What Smells Do Dogs Love? (15 Favorites)

While we humans may be confused at our canine friends’ need to smell everything, it is important to know that to them, the sense of smell is vital for many aspects of life. Smells allow a dog to see more than what their eyes allow. 

Compared to your sense of smell, your dog’s sense is likely 10-1000,000 times more powerful. As a result, your dog can distinguish significantly more information than the average human. Dogs also have a vomeronasal organ, allowing them to detect hormones and pheromones. 

what smells do dogs love
What smells do dogs love? (15 Favorites)

While there are certain smells that your dog hates, there are plenty of scents that your dog loves

Scents might attract your pup for a few different reasons. Some odors are attractive because they make your dog hungry, while others present an opportunity for your dog to disguise their scent. Some smells can even help your pup relax or feel comforted.

dog looks up and curious
The dog looks up and curious to a new smell!

Many scents also allow communication between dogs. 

If you are trying to understand the language of dog smells better, you likely have questions like what food smells do dogs love? What masking smells do dogs utilize? How do dogs use smell to communicate? What smells help a dog feel less stress?

For the answers to these questions, read on to learn about 15 smells that dogs love. 

dog sniffing a flower
A radiant dog sniffs a radiant sunflower


No matter the type, cheese can be an intoxicating and exciting smell to your dog. They may be attracted to the smell of protein, fat, and any present fungi.  

If smelling the cheese leads to your pup wanting to eat the cheese, make sure that you only allow your dog to eat a small amount. Too much can cause indigestion and other health issues. If you can, give your dog cheeses that are lower in fat. 

cheese for dogs
Are cheeses good for dogs?


The effects of the smell of coconut, ginger, valerian, and vanilla were tested on dogs in a 2018 study. According to that study, the scent of coconut can be useful, both in terms of helping dogs be calm and quiet down. It can also improve sleep

Coconut is perfectly safe for dogs. They can even ingest the meat and oil of the fruit after they sniff it out. 

dog eats coconut
A dog eats coconut at the beach.

Dead Animals

Whether your pup is smelling roadkill or the steak you are having for dinner, the smell of a dead animal is sure to be a favorite. In some cases, your pup may want to eat the meat, or they may want to roll in it to mask their scent. 

Often, the smell of cooking meat is particularly attractive to dogs since the heat causes the scent to spread and develop. 

They love fresh fish, and LOVE LOVE stinky rotting fish. Gotta love dogs!

Decaying Plant Matter

Rotting leaves and other plants are often attractive to your dog because they wish to use that scent to mask their scent. Your dog will often do this by rolling around in the source of the smell. 

Your pup may also like these smells simply because rotten plants provide interest. Smelling a pile of rotting leaves can provide your dog with plenty of information, and this makes them happy. 

dog sniffing the grass
A dog sniffing the grass.

Familiar Humans

The smell of a familiar human maybe your dog’s favorite smell, according to a 2015 study. This study showed that dogs responded most positively to the scent of familiar humans. 

It is not surprising that dogs have positive associations with the humans they are closest to. However, it is nice to have some scientific support. 

French Bulldog with her owner
A French Bulldog with her owner.


Even if you do not share this particular interest with your dog, you can rest assured that they are gathering enough information from feces for both of you. Poop provides your dog with plenty of information about the animal who left it. 

Your pup can tell which kind of animal left the waste. They can also see if that animal is friendly, potential prey, or dominant

dog sniffs on the ground
A dog sniffs on the ground.


Ginger was another smell studied in 2018, along with coconut, vanilla, and valerian. That study concluded that the scent of ginger reduced physical and vocal behaviors and encouraged sleeping

You can feed your dog a small amount of ginger to help with digestive issues. Only give your dog less than a teaspoon of raw ginger. Avoid ginger essential oil, since this can be harmful to your pup if ingested.  

dog sniffing grass
A dog finding a scent he smelled.


While dogs will often mask their scents with substances that their humans do not enjoy, they also can mask their scents with grass. By rolling in the grass, your pup can cover up its scent. 

Many dogs also enjoy eating grass as part of their diet. The grass provides plenty of fiber, which can help your pup’s digestion. 

boxer dog rolling in grass with a stick
A Boxer dog rolling happily in the grass with a stick


If your pup likes to relax in your garden, this may partially be due to the presence of lavender. A 2020 study focused on the effect of the scent of lavender on dogs. This study discovered that dogs enjoy playing with toys that smell like lavender

Lavender essential oil is one of the few safe oils for pets. However, you should be careful when exposing your dog to the oil. Proper dilution is key. 

a boston terrier in a flowery field
A Boston Terrier in a flowery field.

Other Dogs

When you take your dog on a walk, you likely know that they love to sniff as many dogs as you will allow. While these sniff sessions may seem silly to you, they provide your pup with important information. For example, your dog may be learning if another dog is a friend or foe with a simple sniff. 


Rosemary is another herb that may attract your pup. This attraction may partially be because they are interested in the complex smells or because they want to use it to mask their scent. It is safe for your dog to ingest some rosemary in several forms.

The herb has antimicrobial and antibiotic properties. Rosemary can even sometimes drive away fleas

beagle with his sense of smell
Dogs have incredible sense of smell.


One human’s trash can certainly be another dog’s treasure. You likely know this if your dog has ever infiltrated your garbage can. While it may feel like your pup only strews your trash around to irritate you, they are going on a smell-filled journey.

Your trash tells a story to your pup. It also provides yet another opportunity for masking their smell.  

dog and trash
A dog tear trashes into pieces.


Similar to feces, the smell of urine provides your pup with plenty of information about whoever left it. With just a few sniffs, your dog can determine the sex, age, health, and species of the creator of the urine. When walking your dog, provide plenty of time for their sniffing so they learn the whole story. 

dog sniffing pee
Dog sniffing urine beside a tree.


The effect of the scent of valerian on dogs was looked at in the same 2018 study as the effects of coconut, ginger, and vanilla. The results showed that valerian helps to relax dogs and reduce their vocalization

While the scent alone seems to be effective, you can also administer some valerian orally. However, always check with your vet before trying such remedies. Avoid giving valerian to very young or old dogs or those with health issues

valerian relaxes dog
Valerian plant helps to relax your lovely pet.


According to the same 2018 study, the smell of vanilla can be great for relaxing a stressed pup. Some dog toys may even intentionally smell like vanilla. 

Even though the smell of vanilla can be beneficial to dogs, you should not give your dog any vanilla extract or flavoring since the alcohol can be harmful. Using vanilla beans or vanilla essential oil is much less harmful. 

vanilla stick and orchid
Vanilla can help a dog relax and calm.
can dogs eat brown sugar
Can dogs eat brown sugar in small amounts?


So, now that you know more about your dog’s favorite smells, you can predict what your pup will be attracted to. You can also encourage certain behaviors and encourage enrichment by using the scents that your dog loves.