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What smell is poisonous to dogs?

What Smells Do Dogs Hate?

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell, and they love new and exciting scents. They have between 150 and 300 million olfactory cells, while we only have five million. Not only can dogs smell everything in the air and on surfaces, but they also know the source of those smells. This is why dogs are used to sniff out drugs, missing people, and more recently, diagnose diseases like cancer, tuberculosis, and diabetes.

Additionally, dogs have fantastic smell memory. So, just like we can remember a person by their face, your dog can recognize people by scent.

This is why dogs get excited to be outdoors, where there are so many interesting things to sniff. But not every smell is a good one as far as your dog is concerned. There are some scents that they may find unpleasant or even repulsive.

Dogs and Their Sense of Smell

Dogs and their powerful noses can smell a drop of liquid in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools! Once trained, they can also sniff out bombs, criminals, and dead bodies.

Their noses operate differently than ours. Our breathing and smelling happen simultaneously through the same airways inside our noses. But when dogs inhale, those two functions are separated by a fold of tissue.

When we exhale through the nose, our used air goes back out the way it came in. But when dogs exhale, their used air goes out through slits in the side of their nose. This process causes their exhaled air to swirl in a manner that brings new smells into their nose. So, unlike us, they can smell things on the inhale and the exhale.

The Smells Your Dog Hates

Unfortunately for your dog, their ability to smell so keenly is both a blessing and a curse! Here are some of the smells your dog hates.

Citrus Scents

Citrus scents top the list of smells your dog probably hates. The scent of lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits is strong and unpleasant for your dog. For this reason, you can use citrus scents as a dog repellant in off-limits parts of the house. Their noses are irritated by the strength of citrus.


While this non-toxic household substance is safe for use around your home, your dog won’t appreciate it. The strong, acidic smell of vinegar is one most dogs don’t like. This dislike includes apple cider vinegar.

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Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol (of varying concentrations) can be used as a disinfectant in your home. But this is a smell your dog will hate. You can use more potent concentrations of alcohol to keep your dog off your furniture or away from rooms you don’t want them to be in. You can put rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and spritz areas, or you may soak cotton balls and put them in strategic places. The smell will irritate your dog’s nose and cause them to leave the area.

Note: Never spray alcohol directly onto your dog – even if they’ve been injured. And remember that it is also flammable. So, use sound judgment when using alcohol around your dog.

Fresh Herbs

While most of us love the smell of fresh herbs like rosemary and mint, your dog can find those scents overpowering and repulsive. They don’t enjoy smelling fresh herbs, so you can use fresh herbs planted in your backyard garden to keep your dog from digging up your other plants. Or you can use the essential oils from these herbs in a spray bottle with water to keep your dog from certain places.

Of course, some dogs actually love mint.

Cleaning Products & Chlorine

The smell of most household cleaning products is also repulsive to many of us. Products with chlorine, bleach, ammonia or other citrus scents as ingredients will cause your dog to leave the room when you begin cleaning. The smells are intense and overwhelming to your dog. Please don’t use cleaning products to keep your dog out of areas of the house. Household cleaners have many ingredients that could be toxic to your dog just by smelling them. Your dog can sustain burns and irritation inside its nose or throat.


Mothballs are those small white balls you tuck in with clothing in a chest to keep the bugs away. They’re a pesticide and deodorant for the clothes – so no good for your dog or us. The distinct odor of mothballs will keep your dog away. But if you use mothballs to deter your dog from entering a room, ensure the balls are secure and can’t be accidentally ingested by your dog. This could be fatal to them.

Hot Peppers

This one requires little explanation. Hot peppers like poblano peppers, jalapenos, and chili peppers are a big no-no for your dog. That burning sensation that some people love about eating hot peppers isn’t something that translates well to your dog. They will hate it. It would be cruel to cause them to endure the respiratory issues that can arise from ingesting or even getting the spiciness of peppers in their noses.


female owner with her dog sitting on a couch

While we love perfume (well, some of us do), you aren’t scoring any points with your dog. They don’t like perfume or cologne, no matter how expensive it is! Although pleasant, many perfumes can be very strong smelling, and similar to the effect they have on some people, the smell can tickle their noses. This is because perfumes combine many other scents your dog doesn’t like – alcohol, essential oils, and other chemical compounds.

You might find that your dog doesn’t seem to like you as much when you’re wearing perfume or cologne. It masks your natural scent and can be an unpleasant experience for your dog, who uses your scent to identify you.

