4 Reasons your Cocker Spaniel Smells Bad – and How to Fix it

why does my cocker spaniel smell bad

Cocker Spaniels are one of the top 30 most popular dog breeds in America as of June 2021. Described as gentle, smart, and happy by the American Kennel Club (AKC), it’s no surprise these well-mannered and gorgeous canines are a desirable breed!

However, as many Cocker Spaniel owners will tell you, these pups also have a propensity to smell. In this article, we’ll break down why this beloved breed has gained a reputation for being extra stinky and how you can help manage their odor.

While every dog is certain to have some level of smell, a fact most pet owners come to accept, Cocker Spaniels have gained some notoriety for being a particularly odorous breed.

While multiple factors can be at play here, it’s important to note Cocker Spaniels exhibit a heavy secretion of the sebaceous gland (more on that later) which can cause that distinctive “dog odor.” Other common odor-causing areas are the mouth, bottom, and ears of a Cocker Spaniel.

Below we will discuss what causes these areas to smell and tips you can try to alleviate the smell – in many cases, preventing it all together!

Don’t resign yourself to a foul-smelling pup! All it takes is a bit of knowledge on what’s causing the issue and creating a proper, breed-specific preventive care routine.

4 Reasons your Cocker Spaniel Stinks

Your Cocker Spaniels Skin

As mentioned above, Cocker Spaniels are heavy sebaceous gland secretors but what exactly is the sebaceous gland and how does it cause odor?

Sebaceous glands are found on mammals’ skin and secret a substance known as sebum into animals’ hair follicles.

In canines there are many functions of the sebaceous gland, such as forming a barrier to protect the skin beneath the fur, keeping the skin moisturized, giving canine coats a healthy shine, and waterproofing both skin and fur.

When the sebaceous gland is overactive, a common occurrence in Cocker Spaniels, a condition known as seborrhea occurs which is the overproduction of sebum. This can lead to either dry or oily skin accompanied by a recognizable dog odor scent.

Other causes of skin odor can be environmental or food allergies and infections caused by bacteria and yeast. These conditions will likely cause inflammation and excessive oil production leading to unpleasant smells.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatments will differ depending on the cause of your pup’s skin odor. If you are unsure, it’s always best to bring your Cocker Spaniel in for a vet evaluation as they can help you determine the appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment of seborrhea usually requires bathing with medicated shampoos prescribed by a vet to target symptoms.

Many owners whose Cocker Spaniels have seborrhea will choose to keep their dog’s coat groomed short so these medicated baths can work through the fur easier and treat the skin.

We recommend you brush your Cocker Spaniel’s coat at least 3 times a week to rid them of any dirt or debris that could cause bacteria buildup and lead to infection.

Brushing can also encourage even oil distribution and healthy skin. Using an omega-3 supplement can also promote skin and coat health.

If you believe allergies may be the cause, make a plan with the help of your vet to identify what your dog is allergic to and adjust his food and environment accordingly.

Proper treatment of any bacterial skin infections will also require the help of a licensed veterinarian.


A Cocker Spaniel’s mouth can smell horrible!

This stench, which is not your average “dog breath” smell, has been dubbed “Cocker Mouth” by Cocker Spaniel owners and enthusiasts.

Cocker Mouth occurs when food and moisture fester in the fur and folds around the lips and is usually exacerbated by food and tartar build-up on the teeth.

Dog’s do have the natural ability to self-clean their mouths but there are likely to be times when build-up becomes unmanageable and requires your help. Ignoring mouth odor and tartar accumulation can be dangerous to your pet’s health!

Treatment and Prevention

Stay on top of removing food and dirt from your Spaniel’s mouth area. We recommend wetting a cloth and gently wiping their face and mouth after feeding and outside play.

This will prevent the hardening of food and dirt which will later stink. If the area is already encrusted, dampen first to soften before wiping away.

Routine oral care is important for any dog to reduce tartar build-up which can make your dog’s breath smell and, even worse, lead to health problems like dental disease which, if left untreated, can affect other organs.

We recommend routine cleaning of your Cocker Spaniel’s teeth 3-4 times a week. This can be achieved in multiple ways – pick what works best for you and your pup.

The most effective method is brushing with a canine toothpaste, however, this can be high maintenance and many dogs don’t enjoy it. Luckily there are multiple great products on the market such as dental chews, gels, oral sprays, and water additives that help manage tartar.


An area most like to shy away from but is very important to address when targeting smell from your Cocker Spaniel: their bottom. Is your dog smelling like decaying fish?

Their anal glands likely need to be expressed. “The fluid typically has a foul, fishy odor,” says Veterinarian Sara Farmer, DMV.

What are anal glands and why do they need to be expressed? Dogs secrete from their anal glands as a form of communication. Ever wonder why dogs are always sniffing each other’s butts at the dog park?

Well, the answer is anal glands! Usually, these glands are expressed naturally every time your dog uses the bathroom.

Sometimes, however, the fluid is not expressed properly, becoming dried and impacted which is painful and very stinky.

