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15 Smells Dogs Hate | Keep These Odors Away From Your Pup

A dog’s sense of smell ranges between 10 000 to 100 000 times more precise than humans. There are several smells dogs love, like the smell of a grilled steak or a fellow furry companion. Dogs also love the comforting smell of their owners. There are many smells that dogs love, but what about smells dogs hate?

We share a home with them, but how can we ensure that our dogs are enjoying our homes as much as we are? Some smells we like can be off-putting to a dog’s nose, and some smells can even be toxic for our furry friends.

Some foods that dog owners like can be toxic to dogs, like coffee. Besides coffee, there are a few other foods that might surprise you that you should keep away from dogs. Scents used for better-smelling homes, like essential oils, can also be toxic to them. It can seem difficult knowing which foods and scents are toxic and which aren’t.

Sometimes dogs act funny because it might just be food allergies. Still, It’s better to prevent than to treat sickness. Here are some smells that dogs hate and a few scents that repel them.

dalmatian sniffing smells dogs hate

15 Smells Dogs Hate

With a sensitive nose, it’s easy to love your favorite scents. Unfortunately, it also means that the scents you hate are that much stronger. That is why dogs often dislike any strong scents. So. let’s jump straight into the odors that your pup may not be a fan of.

1. Citrus Scents

Most humans love the citrus smell (I certainly do). Studies show that smelling citrus can give you an instant mood boost. However, for dogs, it can do the exact opposite. It’s the number one smell that a dog hates because of its strong scent.

Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruit can cause irritation in their respiratory tract. So it’s best to avoid these scents in your home for your dog’s safety.

little brown dog with oranges and lemons

2. Vinegar

Some people enjoy a little bit of vinegar on the side of their fish and chips. But dogs turn up their nose at anything to do with vinegar. The strong, acidic smell of vinegar is too strong for a dog’s sensitive nose. Luckily, it isn’t toxic to dogs so it’s still safe to use around the house.

Apple cider vinegar, on the other hand, is actually beneficial to dogs. It is a great way to remove any odors they might have in their fur. Add it to their shampoo to reduce the fragrance and don’t use it near their heads.

3. Hot Peppers

Dogs hate the smell and taste of spicy peppers like chili peppers, jalapeno, and cayenne pepper. It’s not so much the pepper itself that’s the problem, it’s the chemical in the peppers that make it spicy. Capsaicin irritates a dog’s delicate nose. Many people use chili powder dog repellent as a cost-effective way to keep dogs away.

4. Ground Spices

Dogs hate the smell of fragrant spices like garlic, ground mustard, and paprika. These are good repellents to use in the garden because your canine will avoid them and therefore won’t damage any flowers or plants.

Sprinkle some near your flower bed to keep your dog from digging them up. The spices can also be mixed with water and sprayed wherever you want to keep your pet dog away.

dog with nose near sunflower

5. Mustard Oil

Dogs hate the smell of mustard oil, so it’s also a good repellent to use. The strong scent is so powerful to dogs that they won’t come near it. You can spray it in your garden or apply it to furniture you don’t want them biting. Mustard oil contains mustard seeds that are toxic to dogs. The chemical in the seeds, glucosinolate, is in a lot of pungent vegetables like broccoli, horseradish, and cabbage.

6. Coffee Grounds

A steaming cup of coffee first thing in the morning is what most people need to get them through the day. There are many evidence-based health benefits of coffee in people. Caffeine helps to keep you energized and contains essential nutrients. Just the smell of coffee can positively affect your mood.

Unfortunately, dogs don’t share the same optimism for the wonderful aroma. Coffee beans, pods, and grounds are another one of those strong smells that dogs hate. Don’t let your dog near your spilled coffee. If they lick it, it can lead to serious health consequences. You can sprinkle some coffee grounds in your garden to keep dogs away.

Toxic Smells & Household Smells Dogs Don’t Like

Some smells dogs don’t like because they’re toxic and they can sense to stay away. If a scent smells strong or like chemicals to you, there is a good chance that your dog won’t like it and will stay away. Many household items like cleaners and beauty products can cause serious harm to your dogs.

7. Mothballs

Mothballs have a very distinct smell and it’s one of the smells dogs don’t like. Once again, it’s the chemical in moth repellents that keeps dogs away. Naphthalene is in most ‘old fashion’ mothballs, but some mothballs still contain it today.

brown dog sniffs tulips

Mothballs are an insecticide that kills insects, moths, and their larvae. It is dangerous for humans to ingest, so it’s very dangerous for a dog.

Dogs are smart, so they’re repelled by the smell because they know mothballs are toxic and can be harmful to them. For safety, keep mothballs in a sealed container away from where children or dogs can reach them.

8. Ammonia

Ammonia has a very strong odor to people and can damage their eyes, nose, and throat. If it is that harmful to you imagine how harmful it must be to your dog. Dogs stay away from this smell because it is dangerous to them.

If consumed, it can cause serious health problems for their throat and stomach. While ammonia does repel dogs, it is not recommended to use it as a dog repellent. It is toxic to both humans and dogs.

