Can You Tell When Your House Smells Like Dog?

Sometimes your nose knows, sometimes you're so used to it that you can't tell. What to do?

Maria Goodavage  |  Jun 13th 2012


When I recently came home from being out of state for a week, I was bowled over by the extremely stale, doggy odor that greeted me as I walked into the house. It sure didn’t smell like that when I left.

Or did it?

I still don’t know the answer. Was the house always this doggy, with me living in blissful ignorance because I was used to it? Or did it just get rank when I was gone because no one changed Jake’s bedding or toweled off very well after his swims at a nearby pond?

I suspect it’s the acclimated-nose theory, because after a couple of days of being home, everything smelled much better. And it wasn’t because of any clearning — I didn’t even have a breather to change Jake’s bedding.

I wish I knew for sure. Science and enginteering have given us smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. What about dog-stink detectors? What a handy device that would be. If it registers more than a certain number of parts per billion of dog aroma, an alarm goes off. That’s when owners open windows, spray things in the air, light the incense, wash the dog.

We can send a man to the moon (OK, that was a long time ago, but I can’t come up with a better example of “wow” technology at the moment), but we can’t measure whether our homes announce in an olfactory way, “Hey! I’ve got a dog!” the moment a guest crosses the threshold? Some engineering grad student might want to figure that one out.

Meanwhile, there’s the age-old method of detection: asking friends and family. Actually, just asking friends, because household members are likely to be similarly immune. I’m doing that, and so far, everyone has been very polite. “Oh, I can’t smell anything. Remember, I’ve got a dog, too.” Recently, one nice couple pulled out a couple of incense sticks when I asked them the question. That’s like handing someone deodorant. Hint taken.

We’re having company this weekend — people who have never been in our house before. The windows are open, Jake’s getting a bath tomorrow, and I’ve got my bottle of fragrance-free Nose Offense spray ready to go. I’ll be spritzing around before everyone arrives, hoping that it neutralizes any remaining stink molecules. And forget the barbecue. That won’t cover up anything. I’ll be making a garlic-intensive meal that night. Some people plan meals around what’s available seasonally. I plan meals around how much my dog stinks about the house.

If our guests can still smell Jake through all that, they’ve got to be part dog — and if that’s the case, they won’t mind at all.

But now it’s your turn. Do you think or know if your house smells doggy? Do you suspect it does, but don’t know how to get a handle on the whole stinkin’ truth? How can you really tell, short of going on vacation, which acts for the nose as a between-meal sorbet acts for the tastebuds. Let’s share wisdoms, tales, and remedies!

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