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Puppy smell! What the heck is it?
June 3, 2006 1:29 AM   Subscribe

Puppy smell. What is it? Where does it come from? Why can I not get enough of it?

Mmmmm, new puppy smell. It seems to me that in another context this particular odor would not be pleasant, but combine it with a wriggling little puppy and it's as good as cinnamon buns in the morning. I've met very few people who can resist the lure of puppy smell. But what is it? Is it some sort of oil on the puppy's skin? Some leftover traces of mother's milk? Why does puppy smell smell so good?

I really thought I could Google this one but there are a lot of hits talking about loving puppy smell but not so many discussing what it actually is or where it comes from.
posted by LeeJay to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
In addition: Part of the reason I'm so fascinated by puppy smell is that it is the same smell regardless of breed. Is this something that evolved along with domestication? Do wolf cubs have "puppy smell"?
posted by LeeJay at 1:33 AM on June 3, 2006


Puppy breath especially is just an amazingly intoxicating smell. I hope someone has a great answer to this.
posted by evariste at 1:53 AM on June 3, 2006


I was really hoping it was the anal glands, but it turns out their juices smell bad, not good. Oh well.
posted by trevyn at 1:57 AM on June 3, 2006


Isn't it just that clean dry fur smell?
posted by PenDevil at 2:10 AM on June 3, 2006


Worms.

Sorry to ruin your enjoyment.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:38 AM on June 3, 2006


This turned out well.
posted by reklaw at 4:33 AM on June 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Puppy smell is disgusting. When my partner wants to go into a pet shop I say "see you back out here" because the 'puppy smell' is overwhelming. I DO NOT WANT TO BE EXPOSED TO PUPPY SMELL.
posted by tellurian at 4:48 AM on June 3, 2006


I think what you're referring to (or at least what I think of when I think of puppy smell) is the way their paws smell. This seems to be the primary location of the intoxicating aroma. It's still there on older dogs but nowhere near as sweet.

I would guess that to a dog's nose, it differs from dog to dog and from breed to breed, but our noses are too blind to tell the difference.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 5:01 AM on June 3, 2006


What is it?
Puppies.

Where does it come from?
Puppies.

Why can I not get enough of it?
That one, I can't answer.

(Wait: worms? Eeeew.)
posted by danb at 7:40 AM on June 3, 2006


Worms which, naturally, want you to think their hosts smell nice. Yum yum licky licky!

Related: cat parasites that mess with minds.
posted by flabdablet at 7:51 AM on June 3, 2006


I think it's the fur. Puppies have that soft, soft fur that is replaced by coarser fur in adults. My husband is forever sniffing the back of the puppy's neck.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:54 AM on June 3, 2006


I think human babies have a "baby smell" too. A different one, but still a sweet baby smell. I can't find any science on this but this article refers to some Swedish study secondhand:

http://www.citypaper.com/columns/story.asp?id=2139

It essentially says babies needed this smell historically so they would be seen as cute instead of as food. Some kind of pheremone maybe? And maybe puppies and all kinds of baby animals have this same thing for the same reason. Maybe the smell is perceptible across species. Doesn't stop us from eating veal though, does it. Mmm, veeeal.
posted by kookoobirdz at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2006


I'd agree with kookoobirdz - it's gotta be evolutionary. Keeps us from throwing 'em out on the street when they destroy things!
posted by radioamy at 9:48 AM on June 3, 2006


I don't know where that smell originates from...but it's like crack, I tell ya, crack!!! Must get to puppy store now...
posted by Juggermatt at 10:29 AM on June 3, 2006


I think what you're referring to (or at least what I think of when I think of puppy smell) is the way their paws smell.

But their paws smell like fritos.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:42 AM on June 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Catanzaro and other vets guess that puppy breath is a result of their healthy, mild diet of mother's milk and puppy food, and the enzymes that break these things down.

"And just as puppies don't eat big-dog stanky food, they don't have big-dog stanky mouth bacteria or the advanced plaque problems older dogs develop. So their mouths are clean."

Puppy smell, what causes it?

"Claims to the latter are likely from people who are hypersensitive to the smell of the mother dog's milk, which can be encrusted or spilled on or about the puppy's mouth and face. Alternatively, the scent could potentially arise from trace elements or vapors of the milk and digestive fluids emanating from the puppy's stomach up through its esophagus via the natural process of burping to relieve gaseous build-up."

Wikpedia.
posted by geoff. at 12:10 PM on June 3, 2006


Thanks geoff. for the links. I didn't even think of Wikipedia. They really do have an entry for every damn thing. It seems that there are a lot of good theories but no one definitive answer.

Worms.

Sorry to ruin your enjoyment.


I don't think it's worms since puppies without any sort of worm infestation have the same delicious smell but I appreciate the links.
posted by LeeJay at 1:06 PM on June 3, 2006


That's not to say that puppies with worms don't smell because they definitely do, but the puppy smell seems to be something all puppies have whether wormed or not.
posted by LeeJay at 1:07 PM on June 3, 2006


I don't think it's worms since puppies without any sort of worm infestation have the same delicious smell

From the linked article:
All puppies have worms and for this reason are repeatedly de-wormed until 6 months of age.

Is no one here a dog breeder? The worm thing is common knowledge in breeding circles. I was actually quite surprised that Wikipedia and many of the other links did not mention it. ( the one I linked to was, however, the second one that showed up on my search.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:12 PM on June 3, 2006


From the linked article:
All puppies have worms and for this reason are repeatedly de-wormed until 6 months of age.


Thanks for that. I must have missed it when I read the article. I did not know that. When my dog was a puppy her vet told me that she did not have any sort of worms. She seemed pleased but not overly shocked. Perhaps she just meant that she did not have the specific worms she tested for? So, who knew worms could smell so good?
posted by LeeJay at 3:55 PM on June 3, 2006


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