Skip to Content
The Puppy Mag is an Amazon associate and earns a commission for qualifying purchases. Affiliate Disclosure

7 Reasons Why Cocker Spaniels Smell (& how to avoid it!)

Are cocker spaniels a smelly breed? It’s a great question and one that’s particularly important for future owners.

I know, that typically doggy smell isn’t something that many people want in their homes, but the truth is that it can be easily avoided with a few good habits! This article explains everything there is to know about cocker spaniels and bad odor.

Yes, Cocker spaniels like many dog breeds can smell bad for a number of reasons. Bad smell is typically caused by things like ear infections, skin infections, a dirty coat, bad oral hygiene, gassiness, or impacted anal sacs.

Fortunately, most of these can be avoided with a few healthy habits and preventative measures. All will be explained below.


Do Cocker Spaniels Always Smell Bad?

It’s no secret that many owners have issues with a bad-smelling cocker spaniel.

In some ways, it’s fair to say that this breed is prone to a bit of doggy odor. But as I will explain below, most of these cases of bad odor can actually be avoided in the first place.

So although cocker spaniels get a bit of a bad rap for being a “smelly breed”, it’s certainly not their fault. Most of the time, it’s ours!

Due to the fact that bad odor can be avoided, this shouldn’t be an issue that deters any future owners from going ahead with this breed. They are a wonderful family dog with an amazing temperament and good behavior, so nothing should take away from that.

You might also like: Cocker spaniel tail docking explained

7 Reasons Why Cocker Spaniels Start Smelling Bad

Ok, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and highlight the main causes of bad odor in cocker spaniels. If you have a cocker spaniel that smells bad, it could be one or a combination of these issues below. So it’s worth reading every cause thoroughly before homing in one issue you think it might be.

1. Ear issues

One of the most common causes of bad odor in cocker spaniels comes from the ears. A build-up of ear wax can smell particularly bad, and that issue could lead to an ear infection which can smell even worse.

Although those big floppy ears look cute and adorable, they do prevent the ears from cleaning themselves naturally. Ears that are erect, can rid themselves of excess ear wax and generally prevent ear infections without us doing much. Unfortunately, this is not the case for cocker spaniels.

2. Skin problems

Another big culprit of bad smell comes from various skin problems. General infections from bacteria build-up to yeast infections on the paws and belly, the skin can produce a pungent smell if something isn’t right.

Skin issues are usually caused by overbathing, poor diet, and allergies. Overbathing can dry out the skin causing it to produce excess oils, which in turn leads to a greasy coat and subsequent issues.

When it comes to diet, high carbohydrates or common allergens can cause inflammation of the skin leading to excess oil production, scratching, open wounds, and ultimately infections.

Psst. A word on Spaniel training! Brain Training For Dogs could be the best training approach we’ve seen for all spaniels. Results show improvement in obedience and behavior quicker than we thought possible! It’s seriously worth checking out.

3. Bad breath

Oral health is a big problem for all dog breeds, and that’s on us. Most owners will admit to not brushing their dog’s teeth enough, or even at all.

With 90% of dogs developing some level of periodontal disease (gum disease) by the age of 2, this is a huge issue.

Plaque and tartar build-up is essentially just bacteria build-up. And it’s this bacteria that lead to gum disease and a really foul-smelling breath. Brushing your cocker spaniel’s teeth may not only prolong their life but can remove serious bad breath problems.

4. Smelly coat

Cocker spaniels can either have a gorgeous silky smooth clean coat, or a seriously grubby greasy smelly coat. Both extremes are possible! Long-haired breeds can easily get dirty which can eventually cause a bad smell.

The two biggest causes of dirty smelly coats are overbathing and rummaging through various bushes when out on walks. Both of these are common, especially for spaniels, as they love nothing more than to dart into any bush they see trying to follow the scent of local critters and animals.

5. Dirty paws

Similar to above, the paws themselves can become home to some nasty substances and bacteria if we aren’t careful. Admittedly, who washes their spaniel’s paws after they come home from each walk? Many would confess to hardly ever. It’s an easy mistake, but it could be a smelly one!

From other animal poop, vomit, rotten food (fallen fruits), and more… Anything is possible when we take our spaniels out for their daily walk. Especially if you walk in an area with plenty of bushes and grasslands, spaniels move at the speed of light and can easily tread in something stinky.

6. Diet problems

If your cocker spaniel isn’t getting on well with her diet it can lead to gassiness (farts and burps), bad breath in general, and skin issues as we mentioned before.

It could be that the kibble is too high in carbohydrates, low quality, or just that particular brand doesn’t sit right with your spaniel.

For a range of reasons, some diets just don’t work well for some dogs. It’s crucial to find a high-quality kibble with a good macronutrient breakdown that digests perfectly with your spaniel. Not only for general health purposes but to keep bad odor at bay.

7. Impacted anal sacs

If it’s a strong fishy smell your cocker spaniel is giving off, then it could suggest impacted anal sacs. Just inside your spaniel’s bum, are two glands on each side that hold a strong-smelling substance.

Every time your spaniel poops, this substance is secreted. Its purpose is for scent-marking, and it’s actually a very important communication tool used by dogs. A lot of information is given to other dogs by how the substance smells.

