What smells do dogs hate; 9 nasty niffs

What smells do dogs hateMost of us at one time or another have seen our dogs make a quick exit from a room or taken a wide birth around an object. Most often, it’s because of a smell in the environment that our dogs find unpleasant. So what smells do dogs hate? We’ve uncovered the top nine scents that dogs hate.

How our dogs smell

Our dogs spend a tremendous amount of time sniffing, and it’s not surprising considering it’s how they make sense of their environments. So, while it might be inconvenient to us at times, our dog’s desire to sample every tree and street corner is entirely normal.

While we see the world through our eyes, our dogs ‘see’ it through their nose. Our dog’s sense of smell is vastly more sensitive than our own. Plus, the area of a dog’s brain dedicated to the analysis of scent is forty times larger than ours.

Not only that, but a dog’s nose is designed to allow them to separate the air they breathe in into two distinct channels. One stream of air travels to the lungs, and the other diverts to a specialized olfactory recess for processing. This means that our dogs can breathe normally while retaining the odor and continuously sniff.

As our dogs process a smell, they separate it into individual components. So, where we might smell cut grass, our dog smelled the grass, the mower, mower oil, the person who did the mowing, the earth that the mower disturbed, and on and on.

Natural Deterrents

As our dog’s sense of smell is so sensitive, it’s unsurprising that they will find some fragrances disagreeable. While dogs are individuals and vary in their likes and dislike, most dogs share the same aversion to overpowering smells.

Some of these scents are natural, like the smell of citrus, or chili peppers for example, while others are chemical-based, like nail polish mothballs.

One of the advantages of knowing what smells dogs hate is that you can use it as a deterrent. While you need to be cautious with deterrents as you don’t want to harm your dog or cause them unnecessary discomfort. It can be useful if you want to discourage your dog from digging or urinating in the garden or from chewing furniture, for example.


The fresh and pungent smell of citrus fruits is something that most of us enjoy, but, our dogs don’t like it at all.

Many dogs find the tangy smell of oranges lemons limes and grapefruit offensive. In fact, the essential oils within citrus fruits are often found in concentrated form in cleaning products, which most dogs hate.

However, citrus peel or citrus juice mixed with water is a useful way to stop a dog from chewing inappropriate items like chair legs as it’s one of the many smells that repel dogs. Just rub the skin on the wood, and it will keep your dog away.


Vinegar is another strong smell that is unpleasant for our dogs. In fact, the smell of vinegar is not very nice for us either if we inhale it deeply. Not only can it cause your nose to sting, but it’s so strong that it’s not uncommon for it to create a coughing fit either.

Now imagine that your nose is forty times more sensitive than it already is, and you’ll get an idea of what our dog’s experience when we open a bottle of vinegar. Whether it’s apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or another of the dozen or so kinds of vinegar available it’s smell dogs would rather stay clear of.

Rubbing alcohol

Most dogs hate the strong smell of rubbing alcohol, and for a good reason. It’s toxic and can affect the respiratory tract affecting breathing and cause skin irritation.

Despite these health concerns, rubbing alcohol or Isopropyl Alcohol is finding its way into more and more pet products. If you currently use doggy wipes for dirty paws or antiseptic purposes, check the ingredients, and it’s likely, they will contain rubbing alcohol as it enables the product to dry quickly. But don’t be surprised if your dog doesn’t like the experience as they hate the smell..


Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying the power of chili. And for our dogs, this pungent spice is too much for their sensitive noses. Chilli can cause nasal, eye, skin, and throat irritation, so keep it well away from your dog.

However, if you want to keep your dog away from an area of your yard, you’ll find that chili pepper is in many commercial organic dog repellent, but use it with caution as it could cause irritation.


You may love your morning spritz of perfume, but it’s one of the smells that dogs hate. Just like other strong smells, perfume is too intense for our dog’s sensitive nose. Not only is perfume a strong scent, but it often contains other smells our dogs find unpleasant, like alcohol, for instance.

What’s even worse for our dogs is that they frequently get to wear our perfume, too, as we they are often near to us when we spray it and also transfer it to them as we stroke and hug them.

Moth Balls

It’s not only moths that hate the smell of mothballs. Dogs find the distinctive pungent, sickly-sweet scent unpleasant.

Mothballs are toxic and exceptionally dangerous to your dog. Even one ingested mothball can be fatal, so always keep dogs well away.

Nail polish and remover

If you get your nails done in a salon, you’ll already know that many nail technicians wear masks to protect themselves from inhaling the chemical fumes of nail polish.

Your dog’s nose can detect a tablespoon of sugar in water that would fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools. So, it’s no wonder that the astringent smell of nail varnish and remover repel dogs.


The smell of ammonia is not very nice for us and exceptionally unpleasant for our dog’s sensitive sense of smell. Although trace amounts of ammonia are commonly found in nature, in concentrated form, it’s hazardous. Ammonia is caustic, burning eyes, nose, and skin so it’s no wonder that it’s one of the smells that dogs hate.

However, ammonia also has many benefits. It’s antibacterial and is often an ingredient in antiseptic medications. In fact, it’s used widely in industry and common in household cleaning products as well as pet products.


Menthol is a great help when you have a blocked nose. Not only does it clear your nasal passages, but it can help relieve a tight chest and get rid of a headache.

Now imagine that your nose is infinitely more sensitive, isn’t blocked, and you don’t have any way of avoiding the smell as your housemate is wearing it for days on end. Don’t be offended if your dog gives you a wide birth if you’re using a product that contains menthol. The scent is too strong for a dog’s nose, it can irritate their lungs and most dogs hate the smell.

What smells do dogs hate conclusion?

Like us, our dogs are individuals, and as such, the smells dogs hate varies too. Although most of the above smells repel dogs and can be used as a deterrent to stop your dog from inappropriate chewing or digging, we prefer not to use them. There are other more positive ways to deter your dog from performing unwanted behaviors without assaulting their sense of smell.

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