Eleven Things I Learned From A Skunk

This is a guest article from Terry Bain, the author of You are a dog and We are the cat. He offers practical and humorous lessons on how to deal with a skunked (is that a verb?) dog.

Skunk eating out of a dog bowl while the dog watches1.

Skunks are masters of misdirection. The dog who first notices the skunk in the yard and who is therefore chasing around as if she’s been set free inside a nuclear accelerator is not actually the dog that is in the danger of being “skunked.” The second, slower, lumbering dog, big and black and just barely aware that there is reason for such a racket, surprises the cornered skunk where it has taken refuge beneath the minivan. While I expend my energy and attention calling and cajoling the first dog, “Sadie… knock it off… get back in here…” I do not notice that the second dog has returned to the house in a panic, already past me and visiting every room with her odor and attempting to remove said odor by rubbing against every surface available. Carpet. Bed. Blanket. Stair. Door. Spouse.


Skunk odor is one of the top ten most-toxic odors known to humankind, behind… well, behind nothing I know of. It reminds me of… nothing at all, really. Like spoiled and burning all-season radials, sort of. But you have to compress that smell. Make it stronger. More concentrated. You know the Pepe Le Pew cartoons where the skunk walks around and all the people run away, screaming in terror? I never really understood exactly why they did that until now. Now I understand. Running? Screaming? Terror? Next time I see a skunk, that’s me.


Spouses do not enjoy being woken by dog/skunk in their faces. Giant black dog becomes giant black skunk in moments. Running. Screaming. Terror.


In fact, this is likely the worst way to be woken, spouse or no. Dog/skunk snout in your face as you attempt to nullify the cobwebs of REM sleep? Maybe spiders in your ear or scorpions on your forehead would be worse. Maybe.


If your dog unwittingly does get “skunked,” do not, by any means, allow your dog into the house. Excuses such as “but I was trying to get Sadie back into the house… she was running around like an electron” do not hold any water at all.


A tomato juice bath does nothing for your dog but make them smell like a skunk that’s had one too many Bloody Marys. Not really much more pleasant than the skunk odor was to begin with.


Bloody Marys at 3 o’clock in the morning don’t really help eliminate the odor either, but they may help you not to care so much about the odor (if you consume enough of them)—though you will still have to contend with the odor once you sober up.


Instead of tomato juice or Bloody Marys, try this:

  • 1 quart 3% fresh hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid soap

These measurements do not have to be exact. And they likely won’t be. Because that smell will make you insane.

Mix the ingredients together in a bucket and immediately wash your dog with it. As the oxygen releases from the hydrogen peroxide, it scrubs away the odor. A bit. Use gloves, leave it on your dog’s fur for ten minutes or so, and keep the mixture out of the dog’s eyes. And don’t expect miracles. There are no miracles to be had. Except the miraculously bad odor on your dog.


Black dogs may become orange in the above mixture. Not badly orange. But I was tempted to call my big black dog “red.” This only occurred to me after I had regained my sense of humor. (Please do not argue the matter with me… I do too have a sense of humor.)


Skunk odor lingers. Weeks later I was walking through the house and caught a whiff of skunk and wondered if the skunk had returned, but it was just the lingering odor. It really really really lingers. Almost as long as the odor of leftover pizza in the fridge. Especially when you’re hungry. That odor really lingers too. Though it could be my imagination. I could have sworn there was another slice of pizza in here somewhere.


My marriage is stronger than I thought it was. I remain married, even months after the skunk has left, and I still have the dogs. I don’t let the dogs outside at night anymore without first making a heck of a racket to scare away prowling polecats, but this only proves that I can be taught, that I can live in a world with both dogs and skunks. And if I can do it, let me tell you, so can you.

12 Responses to “Eleven Things I Learned From A Skunk”

  1. G in INdiana says:

    Our new dog didn’t get skunked, but she rolled in skunk spunk… almost as bad. what smells worse than skunk is 3 day old dead skunk. The musk gland releases and you get that sickly dead smell as well.
    We had to take our new dog to the groomers even after we washed her in the above mixture. $80 and several hours/bathes later we picked up a sparklingly clean great smelling dog.
    She stays on leash now all the time, even on our 26 acre farm.