For many reasons, those two glands can become impacted or infected, which can lead to the glands secreting randomly, meaning it will cling to your spaniel’s coat and bum area, for the whole family to smell. If this is the case, you might notice your spaniel scooting their bum on the ground.

Popular: Cocker spaniels & food refusal: Why it happens & what to do

Identifying The Cause

If you already have a smelly spaniel to deal with, then it’s important to identify the cause as quickly as possible. Inspect her entire body visually and with your nose! Look and smell everywhere from her ears, face, breath, belly, paws, body in general, and even her bum.

By doing this you will likely locate where the smell is the strongest, and that will narrow down the potential causes right away.

Another thing to consider is the kind of smell, pungent corny smells can signify skin issues or yeast infections, while fishy smells can indicate bad breath or anal sac problems.

Note: If you identify ear infections, serious skin infections, anal sac issues, or significant plaque build-up, it’s best to schedule a vet check-up to run some tests and receive professional guidance.

Related: Cocker Spaniels With Dry Noses (Explained & Solved)

Fixing & Preventing a Smelly Cocker Spaniel

Let’s run through some of the best things you can do to prevent bad odor from happening in the first place. While many of these can also be solutions to ongoing odor problems, they work best as preventative measures. Prevention is better than cure, right?

1. Brushing to prevent bad odor

It’s crucial to brush cocker spaniels anyway for the purpose of managing shedding, but it has a secondary benefit too. Frequent brushing will help clean the coat from muck and debris and distribute the coat’s natural oils evenly across her body.

Brushing can quite literally keep her cleaner for longer and prevent a bad-smelling coat. Aim to brush your cocker spaniel daily for 10-15 minutes using an undercoat rake followed by a slicker brush. Daily brushing for a short time is much better than brushing once a week for an hour.

2. Regular coat & skin inspections

While you take the time to brush your cocker spaniel, it makes sense to consciously inspect her skin and coat across her whole body. By checking her in detail this often you’ll instantly notice when something doesn’t look right.

You’ll get familiar with what your spaniel’s skin usually looks like, which helps you know the moment something goes wrong. Regular inspections are basic but a crucial part of overall health and odor management, as spotting issues before they develop can make all the difference.

3. Brush your spaniel’s teeth

Whether your spaniel has bad breath or not, it’s crucial to start brushing her teeth. After picking up an inexpensive canine toothbrush and canine toothpaste (never use human toothpaste) start by brushing only the outsides of the teeth, in a straight long line up both sides of the mouth.

We don’t have to brush the insides of the teeth, it’s mostly just the outside of the large molars towards the back. If she does have bad breath, this will slowly reverse it as more plaque comes off over time. Good dental hygiene could literally add years onto your spaniel’s life so it’s essential to start right away.

4. Clean paws after walks

Although it sounds like pain it would help to clean her paws after most walks (if not every walk). This will remove nasty bacteria and dirty from festering in the paws, and it will also keep your home cleaner…

Imagine walking barefoot outside in public for 45 minutes then coming home and walking all over the carpets! Clean paws = cleaner home and fewer bad odors.

5. Avoid overbathing

Bathing frequency for cocker spaniels is highly debated, I’ve heard some owners claim once a week is best, while others say once every few months is best. The ideal frequency ranges from once a month to once every two months depending on her kind of lifestyle.

If you regularly go for mucky walks, bathing once a month every 3-4 weeks is okay. Just ensure that you use a natural ingredient pet shampoo and conditioner and avoid regular pet shampoo.

Regular pet shampoo contains a plethora of harsh detergents and ingredients, which strip those essential natural oils… This causes excess oils to be produced creating a greasy coat in no time at all.

6. Ensure her diet is working well

Consider how well she’s getting along with her food. Does she look excited and ready to eat at every mealtime, or does she look particularly unenthusiastic?

If you notice any hints that your spaniel doesn’t like her food, this could be the tip of the iceberg for many subsequent issues. Best food for cocker spaniels <<

Research the kibble you are using and ensure they prioritize “fresh and whole” ingredients. Having the first 5 ingredients be whole meats and vegetables is key.

In addition to that, ensure the kibble is relatively low in carbs compared to protein and fat. High carb kibbles are a sign of an inferior product, which could be causing issues on the inside you aren’t aware of. High protein and fat mimic a wild diet, which their bodies are best prepared to digest.

Of course, don’t make any unnecessary or drastic changes to her diet if you do think it’s working well. It’s just something to be aware of and consider. If you do think a change is needed, be sure to phase in the new kibble slowly over the course of 7-10 days. Always avoid instant changes.

When To See a Vet?

If you think there could be something wrong, then there’s no wrong moment to contact your veterinarian. With any health issue, the earlier it’s detected the better, so never hesitate.

If the source of the bad smell is obvious and nonserious then you can try resolving it at home.

Times when we recommend taking your cocker spaniel to the vets:

  • You discover an ear infection
  • Anal sac issues
  • Significant plaque or tartar build-up
  • Serious dry skin issues
  • Yeast or skin infections
  • Suspicious-looking rashes or wounds
  • Or you simply have no idea what’s causing the bad smell

All of these are legitimate reasons to schedule an appointment.

I hope this helped! Thanks for reading: back to more Cocker Spaniel articles


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.