What Smells Do Dogs Hate and Why

Dogs process smells differently than humans do. A smell that a human finds enjoyable may not please a dog. In fact, a smell that a dog hates may be harmful to their sensory system. That’s why it is important to know what smells your dog hates and why. 

What smells do dogs hate? With their heightened sense of smell, dogs find these smells too strong and overpowering.

  1. Medical rubbing alcohol
  2. Citrus fruits  
  3. Cleaning supplies with ammonia 
  4. Spicy peppers
  5. Vinegar 
  6. Citronella candles  
  7. Mothballs
  8. Many essential oils. 

Knowing that your dog dislikes certain strong smells is important. However, it is also crucial to know which of these smells are toxic. Many of these smells can cause serious health issues for your dog. 

What Smells Do Dogs Hate

There are certain smells that dogs hate.

Not all dogs are the same, however. While most dogs hate these smells, others actually are not repelled by these smells. 

Medical rubbing alcohol

Much like humans, rubbing alcohol can cause your dog’s nose to burn

Since your dog has a nose that is much more sensitive, the burning feeling will be intensified for him. 

So while the unmistakable scent of rubbing alcohol is not toxic to your dog, it will cause him discomfort

If your dog chews on furniture, placing a little bit of rubbing alcohol on the furniture legs can help. 

If you don’t mind the smell, rubbing alcohol is a good way to deter your dog from spaces he isn’t welcomed in. 

Citrus fruits

This fresh and clean smell is surprisingly despised by dogs. 

This means that citrus fruits are highly effective when it comes to keeping your dog out of trouble. Like rubbing alcohol, the smell of citrus burns the sensitive nostrils that dogs have. 

The strong smell, along with the fact that citrus fruits are all-natural, is what makes them a desired repellent

All you have to do is simply place the citrus fruit peels in your garden or yard to keep your dog from digging, pooping, or peeing where they shouldn’t. 

what smells do dogs hate to poop on

Cleaning supplies with ammonia

Ammonia is a prime example of a smell that dogs hate and is also toxic

Ammonia is one of many smells that are harmful to your dog to inhale. 

It is not safe for humans to be around ammonia either without proper precautions. 

Your nose sensitive dog will also experience the dangerous effects of ammonia but their reaction will be faster and more intense

You should not use pure ammonia or ammonia-based cleaning supplies to deter your dog from an area. 

While your dog will avoid the area, the smell will linger through the entire house and can cause illness in your pet. 

According to Vetco Veterinary Services, exposure to ammonia can cause serious damage to your dog’s nose, stomach and throat

Spicy peppers

Like citrus and rubbing alcohol, spicy peppers cause intense burning in your dog’s nostrils. 

Peppers are cheap and commonly found. This means that peppers can easily be used to naturally keep your dog away

If your dog likes to jump near the table at mealtime, peppers can be a great solution. 

Cutting open a few peppers and placing them around your table or counter will keep your dog from stealing food off your plates. Spicy peppers will result in irritation if he digests them. 

Spicy peppers include chilli, jalapeno and cayenne peppers in every form: natural, oil or powdered.

Dogs can eat sweet peppers but not spicy peppers. We explain this further in this article on our blog. 


Vinegar is a safe way to prevent your dog from chewing where he isn’t welcomed. 

This common household ingredient can simply be made into a “dog-away” spray. You can add water to slightly dilute the vinegar, then pour the mixture into a spray bottle. By adding a small amount of water, you are weakening the smell to your nose, but not your dog’s. This can be sprayed on furniture legs, door frames, doormats, or anywhere else your dog isn’t welcomed

Citronella candles and oils

Citronella candles are used to keep bugs away from you, but they will have the same effect on your dog. 

The reason your dog hates the smell of citronella is that the smell is so close to citrus. Wag explains that lemongrass is the primary ingredient in citronella candles. 

If you have ever smelled lemongrass, then you know it has a distinct citrus smell. This is why your bug repellent candle will also keep your dog at a distance. This is a non-toxic resource for distancing your dog. 

If your dog likes to jump on the furniture, then burning a citronella candle in that room will prevent your dog from lounging where he isn’t welcomed.

Our pick for a long burning citronella candle for your inside or outside your home is this one, available on Amazon.


Mothballs are a common household repellent to keep bugs and animals away. 

Your dog is among the many animals that hate the smell of them. If the smell doesn’t bother your household then mothballs are a great solution for keeping your dog from peeing on fabrics.

Placing a mothball near your laundry and linens will keep your pup from using the bathroom on them. The strong scent will keep dogs out of the entire room. 

Mothballs are a good resource to keep your dog out of restricted areas, but you have to be careful when using them. If a mothball is ingested, it can be fatal to your pet and kids. 

What Are The Essential Oils That Dogs Hate?

Essential oils represent scents that are bad for dogs.

There are a vast number of essential oils that are actually toxic if your dog continually inhales them or has them applied to their skin. According to the American Kennel Club, these toxic essential oils are:

  • Oil of Cinnamon 
  • Oil of Pennyroyal
  • Oil of Citrus
  • Oil of Peppermint 
  • Oil of Sweetbirch 
  • Oil of Tea Tree
  • Oil of Wintergreen 
  • Oil of Ylang Ylang
  • Oil of Lemongrass.

Extensive home use of these oils can cause more than nasal issues in your dog. He can begin to experience negative respiratory and nervous system effects

What Smells Do Dogs Hate To Pee On?

