Updated: Feb 9
What to do when your dogs been on the receiving end of a skunk attack.
Don't panic! Fix 'em quick with these easy de-skunking tips...
My grandfather was an avid bird hunter who hunted with his pedigreed Brittany Spaniels for as long as I knew him. I’m not sure why he was so dedicated to The Brittany Spaniel breed, other than the fact that he loved to hunt duck and pheasants with them, and to him, there was no better bird-dog on the market.
Brittany Spaniels are smaller than Setters but leggier than regular Spaniels, standing about 20 inches from the shoulder to the ground. Their beautiful, boldly patterned coat comes in combinations of white and vivid orange. They are rugged and strong but smooth, clean, and quick afoot. The face has the “softness” prized by bird-dog lovers; high-set ears convey the breed’s essential eagerness.
A Brittany Spaniel is an all-purpose hunting partner with boundless energy. My former marine grandfather was dedicated to Duke and Tilly, the same names he’d recycle generation after generation of his prized Brittany Spaniel family. They had a bond that quite frankly was just as strong, if not stronger, than a parent/child relationship.
Grandpa would pack up the Chevrolet Caprice Classic station wagon with his rifles and Brittany Spaniels in tow twice a year to hunt pheasants in Iowa. Girls were not allowed on such romps, but my brother would tell me how many ducks he caught along with the many stories and mishaps of their adventures near swamps or prairie. After a raucous, family gun-toting week of sport, Grandpa would proudly return with his prized booty.
“Oh wow, guys,” I said greeting them upon arrival into the driveway. “How many did you catch?”
He grunted out of the driver's seat like elders do holding a Santa Clause style sack chocked to the brim with limp pheasant and various forms of fowl (maybe they weren’t in a bloody sack, but rather a sophisticated plastic bin. Hey, I was 12 years old). My smile got quickly lost in the ether as I was whipped in the face with a startling whiff of something reminiscent of a Big Boy Bomb explosion of rotten eggs. Goosebumps formed on my arms and legs as I tried to comprehend the gravity of the situation.
“Oh, Tilly got sprayed by a skunk,” he replied nonchalantly. “She’s gonna need a tomato bath after our feast of Pheasant tonight. Can’t wait!” Whether he was excited for the dinner or for the bath, I'm still not sure.
“A tomato bath…”, I thought to myself how strange that sounded. A bath of tomatoes? Does a tomato bath rid the bouquet of skunk? It seemed like an entire fleet army of raging tomatoes couldn’t stifle this attack.
Sure enough, after our pheasant dinner that grandma worked 5 hours on plucking, shucking, and dissecting, she ultimately cooked the pheasant on a spit BBQ grill. The meal of pheasant I have to say was delicious and well worth the wait. However, there wasn’t time to savor it as Tilly the Brittany laid in the corner stewing in her own fumes waiting for grandpa to fix her.
Five minutes after licking his fingers, he re-buckled his pants, delicately wiped his face with a linen napkin from the dinner table, and set off to the local grocery store a mile down the road for 3 pounds of tomatoes while grandma and I did the dishes. He meant business: this dog was going down.
Tilly didn’t like to wilt flowers, but even more, she particularly didn’t enjoy getting wet. He wrestled with her amongst the sudsy, luke-warm water, holding her by the collar with one hand while lathering up the shivering canine with Pert Plus 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner in the other. She was scrubbed like the rent was due.
She barked, howled, and fought grandpa in vain as the second round of treatment reached its second act: the tomatoes. He crushed each tomato in his palm rolling the fruit in circles uncomfortably against the grain working his way from hind to head. Wax on, wax off. For twenty minutes the struggle continued between an old man and his ailing pet in a bathtub that had cradled this exact scene many, many times before.
In the end, the tomato bath did not win, even though Grandpa has always been convinced to the contrary. The daily nose slap became a part of the household smell for the next 2 weeks. My mom said we couldn’t stick around after the second day as everything was now permeated with skunk funk and she was worried what my teacher would think. I gave Grandpa a hug goodbye, grandma a kiss on the cheek, and blew kisses in the direction of Tilly across a long room.
Skunk spray has been compared to tear gas. Skunk spray and tear gas are both lachrymators which are indeed chemical substances designed to irritate the eyes and nose, causing redness, mucus production, headaches, nausea, and tears. A sulfur-based organic compound called thiols, skunk spray imbues everything that rubs against the target for 2-3 weeks.
Let’s check out some alternative cures to helping your bird hunting dog get rid of that noxious scent of skunk blast both naturally and chemically…
10 steps to get rid of skunk smell on your pet
Avoid giving your dog a bath right away. Without the proper de-skunking tools, the oils in the skunk’s spray will set deeper into your dog’s coat, making it more difficult to remove.
Keep ‘em outside. They don’t have to bake in the sun, but prepping their bath time for an hour or two will keep the scent from permeating your furniture and carpet.
Deskunking shampoos available from your local pet store for around $10 are your best option for neutralizing skunk oils, as opposed to masking with other smells which could make the problem much worse for everyone to tolerate.
DIY Hydrogen Peroxide is a popular at-home remedy you can try in a pinch. Mix 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/3 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap can be tried if you and your pet have the patience to experiment. You can let them run around the yard while the treatment sets for at least 20 minutes as the sun offers a bleaching effect with the peroxide.
Have bathtime supplies prepped In addition to your skunk shampoo, get gloves for you, a washcloth, towels, and a collar for leash or harness to control your pup for bathtime romp.
Use de-skunking shampoo with care and be mindful, avoiding your dog’s eyes while saturating their coat in the area where they were sprayed. If your dog was sprayed in the face, saturate a cloth with the de-skunking product and then rub that into their muzzle or cheeks. Massage the product all the way into your dog’s skin and let it sit for five minutes. Wear gloves to avoid getting the skunk smell on your own hands, since the oils in the spray will make it difficult to remove from your own skin.
Massage, wait, and rinse. Most products recommend leaving letting the de-skunking shampoo sit for about five minutes, but check the product you purchased to make sure. If your dog becomes impatient during this time, try to distract them by practicing a few cues and tricks while treating them.
Bathe your dog with regular dog shampoo. After you have used a de-skunking product on your dog, you will still need to administer a “normal bath” using your standard dog shampoo.
Dry your dog thoroughly. Be sure to completely dry your dog off after each bath. They’ll naturally want to shake all over the house, so transport them outside immediately after a bath so they can do what they need to do.
Repeat if needed. If your pet still smells the next day, you may need to repeat the process. However, overbathing your dog could lead to discomfort, so ensure that you have properly cleaned other items in your home that your dog could have come into contact with and may be causing the scent (for example, pet bedding and upholstered items).
Now how do you get rid of the skunk smell in your car and/or house?
Febreze, Febreze, Febreze.
Really, what did we do before Febreze was invented? It’s very effective at neutralizing the most pungent odors instantly. A fail-safe, really.
Skunk-Off an be purchased from Ebay and other similar sites at about $10 and also works great.
You can try other methods such as microwaving a lemon, boiling a vinegar pan, or wiping things down with diluted bleach, but in my opinion and from my experience with Grandpas skunked Brittany hunting dogs, DIY cures are setting a pet owner up for limp results at best, as well as a lot of messy, ruined expensive furniture and discolored carpet fabrics.
If you have some additional tips or techniques from a good or bad skunking experience, we’d love to hear about it, so leave comments below!