Whether you’re trying to keep your dog from peeing on the sofa again or you want to make your home as pleasant as possible for your spoiled pooch, it’s important to know which smells our dogs dislike. We can then avoid them or use them as deterrents.
These smells often also correlate to products and foods that are unsafe for dogs—which is even more vital for us to know so we don’t accidentally harm them.
Every dog will be different, so your pup might like the smell of some of the things on this list—and they might hate smells that most dogs love! Generally, though, you’ll find the below to be true of most dogs.
Let’s dive into the list and see which twelve smells dogs hate the most, which are safe to use as deterrents, and which should be kept far, far away from your pup.
Table of Contents:
Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruit generally have a pretty strong scent, and it smells much stronger to our dog’s powerful noses. They also hate the smell of citrus because it is toxic to them.
Citrus plants, citrus peels, and the white parts inside the fruit are all toxic to dogs. Citrus essential oils are also toxic and shouldn’t be diffused in the home if you have dogs.
Essential oils are extremely concentrated, so it’s much different to simply having citrus fruits in your home. When you burn essential oils, particles are distributed into the air. These particles can irritate your dog’s respiratory system, land on their skin and cause irritation, or even be absorbed and cause internal health problems.
Drinking the liquid can also lead to poisoning, but the most damaging thing about essential oils is that your dog can be harmed just by being around them as they burn in a diffuser. They can also digest them by licking particles that landed on their coat.
Citrus is sometimes recommended as a deterrent for dogs, but I don’t recommend using it this way in your home because it’s toxic. Your dog will also be able to smell it from far away, giving them a bad experience even when they aren’t misbehaving by going where they shouldn’t.
In the garden there is less risk—it will likely just cause dogs to avoid the area, but do watch to make sure they don’t consume it. Most dogs won’t, but you never know!
2. Chili Pepper
Hot peppers are also a turn-off for a dog’s nose. This is because of capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers taste hot.
It can irritate a dog’s nose and respiratory system enough to cause sneezing fits just by smelling it. No wonder they avoid getting anywhere close to a hot pepper!
This is another one I can’t recommend using as a deterrent, as it’ll make things miserable for your dog. However, it’s good to know how much these common foods can distress our pups.
This way, we can stay in another room when eating them and maybe let the pups outside next time we’re cooking anything containing hot peppers!
Vinegar is an excellent cleaning solution and for that reason, it’s in a lot of cleaners—particularly in homemade recipes. Some people won’t use vinegar to clean or infuse their cleaners with essential oils to mask the strong smell.
So, it’s likely not a surprise that our dogs with even stronger senses of smell don’t enjoy vinegar. It might be best to let them outdoors when you’re cleaning with it and air out the house after.
As a deterrent, it’s bound to bother your dog’s nose. It’s important to dilute it heavily with water before using it anywhere, and you should keep in mind that you and your family might also be bothered by the scent! This makes it better for outdoor use than indoors.
Alcohol is another one of those things that seems to be in everything!
It’s a great disinfectant, thus is used in many disinfecting sprays, hand sanitizer, and cleaners. Dogs also hate the smell of nail polish removers that are alcohol-based and, of course, plain rubbing alcohol that you might use around the house.
Dogs also dislike the smell of many alcoholic beverages, which is probably a good thing—no one needs their pup getting into the drinks when they’re not looking!
However, drinks and even cleaners with a low alcohol percentage might smell good to your dog, so it’s still important to supervise them around any beverage or product that can be harmful.
Because the alcohol content of most products evaporates quickly, I’m not sure this would work well as a long-term deterrent unless you used a small bowl or cup—which seems very easy for your dog or someone else, such as a child, to knock over and make a mess!
5. Nail Polish
Nail polish contains alcohol alongside other chemicals that can irritate your dog’s nose. If your dog sniffs a bottle of nail polish, they might even sneeze a few times and get an itchy nose.
Nail polish shouldn’t be used on a dog’s paws for this reason. It gives them no benefit and only serves to upset them, which isn’t worth the pretty toes.