These are the smells dogs hate to pee on:

  • Citrus fruit peels
  • Vinegar
  • Mothballs
  • Citronella oil.
what smells do dogs hate to pee on?
Boxwood decline that is caused by dogs urinating against it

Place the fruit peels of citrus fruits on your lawn or garden beds to deter your dog from marking. 

A diluted solution of vinegar mixed with water or a diluted solution of citronella oil mixed with water will have the same effect

If you pour vinegar directly on your garden, it will kill your vegetation. The vinegar needs to be diluted in a spray bottle and used sparingly.

With citronella being an oil means it will coat your plants and lawns for longer when exposed to the elements. This means less applications. Remember the oil needs to be diluted with water and sprayed on your plants using a spray bottle. Don’t over apply and leave puddles of the solution lying around the yard. The last thing you want is your dog to ingest the diluted citronella solution.

Say if your dog is not the problem. If your problem is “How to stop neighbors’ dogs from peeing in my yard?”, use the same recommendations we’ve made.

Can you use cayenne pepper stop dog peeing in your yard? You can sprinkle chilli or cayenne pepper powder on the area you don’t want your dog to pee on. This powder will irritate the nose and skin on your dogs. Personally, I would not use powdered pepper as a repellent as I think it’s cruel.

What Smells Do Dogs Hate To Poop On?

These are the smells dogs hate to poop on:

Once again, dogs will find these smells overpowering enough to keep away so they make great deterrents to pooping on your yard.

The same guidelines apply when using vinegar and citronella oil as a repellent for poop as well as pee: dilute the solution with water and place in a spray bottle.

Smells Dog Hate To Stop Digging

Are you sick of holes in your yard? Take back control by adding these smells to your lawn to prevent digging by your dog:

If you have a dog that loves to dig, consider investing in toys specific for dogs who like to dig. Instead of focussing on your lawn, these toys enable your dog to focus on something else.

Why Your Dog Hates These Smells

A dog uses smell memory rather than sight memory to remember where they like to go. If there are strong smells in certain parts of your house, then your dog will avoid them, so their nose does not become irritated

This will cause an issue if you have strong smells in rooms that you want your dog to stay in

Why Dogs Are More Sensitive to Smells Than Humans 

While there is no official measurement, scientists believe that dogs have noses 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than a human. 

Because of this, smells that seem strong to a human are insanely strong to a dog simply because of the number of olfactory receptor cells receiving the signals. 

Humans Dogs
Use sight memory Use smell memory 
Around 5 million olfactory (or sense of smell) cells300 million olfactory receptor cells 
Can only fully smell when both nostrils work together Can smell independently with each nostril According to the Rover website  
Smell and breathing is done with the same function, according to the Phoenix Vet Center Breathing and scent tracking is separated by the nose with every breath
martingale collars for italian greyhounds

Check out the fascinating facts we uncovered about how long a dog can pick up a scent for and the dog breeds that do this best here.

If you would like to know how dogs use their sense of smell and hearing to detect storms, read this article.

Related Questions

What can I spray on carpet to stop the dog from peeing inside my home?

If your burning question is “How to stop a dog from urinating in a certain spot inside?”, we’ve got you covered.

Vinegar is the simplest homemade dog urine repellent. Dilute equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Then spritz the area where your dog has urinated on your carpet. Dogs don’t like the acetic acid smell of vinegar so they won’t visit that spot again. 

Another option is a vinegar solution with a citrus touch:

If you are looking for something to eliminate dog pee odors and deeply clean those affected areas in your home, opt for an enzyme-activated solution called Rocco and Roxie Professional Strength Stain and Odor Eliminator. It’s safe to use around both pets and children.

Do dogs like the smell of lavender?

When used around your dog, always dilute the lavender oil otherwise the smell is just too overpowering for your dog’s sensitive sense of smell.

Lavender oil is a popular scent amongst humans to reduce stress, address insomnia, and remedy migraines.

What are the smells that dogs love?

  • Rotting smells
  • Foul smells
  • Dog owner smells
  • Food smells
  • Some essential oils.

Dogs love the smell of rot. Whether that’s a rotting carcass of a dead animal, rotting garbage, or a pile of rotting leaves, it doesn’t matter: dogs love the smell.

Now onto foul smells. Have you ever had your dog roll in cow or horse manure (or any animal manure)? Dogs are attracted to roll in animal poo. They love the smell! It seems this behavior comes from instincts to disguise their own smell so in the wild they would not be detected. It was a self-preservation technique.

Dogs love items with familiar smells: their favorite toy and items belonging to their owners like underwear, socks, and so on. One of my poodle cross dogs named Latte would always find and chew on our socks. It was cute but annoying! Dogs prefer the familiar smells of their pack: it’s reassuring.

A study of dogs in a shelter concluded that exposure to the odors of coconut, ginger, valerian, and vanilla has the potential to reduce stress in dogs. You can read more about that study here.


There are many smells that dogs hate. 

If you are finding that your dog is straying where he shouldn’t be, then try filling that room or your yard with one of those smells that repel dogs that we’ve covered in this article. 

What natural smells do dogs hate? Essential oils and citronella.

What food smells do dogs hate? Citrus and spicy peppers.

Using specific scents can be an easy way to naturally train your dog. This is why it is important to understand what smells your dog hates.

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Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs to poodles, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Her dogs enjoy playing fetch, swimming, and long walks. Michelle and her dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp, and swim.

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