Skunk – one word that fills all dog owners with dread thinking about the smell, the nightmare, the panic. Obviously, the best way to avoid this predicament is preventing your dog from encountering a skunk. Easier said than done as there are dogs and skunks seemingly everywhere, and sometimes they do mix.

Skunks are most active at dawn and dusk during the warmer months. When threatened, they are capable of spraying an incredibly foul-smelling, oily substance over substantial distances. As a result, dogs that get sprayed tend to take the brunt of it in their face and front. While it is unlikely to cause permanent damage, time is of the essence. The longer the spray sits the worse it is for you and your dog, and the rancid smell of untreated skunk oil can last for months.

Most important is to be prepared. Here we outline a procedure that we have been using for years. It is based on science rather than old wives’ tales, works like a charm and costs next to nothing. Don’t waste your time or money on perfectly good tomato juice or commercially available products. Keep the following items at hand year-round but make sure they are relatively fresh. Going to the store after your dog has been sprayed is wasting valuable time:

1. A set of old rain gear and rubber boots, as well as rubber gloves (for you!).

2. One 16 fl oz bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a box (1 lbs) of baking soda, one tablespoon of Dawn (or similar) dish soap and a bowl. This will be sufficient for a medium size dog. Double the ingredients for a large dog or if you have two dogs.

3. An outdoor place with access to plenty of water (garden hose or buckets) and a tree or stake to tie your dog’s leash to.

Follow the steps below for a clean, fresh, stink-free dog:

1. Put on your protective gear and sequester your dog outside. Skunk oil transferred to rugs and other items in the house will last a long time. Having a helper will make things easier.

2. Mix up the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap in a bowl, using your gloved hands.

3. Wet down your dog briefly and immediately take small portions of the mix and rub it into the dog’s coat. Use more where the dog got sprayed (the front presumably) and less in other areas but work the mix into the entire coat if you can’t see where the dog got sprayed. Use a cloth around the face of your dog and be careful around eyes, nose and mouth. Use only half of the mixture you made, you will need the other half later.

4. Let the mixture have contact with your dog’s coat for about ten minutes (not longer!). Rinse the dog with plenty of water.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4, using the other half of the mixture you had set aside earlier.

Dry off your dog and marvel in the fact that you went from smelly horror to a fresh dog in 30 minutes. As an aside, basic science is the reason the mixture works as it causes a chemical reaction that transforms skunk oil into an odorless and water soluble substance that you can simply rinse off.