9. Perfume

Dogs will often avoid their owners after they’ve freshly applied perfume or cologne. The scent overwhelms their senses and they will back away from you as a result. Perfumes and colognes have many chemical compounds that dogs and their noses hate. Perfume and cologne also mask your natural scent, which is what dogs use to identify you with.

shiny dog nose in focus

Oftentimes, pet groomers will apply dog perfume or cologne after a wash and cut. These perfumes are specifically formulated for dogs and don’t contain any harmful chemicals that your perfume might have. Dog perfume should not be a replacement for washing. There are many good dog shampoos out there that will keep them smelling nice too.

10. Rubbing Alcohol

Dogs despise the smell of alcohol but more specifically rubbing alcohol. The higher the alcohol percentage, the stronger the scent will be. Never spray it on your dog or clean any wounds they might have with it. It can cause vomiting and seizures. If they are injured, try to seek help from a licensed vet instead.

If you want to repel dogs, a better method is by soaking cotton balls in rubbing alcohol. Place the soaked cotton balls in areas you don’t want your dogs to go. Remember that alcohol is very flammable, so keep this in mind when placing them around the house.

11. Nail polish

Dogs hate the smell of nail polish and nail polish remover. The chemical compounds in nail polish and especially acetone are too strong for their noses. The smell can make them sneeze and itch excessively.

There is non-toxic and dog-safe nail polish on the market you can use on your dogs. They have been specifically formulated for dogs and for this purpose.

dog nose up close what does it mean when a dog's nose is dry

12. Cleaning products

Open windows and doors for fresh air when cleaning your house. Strong-smelling household cleaners and especially products that contain chlorine irritate dogs’ noses. Inhaling these strong chemicals can cause damage to their respiratory system. Some cleaning products also contain ammonia and citrus smells.

Keep any cleaning products away from any areas dogs move and also away from their food products. Do not use cleaning products as a repellent to keep dogs away. The strong chemicals are too dangerous for them.

Scents Dogs Hate: Essential Oils

Dogs love some essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and anise because they elevate their emotions and excite them. However, there are also some essential oil smells dogs hate and are toxic to them. Be careful of these oils:

13. Mint oil

Mint and mint oil are extremely toxic to dogs, so keep it away from them. Ingestion and exposure of it to their skin are equally as harmful. Avoid using mint or peppermint oil in your diffusers at home as well. The scent is too strong for them, so many people dilute it or mix a little of it in a carrier oil.

14. Citronella Oil

Citronella oil is a popular oil that most mosquito repellents contain. Take caution when using citronella oil near your dog as it is toxic to them. If your dog spends many hours out in the garden, keep them away from the citronella plant as well. Ingesting citronella can cause gastrointestinal issues which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

dog nose in sheets

15. Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree oil is a good anti-bacterial oil and antiseptic used on cuts and abrasions, but not for dogs. Even a little bit of pure tea tree oil can cause serious harm or death to dogs.

What Smells Do Dogs Hate? Frequently Asked Questions

Why do dogs dislike certain smells?

Dogs have an intricate olfactory system that helps them interpret the world around them through scents. Some smells, like ammonia or strong chemical odors, can be irritating or even harmful to a dog’s sensitive nose. Additionally, dogs may have natural aversions to certain smells due to their instincts and past experiences.

Can strong smells be harmful to dogs?

Yes, strong smells can be harmful to dogs. Some odors, such as chemical fumes, cleaning agents, or essential oils, can cause respiratory irritation or other health issues if inhaled in large quantities. It’s essential to keep harmful substances out of reach and ensure proper ventilation in areas where dogs spend time.

Can I use certain smells to train my dog or keep them away from specific areas?

Yes, in some cases, certain smells can be used as a training aid or to deter dogs from specific areas. For example, using citrus-scented sprays on furniture can discourage dogs from jumping on them. However, positive reinforcement training is often more effective and humane for training dogs.

How do I know if my dog dislikes a particular smell?

If a dog dislikes a specific smell, they may exhibit signs of discomfort or avoidance. This could include sneezing, coughing, pawing at the nose, backing away from the smell, or displaying anxious behaviors.

Final Thoughts on What Smells do Dogs Hate?

Dogs have extremely sensitive noses and can pick up scents that humans don’t even know about. Very intelligent dogs like border collies are used for their powerful sniffing capabilities. Their smell receptors are far greater than ours, so if they smell something they don’t like, they hate it.

Dogs will often pull away or leave the room if they smell a scent they don’t like. Strong and fragrant smells in food are off-putting to them. Smells like citrus, perfume, and coffee are great to people, but dogs despise them.

Chemical smells like rubbing alcohol and chlorine are best kept away from dogs. Not only do they not like them, but they stay away because they’re also toxic to them.

Of course, you’d want your dog to feel comfortable and safe in your home. It’s their home too. This is why it’s good to have an idea of which smells dogs hate and why. What smells good to you might not smell as great to your furry tenant.

black dog nose in focus

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Sunday 16th of January 2022

My wainmaraners love citrus. I can't eat a grapefruit without giving them their share.


Wednesday 19th of January 2022

Thanks for sharing Ricardo - I guess all dogs are unique!

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