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What Smells Do Dogs Hate Most?

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It’s no secret that dogs have very different senses from humans. They hear better than us, while their sense of taste is significantly lower than ours. When it comes to smell, breed depending, a dog’s sense of smell is typically around 10,000 – 100,000 times better than a human’s. But, what smells do dogs hate most?

We’re going to look into every day, and the less familiar smells that dogs can contact with that can negatively impact them. We will also look at how to override them or avoid them entirely. There are, however, times when smells dogs hate can be utilized to your advantage, which we will cover too.

Humans rely on the highly-developed senses of service dog breeds to provide help in a variety of ways:

  • To lead the visually impaired
  • Assist people who are deaf
  • Alert diabetic people when they are at risk of low blood sugar
  • Raise the alarm for people who suffer from epileptic seizures 
  • Provide therapy for people with cognitive impairments or who are suffering psychologically
  • Sniff out and detect drugs, weapons, human DNA to help with forensic evidence
  • Detect ingredients in foods that their allergic owners could be affected with

We use the senses of our dogs to alert us of potential dangers and help us live happier and healthier lives. The very senses dogs use to help us often require some protection too. We’re going to explore what smells you should avoid preventing your dog from being upset, as well as the scents you could use to increase your dog’s happiness and emotional wellbeing. 

Let’s start by identifying the smells dogs hate. 

The 6 Smells Dogs Hate Most 

In many dog deterrent sprays, you will find a strong scent or flavor used to repel the dog from behaviors we don’t want, like chewing, biting, or toileting in the home. There is an excellent reason for the use of strong scents in these products – they make them effective. Dogs hate a fair few smells, which we will look into more deeply below. 

1. Citrus


The majority of dogs hate the smell of citrus fruits. Dogs will avoid eating lemons or limes, oranges, and grapefruit due to their evolution process recording bitter tastes as having a negative impact. So they’ll stay away from them as a survival mechanism. 

With nearly all household cleaning products having lemon or lime variants, the good news is that these scents aren’t harmful to dogs. You could even use them to deter a dog from chewing or entering a specific area of the house. Often the placing of fresh citrus peels is adequate, albeit temporary, repellants.

You could mix concentrated lemon juice with water and have a homemade repellent to help with potty training. The citrus scent will naturally neutralize foul odors without harming the environment – or the dog. However, you should always use citrus sprays with caution and do a patch test on fabrics or sensitive plants that could become discolored. 

2. Chili Pepper

Chili Pepper

The chemical that puts the spice into chili peppers is called Capsaicin, and this can be incredibly irritating to a dog’s sensitive nose. Due to this, dogs will avoid the smell of chili pepper. Although chili pepper isn’t toxic to dogs, they should avoid eating spicy peppers. 

Spice can be uncomfortable or even painful for a dog and can cause many gastrointestinal problems. If your pet dog accidentally eats a chili pepper, you could help to cool down his mouth with a bit of puppy milk or by offering him some tasty chew treats.  

Dog pepper sprays are available to purchase as effective, natural, and safe solutions to deter attacks from other dogs to you or your pet. These sprays are humane deterrents against aggressive situations as they won’t cause long-term pain or injury to the dog but stun him enough to stop and permit your escape. 

3. Vinegar


The acrid smell of vinegar is certainly a scent a dog will avoid. The smell isn’t appealing to humans, so it’s even more repulsive for an animal with a much greater sense of smell. 

However, many dogs hate the smell of vinegar. The use of apple cider vinegar is a natural and effective way of preventing your dog from smelling badly. Since dogs will detest this scent, it’s recommended to mix it with a great smelling dog shampoo.

If you do choose to use apple cider vinegar as part of your grooming routine, ensure that you avoid any contact with eyes or any areas of the skin with cuts or other injuries. It should also be kept well away from the dog’s mouth as its strong taste may induce vomiting, and cider vinegar is also harmful to tooth enamel.

4. Mothballs

Image: DoItYourself.com

Mothballs are solid pesticides that are extremely pungent, with a strong acrid scent. They’re used to repel and kill moths, as well as other insects who would infest stored fabric and clothing. They work by releasing a vapor which is effective as a deterrent but it can also be harmful to dogs, other animals, and children. 

Mothballs are now manufactured to be much safer than they previously were, they contain fewer toxins and chemicals and are less flammable. However, they still contain a high concentration of insect repellent, resulting in toxicity if a dog was to ingest them. 

The long-term exposure to the vapor from mothballs can be harmful to both pets and people. It is imperative to store safely and out of a dog’s reach in a lidded container, but products such as flakes and granules can attract a dog due to his curious nature – even though he really won’t like the smell! 

5. Ammonia

Like chili peppers and powders, the scent emitted from ammonia is highly irritating to a dog’s nose. The pungent smell and fumes from ammonia can irritate humans’ noses too, as well as causing stains and discoloration on a range of surfaces and fabrics within the home. 

If your dog accidentally ingested ammonia, he could become fatally ill so that we wouldn’t recommend it in undiluted or highly-concentrated formulas as a household cleaner for dog owners. 

Most dogs will hate the smell of ammonia, but some can be attracted to its strong scent. They should be kept away from it as it could lead to serious health issues for the dog to ingest it.

6. Rubbing Alcohol 

Rubbing Alcohol

Humans can either love or hate the strong scent of rubbing alcohol, but dogs aren’t so divided and hate the smell. Rubbing alcohol can be used to soak cotton wool balls in to be placed in areas you want the dog to avoid – as if it smells like rubbing alcohol, he will be very unlikely to want to be there anyway. 

Rubbing alcohol is an effective method for eradicating a flea infestation, as it will kill them on contact. However, it is toxic to animals and easily absorbed through the skin. If a dog was to ingest a large amount of rubbing alcohol, it could be fatal. 

It is not a good idea to spray rubbing alcohol in the home as it is highly flammable. If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to tackle a flea infestation, flea collars and flea shampoos are proven remedies. Alternatively, we have previously advised of the best home remedies to guide you through the more natural solutions. 

Smells That Dogs Love

Certain scents can have a positive impact on dogs, especially those with anxiety. A recent study of shelter dogs displaying undesirable behaviors due to anxiety found that exposure to certain odors reduces stress and subsequent behaviors. These scents included; 

  • Ginger – Ginger is an ingredient often found in digestive support treats
  • Coconut – Coconut shampoos and oils can be excellent too for dry skin and to enhance the coat’s natural shine. 
  • Valerian – Valerian root is regularly used in products designed to promote sleep and calmness in emotionally upset dogs.  
  • Vanilla – With an attractive scent and taste, vanilla can ignite interest in a dog toy for redirecting chewing issues. 
  • Lavender – Dogs are very responsive to lavender-scented products, and lavender is a top ingredient when it comes to anxiety-reducing items for dogs.   

When you start to understand what makes your dog tick, you’ll soon learn how to tweak things simply to result in a healthier and happier dog.

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