What Smells Do Dogs Hate?

Dog’s have millions of olfactory receptors in their noses. Olfactory receptors are tiny molecules that work to produce smells. We humans have an average of 400. Talk about a difference. 

When utilized, a canine’s sense of smell can sniff out a bomb, alert you to an intruder, detect a fire, and find their favorite treat, of course! 

what smells do dogs hate
What smells do dogs hate?

The most important thing to note about a dog’s nose is its sensitivity. Due to the sensitive nature of a dog’s nose, certain scents and smells can be extremely irritating for them and even cause harm. The question is, what smells do dogs hate?

In 2018 the American Veterinary Medical Association reported an average of 76,811,305 households owned one or more dogs in the United States alone. Now in 2022, we can assume that number has only increased year-over-year.

A simple explanation for the high number of dog ownership is that dogs are some of the most fascinating animals in the world. More than simple companions, dogs hold a myriad of offerings that we can explore and better understand, especially those involving their sense of smell.

9 Smells Dogs Hate 

Dogs dislike many scents and essences that range from herbs and alcohol to strong chemicals and cleaners. 

american english coonhound
The American English Coonhound – skinny and tall.

Foods, Beverages, and Condiments 

Dogs are known for following our plates around the kitchen and snapping up our leftovers. But, the truth is that certain foods and drinks are not only unpleasant to them but bad for them.


Citrus is a top irritant for most dogs. Although oranges can be treats, dogs generally don’t like or respond well to the citrus aroma.

A more scientific explanation can be linked back to a dog’s intense sense of smell combined with the equally strong scent of citrus. It’s even been noted that the smell of citrus, like lemon, can aggravate a dog’s respiratory system.

(Can you give your dog lemon water?)

Onions, Garlic, and Herbs

Along with its unpleasant smell, dogs hate onions. Onions quite literally aren’t good for them. Dogs lack certain behaviors that would allow them to safely digest foods like onions, garlic, and herbs such as chives and shallots.

labradoodle friends
Happy Oodle friends (Max the happy Mini Labradoodle in the middle)

Chili Pepper and Spices

Chilli peppers are a part of the herb family. So why do they get a listing? They specifically contain capsaicinoids which are the compounds that effectively make chili peppers hot. The intense smell and taste are too much for dogs to handle. It can lead to itching or burning sensations. 


Vinegar is similar to citrus for dogs. It has a bitter smell that increases by the dog’s heightened sense of smell. Dogs typically stay away from vinegar and any related products. 


Alcoholic products are a big no-no for dogs. Alcohol comes from grapes and raisins or yeast. Grapes, raisins, and yeast are all extremely dangerous for dogs on their own and are equally dangerous when used to make alcohol. Issues for dogs that ingest either grapes, raisins, or yeast can range from severe illness to death. 

Although grapes, raisins, and yeast may not carry a distinct smell, dogs use their noses to detect these life-threatening foods. They have an innate sense that allows them to remove themselves from potentially harmful substances. 

Chemical Products 

The vacuum cleaner isn’t the only cleaning product that repels our doggies. Certain scents and chemicals in many of our cleaners can burn and irritate a dog’s nose, in addition to the toxic and intense smells and fumes. 

Household Cleaners and Chlorine

Many American households reserve Saturday mornings for cleaning. We may think our dogs are thanking us for a clean and friendly environment, but on the inside, they’re cringing. 

Cleaning products often contain unpleasant smells to dogs like citrus. They also consist of chemical products like ammonia. Ammonia can be especially harmful to dogs and be a great sense of irritation, even causing burning in their noses or nose-blindness. 

f2b bernedoodle generation on the beach
The F2b Bernedoodle generation can have that distinct Bernese Mountain Dog color coat

Perfumes and Colognes

Typically, high-intensity aromas like citrus and other products create perfumes and colognes. These distinct scents automatically repel a dog’s nose. 

If we take it a step further, perfumes and colognes also work to mask our natural scents. Masking our natural scent irritates dogs. They use their noses and our scents to detect who we are. 

Even some peppermint and dog-friendly tea tree oils are great smelling for humans, dogs don’t always like them.

Nail polish and Nail Polish Remover 

Nail polish and nail polish remover are full of chemicals and toxins like acetone. These chemical scents can be very overpowering for dogs. 

Dogs sense the smell of these chemicals and the danger in them as well. Chemicals in nail polish and nail polish remover can be a minor nuisance for dogs and cause itching and burning in their nose. It can also be a major nuisance and cause serious issues within their respiratory systems. 


Mothballs contain chemicals and natural resources that combine to create pesticides that keep certain insects and animals away. Dogs can sniff out a mothball’s strong smell and sometimes the chemicals used to make them. 

Like some other items on our list, the ingredients in mothballs are extremely toxic for dogs and can result in mothball poisoning

Now that you have a little knowledge of what types of smells make your dog wince, you can better understand your dog and some of its reactions. 

Cockapoo at beach vs poodle
Both Poodles and Cockapoos are water loving dogs. They can be frightened of waves though

Using Your Dog’s Sense of Smell

Dogs are always going to pull our heartstrings, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little discipline or small boundaries. Owners can take advantage of their pet’s dislikes to create off-limits spaces that don’t rely on punishment or caging to keep them at bay with items like citrus. 

It’s also good to know which items are completely off-limits for our dogs, like onions and chili peppers. We’re often tempted to share our food with our best furry friends, but as we’ve discussed, some items are extremely harmful and should not be ingested if at all possible, like yeast and chill peppers. 

What smells do dogs hate? There are quite a few. And it’s important to remember our dogs aren’t just being stubborn. There are real reasons and justifications for our dog’s actions. 

All animals have self-preservation instincts. A dog’s sense of smell is perhaps its greatest instinct. It can sense the good and the bad, what’s harmful and what’s safe. 

Understanding why dogs hate certain smells will help us be better owners and implement the best practices for our dog’s protection. Our dogs have sensitive snouts, and we as owners have to take care of them as best we can.