The Last Word

A dog’s sense of smell is essential to its survival and enjoyment of life. So, do all you can to protect it and them. If you use any scent to deter your dog from specific behaviors, be kind about it and only use as strong a scent as is necessary.

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Top 10 Smells Dogs Hate

A dog’s sense of smell is completely different from a humans’, so it is not surprising that we have different tastes when deciding which fragrances seem pleasant and which aromas we consider unbearable. For us, the smell of urine and feces are some of the smells that repel us most. For dogs, these smells provide them with information which is of great interest to them.

Many of the smells dogs hate are found in our homes, producing discomfort in our dog’s nose, thus presenting our dog with an unpleasant environment. If you want to know what smells repel dogs, keep reading this AnimalWised article for more.

You may also be interested in: 10 Smells that Cats Hate

  1. A dog’s sense of smell
  2. Smells dogs hate — citrus
  3. Smells dogs hate — vinegar
  4. Smells dogs hate — chili
  5. Smells dogs hate — alcohol
  6. Smells dogs hate — nail polish
  7. Smells dogs hate — chlorine and cleaning products
  8. Is naphthalene toxic for dogs?
  9. Do dogs like the smell of perfume?
  10. What smells do dogs hate?

A dog’s sense of smell

Smell is the most developed sense in a dog. Dogs have between 150 and 300 million olfactory cells, a number that, compared with the five million cells present in humans, is colossal. This is why they are able to identify almost every particle in the air or on objects. A dog’s great sense of smell also allows them to determine exactly where these smells are located. For this reason, dogs are used to search for missing people, detect narcotic substances or even diagnose diseases such as cancer.

In addition, dogs are animals with a great smell memory. This means that, just as we are able to recognize a person through images, dogs are able to recognize us through smell. Therefore, it is essential to let an unknown dog smell you before you stroke them. This is also why you shouldn’t bother two dogs that are smelling each other.

Having such a sensitive sense of smell, it’s no wonder dogs are excited every time they go out on the street. An open environment such as this exposes a dog to a whole world of new smells to perceive and discover. Likewise, we should not be surprised if they show disgust to certain aromas that, for us as humans, may seem pleasant. Because of a dog’s strong sense of smell, what we may believe is not a strong odour, could be incredibly repellent to a dog. To find out what smells repel dogs, take a look at the complete list below.

Top 10 Smells Dogs Hate - A dog's sense of smell

Smells dogs hate — citrus

Humans tend to love the smell of citrus. Not only is it a lovely natural reminder of summer, but it is an aroma which can last for a long time. Therefore, we as humans often tend to buy products that contain citrus for a lasting fresh environment. However, our furry companions do not agree and this is one of the smells that dogs hate most.

Remember dogs have a sense of smell 40 times more developed than humans. Therefore, if the smell of citrus is already intense for a human, imagine how strong the smell of citrus is for a dog. It is such a strong aroma it can cause irritation in the animal’s respiratory tract, producing both an annoying and unbearable sensation.

Citrus fruits, such as lemon, orange or grapefruit, give off smells that dogs can’t stand. But, the scents that dogs hate the most are those provided by essential oils made with this type of fruit. Oils are concentrated products that emit a much more intense odor than the fruit itself. Therefore, animals perceive an even stronger odor than they would with the actual food itself.

If you intend to use a citrus scent to prevent your dog from urinating in a certain area of the home (such as the carpet), we recommend that you use natural fruits and avoid placing any oils within their reach. The purpose of this technique is to prevent the animal from approaching that specific area, not to offer an unpleasant coexistence.

While there are smells you can use to keep dogs away, it is important they are not harmful. This article on toxic fruit ad vegetables for dogs may be helpful.

Top 10 Smells Dogs Hate - Smells dogs hate - citrus

Smells dogs hate — vinegar

Vinegar is another ingredient used as a home remedy to prevent a dog from urinating inside. Dogs hate the smell of vinegar. As with citrus fruits, the aroma of vinegar is so strong that it is somewhat unbearable for dogs. However, apple cider vinegar is actually beneficial for dogs. Therefore, depriving them 100% of it is also not advisable. We must learn how to use vinegar properly and know how often to apply it, so that our animal always remains as comfortable as possible.

Apple cider vinegar is highly effective in preventing your dog from smelling bad. However, since this is one of the scents dogs hate, we suggest mixing it with their usual shampoo to reduce its fragrance. Do not apply this solution to their head area and make sure to rinse them well after applying it.

