Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson
July 2006

Dear Lisa:  My Chow Chow just met “Pepe Le Pew.” Need I say more? I gave him a bath but he still stinks. I’ve heard of some other remedies, including a tomato juice bath, but what really works to get rid of the skunk smell from his coat?  – Odiferous in Ohio

Dear Odiferous: As dog owners we all have our favorite “skunking” stories. Mine includes my dog’s facial skunking the morning my grandmother came to visit my new home for the first time. I brought my squinty-eyed dog into the basement until I could bathe her later, after my luncheon. Big mistake! By the time grandma arrived, my house had lost that “lemonly-fresh” smell. What replaced it could only be described as pungent enough to wrinkle the nose of an old Swiss woman.

Rule number one. Do not bring the dog in the house if you can avoid it. As long as the skunk oil remains on the dog’s coat, it will remain in the air that you breathe. Getting a proper remedy to remove the oil as soon as possible is the key to fresh air. 

Over the years I have tried several remedies including the popular Bloody Mary mix (hold the celery) to pour over my dog’s head. While these homemade remedies are great for masking the odor they do not eliminate it.

The Best Solution
I don’t remember when or where I learned about the following solution but the first time I used it, it was an instant success. The recipe is as follows:

  • ¼ cup of baking soda
  • 1-2 teaspoons of mild dishwashing detergent like Ivory Snow
  • 1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution
  • Mix in a bucket and use immediately
  • Work the foaming mixture well into the coat
  • Leave on for five minutes
  • Rinse with warm water
  • Follow with dog shampoo if desired

The quicker you can get the dog in the tub the better the result since the oil hasn’t saturated into the hair yet.

Use Caution
Be careful around the dog’s eyes as this is a potent formula. Don’t use a higher than 3% hydrogen peroxide solution as it may burn. Mix it fresh, use it and discard it. If you store this mixture in a closed container it will explode. The hydrogen peroxide may bleach the coat (think bleached blond) so be careful on those black dogs. The less time the solution stays on the less likely for bleaching. But ultimately the choice is yours - a bleached beauty or a wrinkled nose.

Dear Lisa: I just brought home an eight-week-old American Eskimo Dog puppy. He’s had his first shots but I’m concerned about where to walk him in my backyard as I have an abundance of wildlife including some baby foxes and raccoons. Are there any diseases that he might get from the wildlife that his vaccines aren’t protecting him from?  – Wildlife Woes in Wyoming

Dear WW: You are right to be concerned about the wildlife in your backyard for two reasons. First, they do carry diseases which can be transmitted to your puppy like distemper and rabies and second your puppy is not fully immunized at his young age.  
            Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is carried by a number of wildlife carnivorous species such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, otters, weasels, coyotes, wolves and even mink. In fact, CDV is fairly common among wildlife. It is spread through the secretions and excretions of infected animals usually in airborne particles that other animals, including dogs, can breathe in. The good news is that the virus doesn’t survive very long once it is outside of the body. Rabies is similarly passed through secretions but usually as the result of a bite from a rabid host. All mammals are capable of carrying rabies, but it is mostly found in bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes.

Vaccination Schedule
At only eight-weeks-old your puppy has very little immunity to either disease. When canine puppies are born they get their first dose of immunity from their mother’s milk. When a puppy gets his first suckle shortly after birth, antibodies from the mother’s own vaccines are passed along.
            Until the puppy is six-to-eight-weeks-old, when he gets his first vaccine, he relies only on what his mother gave him. Puppies between the ages of three to six months (12 to 26 weeks) are most susceptible to contracting distemper. And if they do, it is usually fatal in 80 percent of the cases. Those who do survive, face lifelong nervous system damage and possible seizures for the rest of their lives. So this is something you don’t want your puppy to get.

Keep Wildlife at Bay
Since your backyard contains wildlife high on the disease hit list your puppy might be at risk for infection, if there is CDV or rabies lurking amongst the wildlife.
            Here are some tips to keeping your puppy out of harm’s way until his immunity is stronger:

  • Always walk your puppy on a leash. Don’t let him sniff excrement or dead animals.
  • Set up a fenced-in area that is wildlife proof.
  • Do not leave pet food outside that might entice wildlife to venture towards your house. Don’t feed the wildlife. You don’t want them thinking your house is the local fast food hang out.
  • Place your garbage cans inside the garage. Raccoons are notorious for opening garbage lids and having a feast, possibly leaving infected garbage remnants around for curious puppies.

Be diligent about following up on your puppy’s vaccine schedule. Until he is at least six months old and well on his way to full immunity I wouldn’t let your puppy explore your backyard wildlife preserve.


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.

© 2006 The American Kennel Club, Inc.