Certain breeds, like Cocker Spaniels, are more prone to impacted anal glands. It’s important to get this condition treated as impacted anal glands can become abscessed if ignored.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment of impacted anal glands is simple if not gross. Squeezing the anal sacs will release the trapped substance.

It does require inserting your fingers into your dog’s anus and the liquid is extremely unpleasant smelling, which is why most opt to have their vet or groomer handle it.

Luckily, both usually provide this service! Be sure not to over-express your dog’s glands. This can cause irritation, inflammation, and is not uncomfortable for your pet. The procedure is only required when the glands aren’t emptying naturally.

As mentioned, Cocker Spaniel is a breed that is more likely to need their anal glands expressed. Think of it as part of their grooming routine!

However, there are things you can do to help them from becoming impacted. Diets with sufficient fiber and appropriate exercise have both been proven to help prevent impacted glands.

Make sure your dog always has access to fresh water and note that their stool is well-formed and of a healthy consistency.

Your Cocker Spaniels Ears

Cocker Spaniels are known for their large, floppy ears. In fact, it’s one of the reasons this breed is so popular. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the reasons this breed can easily develop odor.

Their ears hang and therefore keep moisture, dirt and bacteria trapped, which can lead to an overproduction of earwax and cause infections.

They are also known for dragging their ears in food and dirt while eating and sniffing, causing the fur around their ears to become crusty, matted and eventually give off a stench if not addressed.

Treatment and Prevention

Unfortunately, you’re likely to be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to Cocker Spaniels and ear infections which boils down to anatomy and the structure of their ears.

“Cocker spaniels are prone to ear infections,” says Licensed Veterinary Technician Angel Alvarado, LVT. It will require diligence on your part to maintain ear health for your Cocker Spaniel.

To help prevent infections, keep hair around the ear canal cut short. Owners have reported lifting their Spaniel’s ears above their heads for a few hours (some even holding them up gently with loose ponytails) to allow the ears to “air out.”

It sounds silly, but they swear by the practice – just make sure however you are doing it is comfortable for your pup. Check your dog’s ears frequently to make sure they are clean and free of debris and always dry them thoroughly after getting wet.

Ask your veterinarian the proper care for cleaning your Cocker Spaniel’s ear canals on a regular basis, especially following a bath or getting wet to help avoid infections.

If you suspect a mild ear infection, “you can help keep ears clean at home by using a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water.

Moisten a cotton ball or gauze square and wipe the visible areas a couple of times a week. Don’t poke anything down into the ear canal, it’s very easy to lose things like that down the ear canal,” says Veterinary Technician Debi Matlack, VT.

If the infection and odor is severe or persistent be sure to visit your vet.

To address odor caused by dragging ears, invest in a proper bowl that doesn’t allow their ears to dip in. Tall and narrow bowls allow their long ears to drop comfortably along the sides.

Wiping the ends of their ears gently with a wet cloth after outside play will prevent dirt from getting matted in their fur. Brushing their ears regularly will also help. If they do become crusted, soak their ears first to soften before removing them.


Cocker spaniels might be labeled as stinky dogs and as we discussed, it’s not entirely unfounded. However, if you love this adorable breed don’t let that reputation get you down.

Committing to routine maintenance and noticing the warning signs will lead to a happy and healthy life for your pup and less smell for you!

Related Questions

How often should you bathe a cocker spaniel?

If your Cocker Spaniel suffers from seborrhea, a bathing scheduling will likely be determined between you and your vet.

For a healthy Spaniel, we recommend getting them groomed every 4-6 weeks and as often as bi-weekly if they are outside frequently.

Do cocker spaniels smell more than other dogs?

Yes and no. Cocker Spaniels do not naturally smell worse than other dogs. However, they can be a bit more high-maintenance than other breeds.

If their care is neglected, they might start to stink. Make sure you are committed to caring for a high-maintenance breed before adopting a Cocker Spaniel!

Should dogs be bathed in warm or cold water?

Dogs should always be bathed in warm water! They run hotter than we do at an average healthy temperature of 101.0 to 102.5°F.

Coldwater might be refreshing for them to play in on a hot summer day but will be a shock to their system during bath time. Not only is it dangerous, but it will also make the experience very unpleasant for them.

How do I protect my dog’s eyes when bathing?

Do not apply shampoo to your dog’s face and avoid pouring water on their head in a way that soap could run into their eyes.

We recommend avoiding the face area altogether for the main bath and use a wet cloth separately before or after to clean their face.

As an extra precaution, you can purchase artificial tear ointment and apply it to each eye. This will help protect their eyes if shampoo happens to get in them.

Shannon Maguire

Shannon Maguire is a seasoned traveler, reader, animal lover, rescue advocate, and pack mom. Her zest for life and its adventures has always contributed to her deep passion for storytelling. This love of stories became intertwined with her love of animals during the slow summer walks of her childhood with her beloved Golden Retriever named Guinness. Today, she lives in Los Angeles with her rescue pack - 2 dogs and a cat - who inform much of her writing and are always keeping her on her toes!

Recent Posts