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. 

Related:  How to Get a Dog to Like You

Dogs and Their Sense of Smell

Funny dogs sniffing each other

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.

Related:  10 Things That Dogs Absolutely Hate

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.

Related: Signs That Your Dog Might Not Like 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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