Smells dogs hate — chili

Chili, or chili pepper is a food that owes its hot taste to a series of natural chemical compounds called capsaicinoids. In humans capsaicinoids are used from everything to flavoring chili and even help reduce obesity [1] . Dogs, however, are incredibly repelled by the natural smell of chili. So much so, that smelling this food directly can cause respiratory irritation, itching in the nose and constant sneezing in a dog. It is therefore essential to know which human foods are banned for dogs to prevent them from consuming them.

Smells dogs hate — alcohol

Antiseptic alcohol is a smell dogs don’t like. We completely discourage applying alcohol to a dog’s skin. In case of injury, the best thing to do is to clean the wound with water and go to the vet so that he/she is the one to disinfect it. If you are in a situation in which you cannot go to a specialist, we recommend consulting the following article in which we discuss how to make natural disinfectant for dogs and apply it by following the instructions.

A dog’s reaction to this will depend mostly on the alcohol content of the disinfectant. In addition to this, dogs hate antibacterial gel agents and some alcoholic beverages. This is not the case for all of them. A dog may try to drink a beer or a cocktail which it otherwise thinks is tasty. Remember, even if we cannot necessarily smell much, they can smell everything.

Top 10 Smells Dogs Hate - Smells dogs hate - alcohol

Smells dogs hate — nail polish

The smell of nail polish can be pleasant for many people, but dogs detest this smell too. Nail polish is made up of a high number of chemical compounds, so it is not natural. They include formaldehyde, nitrocellulose, isopropyl alcohol and acetate. Dogs hate the smell of these fragrances. If a dog comes into contact with nail polish it can also cause them to sneeze and itch excessively.

On the other hand, nail polish removers also form part of the list of smells that dogs hate. This is due to their chemical compounds, the scent of acetone being perhaps the most annoying smell of all for dogs. We recommend opting for acetone-free nail polish remover and/or keeping all of these cosmetic products away from dogs.

Smells dogs hate — chlorine and cleaning products

Although for us they produce a fresh and clean ambiance, dogs hate the smell of cleaning products. Not only do dogs not like this smell, but these products are also highly harmful and dangerous for dogs. Inhaling these chemicals directly can cause irritation of a dog’s respiratory tract and esophagus. In addition, ammonia produces an aroma very similar to that released by a dog’s urine. A dog will then associate this ‘urine’ smell to the presence of another animal at home and it can cause stress in dogs.

Although the above mentioned products are considered the most annoying products for dogs, they generally hate the smell of all cleaning products. Many cleaning products are given scents such as citrus which the dog would hate anyway. If you need to clean the house, we recommend trying to clean the house while another family member takes the dog for a walk. This will avoid placing your dog in an unpleasant environment. Enzymatic cleaners are the best to use if you have a dog in the house. Many don’t even use scents, so they are unlikely to repel your pet.

Top 10 Smells Dogs Hate - Smells dogs hate - chlorine and cleaning products

Is naphthalene toxic for dogs?

Yes, naphthalene is toxic for dogs. Naphthalene is generally used as a pesticide, due to its high level of toxicity. No only do dogs hate the smell of this chemical, but if ingested it can kill your dog. The ingestion of a single naphthalene ball can cause serious damage to a dog’s liver and central nervous system. The result is vomiting, diarrhea and convulsions. You will need to take them to the vet to counteract this action, otherwise it could be fatal.

Do dogs like the smell of perfume?

No, dogs hate the smell of perfume. Have you ever noticed that, after perfuming yourself and trying to hug your dog, he or she rejects you? This is because perfumes are products made with a great amount of chemical compounds and scents that dogs hate.

In addition to the unpleasant smell, dogs also hate the smell of perfume because it camouflages the smell their owner’s natural body odor, a smell that comforts them. Remember that dogs recognize us by our smell, if we hide it under another one, it is not surprising that they will naturally detest that unpleasant fragrance that prevents them from identifying us.

What about dog perfume? yes, dogs also don’t like this smell. However, as long as they are of: good quality, are not harmful and are specifically manufactured for dogs, you can apply them in moderation.This means that we do not recommended putting perfume on your animal every day, but once in a while; as a canine hairdresser would.

Top 10 Smells Dogs Hate - Do dogs like the smell of perfume?

What smells do dogs hate?

As with humans, every animals has a taste of their own and therefore may not find all of the smells mentioned to be unpleasant. This is not an exact science and you might find that one dog likes the smell of something while another dog hates the same smell. But in conclusion, we can gather that anything that causes a citrus-y or chemical-type smell, should be avoided!

If you found this article helpful, we think you may enjoy our YouTube video below. In it we talk about the 10 things dogs hate about humans, keep watching for more.

If you want to read similar articles to Top 10 Smells Dogs Hate, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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