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11 Smells That Dogs Hate: Dog-Repelling Scents and Odors

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By Nicole Cosgrove

pug covering nose

Dogs are well known for their hypersensitive noses. Originally bred as hunters, trackers, and guard dogs, man’s best friend possesses an olfactory sense that’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute as our human noses.1 So what smells do dogs hate?

Owing to this acute sense of smell, almost any odor that humans find somewhat pungent or offensive can smell downright awful to our four-legged friends. Join us today as we explore 11 common household items that dogs absolutely hate the smell of, so that you can either avoid them—or use them to dog-proof your garden. Here are the 11 smells dogs hate:

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Top 11 Smells Dogs Hate:

1. Chili Peppers

chili peppers
Image credit: Pixabay

Any variety of hot pepper—think jalapeños, Thai chilis, habaneros, or chipotle peppers—is sure to bother your dog’s nose.

Capsaicin, the chemical compound in chilis that makes the taste hot on our tongues, is so pungent to dogs that they will often avoid kitchens where chilis are being cooked. Be careful using chili peppers or powders as a deterrent for your dog, as they can cause violent sneezing reactions even in very small amounts.

2. Ground Spices

Image credit: Pixabay

Every pungent ground spice has the potential to overwhelm a dog’s sense of smell. Common household spices that dogs hate the smell of include cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cardamom, mustard, and cayenne pepper.

3. Citrus Fruits

citrus fruits
Image credit: Pixabay

Widely used as a pleasant scent additive for home products, citrus fruits owe their bright and vibrant aroma to high oil content in the skins and pith of the fruit. Whereas humans find the smell of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits to be welcoming and enjoyable, dogs’ noses will be very irritated by its intensity.

4. Vinegar

vinegar cleaner hand with glove
Image credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Touted as an eco-friendly alternative to harsher household chemicals, vinegar has a somewhat off-putting smell even to humans. Both this smell and vinegar’s cleaning power come from acetic acid, a safe and non-toxic chemical that’s a natural byproduct of fermentation.

Mixing one-part white vinegar with three parts water in a spray bottle is a safe and effective way to keep dogs off of outdoor furniture or parts of your lawn.

5. Fresh Herbs

Image by Konstantin Kolosov from Pixabay

Basil, mint, rosemary, and thyme all have a very pungent aroma when grown fresh and picked fresh, making them an excellent addition to gardens that you’d like to keep dogs out of. The abundant presence of volatile aromatic oils in these herbs is what gives them their dog-deterring power.

6. Alcohol

beer in a mug
Image credit: Pixabay

From standard rubbing alcohol to vodka to grain-neutral spirits, dogs find the smell of alcohol very pungent and unpleasant. Because it can easily act as a skin and respiratory irritant, never use any alcohol as a spray to keep dogs away from things.

7. Household Cleaners

spraying disinfectant
Image credit: Pixabay

Chlorine and ammonia are the two most common ingredients in household cleaners that dogs absolutely hate. If you’ve ever used a household cleaner in a small, confined space, you likely already know how unpleasant the fumes can be. Always keep dogs away from surfaces that you’re cleaning with harsh chemicals.

8. Strong Perfumes or Colognes

Image credit: Pixabay

Going a little too heavy on your morning beauty routine can make dogs steer clear of you, thanks to the combination of denatured alcohol and pungent aromatics in perfume and cologne. For extremely sensitive dogs, even deodorant can trigger this response.

9. Mothballs

mothballs naphthalene balls on wooden scoop
Image credit: Faizal Ramli, Shutterstock

Used to keep moths from eating away at clothes that are in storage, the distinctive smell of mothballs is an indicator of their potency. The small white balls are extremely dangerous for dogs and humans, and should never be consumed by either.

10. Nail Polish and Nail Polish Remover

nail polish
Image credit: Pixabay

The heady smell of acetone in nail polish remover and the strong chemical adhesives in nail polish both bother dogs’ noses to an extreme. Always apply them in a very well-ventilated area of your home.

11. Onions and Garlic

garlics and onions
Image credit: Pixabay

Any plant in the allium genus will possess a naturally pungent odor that humans love to cook with. Whereas we might enjoy the smell of onions and garlic sautéing away on the stove, dogs’ sensitive noses will be repelled by the scent of raw or cooked alliums.

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Final Thoughts

Did you know just how sensitive your dog’s nose actually can be? It’s both a blessing and a curse for our furry friends, allowing them to see the world through their sense of smell but also predispose them to be offended by common household items.

Featured Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

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