  2. Lynne says:

    I worked for a year as a DUI officer. I remember one individual with a blood alcohol level so high it should have killed him. He smelled worse than any skunk I’ve ever come across.

  3. Kevin says:

    De-Skunking Recipe

    Have not had to try it but people say it works great.

    Just wanted to share.


  4. Katie says:

    One of my dogs was skunked. It took three washes at the groomers to rid her of the odor. But it lingered and is worse if they get wet. One thing you have to really watch for is; irritated eyes. My vet rolled her eyelids to be sure there was no damage caused by the irritation of the skunk musk. I understand some dogs also have had nasal membrane damage.


  5. HighNote says:

    Our dog got skunked once. But only once. He never let the skunk turn his tail toward him again. It took forever to rid him of the smell. Bathing and nothing helped. Just when we thought it was gone, it would linger back somehow. The sad part but yet it was funny was we ran from our own dog and he could not understand why and of course he ran right after us. He only wanted to be petted and we only wanted to breathe.

  6. Furball Mom says:

    I was in hysterics reading the thing on what to do with a skunked dog! Thanks for putting this is your newsletter! :))))

  7. Amanda says:

    Skunk smell for me is pleasant. Amazing how we all have different senses of smell huh? We have a family of skunks living in our crawl space and several times a week there is the spray of the odor into our vents. Makes my sister ill but the rest of us don’t mind it at all.

    Luckily none of my cats have ever been skunked LOL

  8. leavesofjoy says:

    Our previous dog got skunked once, in a campground at about 2 am. He loved all tomato products, so boy was he happy as we poured tomato juice all over him, he couldn’t lick it off fast enough! But it did nothing for the smell.

    Then I remembered something else I heard recommended once- Massengil Medicated Douche. It’s incredibly embarrassing to have to buy a case of that stuff in the middle of the night, but it really worked, just a hint of skunk smell left after that.

    Our current dog rolled on a dead skunk once, too, on a cold February day, and I didn’t let him in the house until after a hose bath outside. He never did that again!

  9. Mary says:

    Skunk is truly one of the most horrifying odors one could ever encounter. A freshly skunked dog smells nothing like “dead skunk in the middle of the road.” Not even close. It is the stuff of nightmares. Like nightmares, skunking always happens under the cloak of darkness.

    When it happened to our dogs, I frantically searched online for miracle cures. I tried everything — dishwashing detergent and peroxide, laundry detergent and oxyclean. The homemade brews made a minor dent in the odor. But they didn’t remove the smell.

    The ONLY thing that works well is Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover.

    I don’t work for Nature’s Miracle, I don’t get any money by endorsing their product. But I will never, ever be without a bottle of the stuff. It works on everything — the dog, the dog’s collar, the walls, the floor…. the only thing I couldn’t deodorize was an invisible fence collar receiver, because the eau du skunke got inside of the darned thing. But the receiver was the only thing I had to replace.

  10. Lynn says:

    I was rushing like crazy to finish the job out in a desolate field so I could drive back to the airport, 30 miles away. My flight was due to leave in two hours. At least I didn’t have to worry about checking out of a hotel. It was a day trip.

    I hurriedly packed my camera equipment and as I put the case in the trunk I heard a sound. Slowly I turned around to see a skunk about 8 feet away. Fear. Stark fear. Me, not the skunk.


    But she paid no attention to my guttural yell that crossed between a plea for mercy and a Comanche’s death cry. She let it rip.

    No one for miles around. No change of clothes. Nothing. So I got back in the rental car and drove aimlessly for a bit, thinking.

    Had to miss the flight. They probably would make me ride in the cargo hold I figured.

    In the end, a major hotel took pity on me and gave me a room. Not their best, but it was a godsend. You don’t know humiliation until you’ve walked across a hotel lobby with all eyes on you, the look of fear in their eyes, and when realization set in, all feet running away.

    The staff suggested I ride the elevator by myself. No complaints there.

    The hotel sent up toiletries [lots and lots of shampoo and bath oils] and a change of clothes from their dress shop, charged to my room of course, and gladly accepted, sight unseen.

    The biggest tip of my life went to the poor housekeeper who had to deal with the room after I left. She deserved every penny of it.

    Skunks rule.

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  12. Sharon Jordan says:

    To Amanda says July 28th 2007 - no offense but you are lying!!! I demand a lie dector test !! Sharon

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