pets don’t really mix, so if you can’t imagine getting rid of your carpet or your pet, it’s best to invest in professional steam-cleaning services and schedule a cleaning every 6 to 12 months. The pros know what cleaners will work best for your carpet and will ensure thorough cleaning and drying, with no residue or lingering odors.
  • Change Filters: Using a HEPA system helps eliminate odors and allergens. Just be sure to change or clean your filters every month to keep your system working at 100%.
  • Wash Linens: Wash dog bed covers and any towels used for grooming on a weekly basis. Instead of worrying about cleaning your furniture, use a throw blanket or towel for your pooch to perch on, then wash those with your weekly load.
  • Wash Toys: Once or twice a month, take the time to toss toys that are unsafe or unsalvageable and then wash the rest. You can microwave, hand-wash or machine-wash toys, depending on their material.

Get in a Grooming Routine

It’s not just your pet’s fur or skin creating that funky odor—ears and teeth are common smell culprits as well. Use the ASPCA’s guidelines and tips to establish a regular grooming routine that includes:

  • Brushing Fur: Do this daily for long, silky hair that tends to mat and weekly for most other types. Brushing helps shed fur, gets rid of dirt, and is a great way to mix bonding time with a flea and tick check.
  • Bathing: Do this at least monthly or quarterly for dogs that don’t see a lot of outdoor activity. Be sure to dry your pet thoroughly, unless you’re really into eau de wet dog.
  • Cleaning Ears: Check your dog’s ears monthly (unless your pet’s an avid swimmer). Cleaning with clean gauze—never Q-tips—should prevent foul odors or dirt build up. If you do find discharge or inflammation, don’t take care of it yourself. Call your vet.
  • Cleaning Teeth: Your dog’s breath will never be kissably fresh, but it shouldn’t have you recoiling from across the room. Regular cleanings two or three times a week help fight odor-causing bacteria.

Work With Your Vet

Regular check-ups will keep your dog as healthy as possible, cutting down on odors related to nutritional or health issues. Seek your vet’s advice on diet, exercise and grooming habits. And most importantly, talk to your vet if you notice a new or lingering bad odor. Most foul smells can be traced back to an unadvised roll in the neighbor’s trash, but some are symptoms of underlying health issues. When in doubt, bring it up at an appointment.