Pet Parenting
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My Fight to Keep My Dirty Dog Clean

Riggins likes to be dirty and smelly, but he also loves to cuddle so I do what I can to keep him smelling sweet. It's often a battle of wills.

Wendy Newell  |  Dec 10th 2015


My darling pup’s goal in life is to be as dirty as possible. His main hurdle in attaining this goal is me. It’s a constant battle to keep my Riggins clean.

Little boys are made of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails.” My darling baby boy likes to roll in snips and snails and the stuff that comes out from under puppy dog tails. I’m not confident I know what a snip is, but I’m assuming it’s something gross and smelly. As his mother, I find his need to be dirty an embarrassment. What kind of parent lets her child be such a disgusting dirty, smelly mess?

My sweet boy Riggins (all photos by Wendy Newell)

My sweet boy, Riggins. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins is 10 years old and has been drawn to dirty stuff since puppyhood. He isn’t necessarily the dog who will jump into a mud puddle, but if Riggins is lucky enough to come across a pile of dead animal guts, he is all over it! I read somewhere that dogs do this to mask their scent in the wild. Well, my pampered pooch doesn’t know the ways of the wild, so it would be digging pretty deep into his DNA for that to be the reason.

I read somewhere else that rolling in smelly, gross stuff is a dog’s version of putting on perfume. I can see that. Riggins actually does prefer if everything and everyone around him is filthy. When I vacuum the house, he is beside himself. How DARE I just casually suck up all the precious scent he has worked so hard to spread around? His facial expression is stuck on a “you have some nerve, lady” look during chore time.

He said he wasn't digging. He is a liar.

He said he wasn’t digging. He is a liar. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins and I hike almost daily, which means he has plenty of chances to try and outwit me and bring home new dirt and smells. More than once, he has disappeared down the hill only to emerge with a big grin and some grossness smeared all over his neck and side. One day, a few years ago, Riggins saw something on the horizon and galloped ahead of me to check it out. I could see him go up to the unidentified blob, sniff, and throw himself on top of it. I screamed, “LEAVE IT!” while running as fast as I could up the hill to where he was.

It was too late. He had found a dead, rotting bird. Not a cute little tweety bird. Nope. A HUGE black creature with talons and everything. I was actually glad he was just rolling in the mess vs. eating it until the fumes hit my nose. I can’t describe the stench. I had to throw a towel around him and tuck it into his collar so it would protect my car while I drove us home with the windows rolled down.

Dirty dog ride home.

Dirty dog ride home. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Smell is one thing, dirt is another. Riggins has always been a digger and will happily trot inside with his head held high, muzzle covered in filth, after an epic dig in the backyard. When I was working an office job, Riggins spent his days in the yard, happily digging and lying, belly flat, in the dirt under one or two of his favorite bushes.

We are lucky enough to have a number of dog parks in our area. My favorite is the nice civilized one with grass, plenty of poop bags, and lovely benches to sit on. Riggins’ favorite is the one that is all dirt and at a bit of a slant due to erosion, with a little area in the corner where people don’t seem to pick up after their dogs. He is such a boy.

Digging deep during a hike.

Digging deep during a hike. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Having a smelly, dirty, outdoor dog is one thing, but Riggins isn’t an outdoor dog. He is an indoor dog who likes to go outside. He also likes to cuddle and get lots of love, which means my hands and face are all over that dirty, lovable mutt.

For my own sanity, Riggins gets bathed regularly. Thankfully for me, and for my wallet, he can be easily groomed at home. When I had that office job, Riggins would get clean every Sunday after our adventure that day. Now, I understand that weekly bathing is a lot. Many of you are going to tell me it is way too often. I understand where you are coming from, but you aren’t the one who is trying to watch TV with a dog who smells like a rotting animal. I did a lot of research and use a very gentle shampoo designed for show dogs, which is safe to use daily.

Trying his best to make the house dirty.

Trying his best to make the house dirty. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Bath time is a battle of strength and wits. Riggins gets a bath in my shower. I have the attachment that turns the place into a doggie bath station. When Riggins sees me pull out the dog hose from the drawer, he makes a beeline for his hiding place: the corner of the dinning room. For some reason, he doesn’t think I can see him there.

Once everything is ready, I go get him and slowly march him to the bathroom. It’s a slow journey, not unlike what you would expect with a man trudging down death row. To help set the mood, I sometimes yell, “Dead man walking” and sing “Taps.” Once inside the shower, I jump in with him and get him all sudsy. When he gets out, he does the wild dog race around the house, stopping at every clean, dry piece of furniture or rug to throw himself on it and roll around. I can’t dry him with a dryer. He won’t allow it.

To help you understand how Riggins really feels about this activity, here is a video from a couple years ago:

Now that I’m a dog sitter, Riggins’ baths are less frequent, and my house, my car, and my life smells like a dirty dog. Riggins loves it! Sigh. At this moment in our lives, he is winning the battle, but I will not allow him to win the war. He will be clean again one day, I swear on the dirt he rolls in!

What is the worst thing your dog has rolled in? Tell us about it in the comments!

Read more about Wendy’s life with Riggins:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.