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Stinky Dog! What to do When You’re Boondocking and Can’t Bathe Your Dog

Update: Be sure to continue after the main story for a big list of other great real-world solutions we’ve added from RVers on places like our Facebook group.

Aside from letting your dog swim in the nearest lake or river, keeping your dog clean and odor-free while boondocking in your RV can be a challenge. Boondocking, or dry camping, means you’ll be conserving as much water as you can for restroom use, washing dishes, drinking and cooking. So, you’re not likely to waste any water bathing your dog.

I’ve come to realize that I have two choices in this situation:

One, I’ll just deal with a stinky dog. Easy. Problem solved.

Or two, I need to have some doggie deodorizer on hand.

I choose number two most of the time. The deodorizer I have is made of all-natural ingredients. It gets sprayed onto my dog (except for her head). For her head, I just use a washcloth, spray the deodorizer on it and wipe it on her head, face, and ear flaps.

[amazon asin=B000WFIO3S&template=iframe image float right] I like the lavender scent she gets when I spray it on her. However, if you’re not fond of lavender, deodorizers come in other scents as well and can be found at any online or bricks and mortar pet store.

I did learn, though, that it’s probably a good idea to brush some of the desert dust off of my dog before using the deodorizer. She was covered with a little lavender-scented mud the first time I tried it on her.  But once I wiped that off, she smelled much better than her stinkier version. Lesson learned!

So, when you need to freshen up your stinky dog while boondocking in your RV, I suggest getting a doggie deodorizer – especially if you have a cuddly dog who sleeps with you!


More great ideas from our FaceBook Groups. Join our Tires & Tails FB groups for great answers to questions like these.

JL: Extra large dog wipes, easier when we have our dogs shaved though. Amazon has all sorts of wipes specifically for dogs!

JLD: I use an animal formulated, waterless shampoo. The exact brand that I use is QuickClean Waterless Shampoo made by Fort Dodge. Works great. You can get it in a small bottle or a large spray bottle. Just checked Amazon and they have it.

SM: Wipe them with a damp washcloth with some peppermint soap on it. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Liquid Castile Soap on Amazon.

CW: We make sure she jumps in the lake and we wash the stinky off. LOL

SE: I wash mine in a river/lake with biodegradable soap. Find biodegradable dog soap on Amazon.

MW: Throw a stick in the river, (or lake). That and being a short-haired breed helps. Brush thoroughly after he’s dry.

LB: When we recently traveled from FL to Las Vegas, and camped there, our Chow needed a bath. We went to a groomer who had a U-Wash. They provide a tub and hot water, shampoo, brushes, towels, and apron, all for under $20.00 and you wash your dog.

BD: I get a hand towel, wet it down, pour vinegar on it and squeeze a bit. Rub the dog everywhere but, not around eyes. It not only cleans, but deodorizes.

MA: Any essential oil diluted in spray bottle, ok for pets, all natural. We use lavender. You could also use a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract diluted in spray bottle. (T&T note: Be certain to use oils that aren’t bad for dogs. There are some that are fine for humans but aren’t good or are toxic for dogs.)

WK: There are leave-in shampoos or dry powders that are natural and rub in.

CR: We have a Bearded Collie and find that keeping her trimmed short was the primary step in controlling odor.

WG: You can get things like axle grease off with a little mineral oil and a paper towel usually.


Please share your dog tips:

  • If you boondock in your RV, what do you use to keep your dog smelling nice?
  • What doggie deodorizer scent do you prefer?

Let us know in the comments below!

Jeannie / Lead Writer, Tires & Tails

Hi, I'm Jeannie! I'm a full-time RVer with a lifelong need for travel. I used to be an elementary school teacher and had a dog training business in Washington State. I have had numerous pets throughout my life, and love to travel with them. I started my full time RV adventure with one dog and two cats. I currently have a dog who comes with my husband and me on our traveling adventures.

2 thoughts on “Stinky Dog! What to do When You’re Boondocking and Can’t Bathe Your Dog

  • Linda Whitten

    I use a Bounty dryer sheet to wipe both my toy schnauzners down. I try to use the natural or non-scented sheets.

    • Jeannie / Tires & Tails

      Are the ingredients safe for dogs? I haven’t looked into using these so am not aware of their ingredients.


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