I have allowed my dog to sniff my nail polish when he’s been curious, though—it gets him to take a step back and stops him from messing up my own manicure!
In my experience, dogs don’t seem to mind the smell much once the polish dries. Therefore, it’d make a pretty bad deterrent if you wanted to use it purposefully.
6. Moth Balls
Dogs hate the scent of moth balls—but, I never recommend using them.
Some people use moth balls in their closets or gardens to keep away pests. However, they’re toxic to more than moths. If your dog or a young child gets ahold of one, they could poison themselves.
When used outdoors, moth balls contaminate the soil, water, and air. Moth balls can also create side effects for your human family such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, and respiratory irritation, amongst others.
These side effects are mainly seen when using moth balls incorrectly, and they aren’t made for repelling dogs or keeping your dog out of certain places. They’re pesticides and their primary use is killing clothes moths in sealed containers.
7. Ground Spices
Ground spices tend to have a powerful aroma. We love smelling fresh food baking in the kitchen, but our dogs might not always feel the same.
Some spices your dog likely won’t enjoy the scent of include:
- Cayenne pepper
Some of these can be safe to use to deter your dog, such as cinnamon and cardamom. Just make sure they cannot breathe in the spice if they sniff the area you’re trying to keep them from, as inhaling spices is bad for anyone!
However, most of the spices above shouldn’t be used to deter dogs because they are toxic or otherwise harmful.
Dogs dislike many herbs including basil, mint, rosemary, lavender, and thyme. These are a great choice for gardeners!
Planting these in the garden will likely keep dogs away. Indoors, fresh basil, rosemary, and thyme can be used to repel your pup from certain areas.
Avoid using or growing lavender or mint indoors because these plants are toxic to dogs, and them eating it isn’t worth the risk!
Dogs hate onions for good reason—they’re toxic to them! They also have a pungent odor that’s sure to grab your pup’s attention.
Unfortunately, no part of an onion is safe for dogs to eat raw or cooked. For this reason we recommend keeping them far out of your dog’s reach, and not using them as a deterrent indoors.
In the garden, they might help keep dogs at bay, and pups are unlikely to dig them up to eat them. Just be careful and use supervision.
Dogs hate the smell of garlic for the same reason they hate onions. It’s very toxic to them and has a strong odor that warns them away from what many humans find to be the tastiest dishes!
However, it’s not guaranteed that your dog won’t eat garlic or onions—so it’s important to keep them out of reach and never feed your dog a bite of your food if it’s unsafe for them.
Dogs will be more likely to eat your food that contains onions or garlic because they love to eat what we’re eating, and because the other ingredients might help mask the smell.
Dogs hate the smell of many household cleaners because they don’t like strong, unnatural smells. Many cleaners contain chemicals that dogs find unpleasant such as chlorine, bleach, and alcohol.
To mask these chemical smells that most humans dislike, cleaners will often be scented with even more fragrant smells like citrus, which as we discussed above, just makes things worse for our furry friends.
Of course, sometimes cleaning with chemicals is unavoidable, even if you usually reach for more natural alternatives (which I highly recommend doing, especially with pets in the house!).
Try to only use these cleaners in rooms with plenty of ventilation so that the room can air out quickly. This will benefit your spoiled pup and also your human family.
While some of us love perfumes and other scented self-care items, don’t be surprised if your dog turns up their nose at them! Even humans can be sensitive to perfumes, and we have much weaker noses than our dogs.
Perfumes and colognes also smell of chemicals and make you smell different than you would naturally, which are two other reasons our dogs detest when we have something smelly on our skin.
Dogs also dislike when you place these smells on them. While you should never use human perfumes on your dog, there are dog-specific products on the market from dog perfumes to heavily-scented dog shampoos.
I personally won’t use these on my pets as it’s not worth upsetting them, even with dog-safe fragrances. If you choose to, make sure you aren’t using them often. Once during or after an occasional bath is plenty!