It is the rudest of awakenings when your dog gallops into the house, reeking of that notoriously powerful skunk spray. That odor is a masterful adaptation, a sulphuric compound perfected by skunks as a defense mechanism which deters even the fiercest attackers.

February is prime skunk mating season, so to these black and white critters, love is in the air, but for humans and pets, the odor is not quite as enchanting.

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So what do you do to get rid of that horrid odor? Luckily, a great solution is readily available.

What to Do if You’re Pet Gets Sprayed by a Skunk

Simply mix a quart of hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of dish soap in a bowl, and then apply to the dog with a washrag. Rinse, bathe and rinse again … and your dog will be back to his sweet –smelling self! The only challenge is when dogs are sprayed directly in the mouth – that will mean bad breath for weeks – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

What if the skunk sprays under your deck and the odor permeates through your house? This is more likely to occur during skunk mating season (in February) when males seek out females who may not be in a romantic mood. The outcome is that the male gets spritzed and sent on his way.

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A good odor-neutralizing product is Odors Away, available at hardware and home building stores. Put a few drops in a bowl in any room that smells, and refresh with more drops every 24 hours. Continue doing this until the odor is gone, which shouldn’t be more than a few days.

How to Avoid Getting Sprayed by a Skunk

The funny part is that people worry a lot about getting sprayed by a skunk, but rarely, if ever, do. Skunks actually have quite good manners! They don’t just spray willy-nilly. When something scary approaches them, they give fair warning. They stomp their front feet and fan out their tail. People tend to heed this warning (by backing off), but dogs don’t. They heedlessly charge right in. That’s why dogs get sprayed all the time, but people don’t.

Look at it from the skunk’s perspective. Here’s an animal that has a keen sense of smell, but really terrible eyesight. When a dog comes running at them, it looks like a giant, scary fast-moving blob. No wonder they spray to protect themselves; it’s the only defense they have.

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So if you suddenly encounter a skunk while out walking, stand perfectly still. Skunks don’t see what’s not moving. Or slowly back off.  It’s the sudden close-up movements that set them off, so moving slow and talking soothingly will protect you.

How do you protect your dog from this unwelcome dousing? The best thing is not to let dogs free-roam, particularly at night. Most skunk-dog encounters occur at dusk or in the evening, when skunks are leaving their dens and going about their business. If dogs are kept in a fenced yard or on a leash from dusk ‘til dawn you’ll dramatically reduce this possibility.

Making Peace With Skunks

What good are skunks? I get asked this question often. Skunks are one of Earth’s most beneficial creatures. They eat everything people don’t like (grubs, garden pests, mice, baby rats) and provide a great clean-up service with their omnivorous ways. Surprisingly, skunks also have a very pleasant musk body odor (think lady’s perfume), which we hardly associate with skunks.

Overall, skunks are benign creatures who just want to go about their business in their own ambling, peaceful and near-sighted way. Conflicts with skunks usually result from their clumsiness and bad eyesight as they saunter through our suburban and urban landscape. For example, skunks commonly fall into window wells and can’t climb out. They also tend to get their torpedo-shaped heads stuck in certain yogurt cups and things like dumpster drain holes.

For help preventing and resolving these problems and many others, check out the Humane Society of the United State’s website.

Image source: Fieldsbh/Flickr