What Smells Do Dogs Not Like?

Picture of French Bulldog on a hardwood floor

Dogs are not known to be as finicky as cats when it comes to the five senses. Anyone who walks their dog outside for any period of time can attest to this – if your dog is anything like mine, she’ll smell everything she comes across, sometimes for what seems like hours at a time. Eating, smelling, licking- they’ll usually do it all, no matter what the taste/smell. However, there are some smells that dogs absolutely do not like, for one reason or another. Some dog owners use these smells that dogs don’t like to deter their dogs from undesirable habits—like chewing your personal belongings. Here are some smells that put dogs off.


Vinegar – both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar – is a smell that dogs tend to shy away from. I’ve used a spray bottle with water and vinegar mixed to spray furniture and other items I want to keep my dog off of. Experts say not to spray your plants directly with vinegar to try to deter your dog from chewing them, as vinegar can damage plants. If you can stand the smell, white vinegar is a better deterrent than apple cider, which has a more pleasant smell (to humans, not to dogs).


Dogs hate the smell of peppers, especially the hotter varieties. It’s the capsaicin in the peppers that is objectionable to dogs. Most dogs will back away from peppers and leave you alone while you’re holding/eating them. Ground pepper is another smell that dogs don’t like. It’s even used in some commercially manufactured dog repellants. If you want to keep your dog away from indoor or outdoor plants, you can sprinkle pepper around them. She likely won’t come near them then.

Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol

Dogs don’t like smell of rubbing alcohol. If you want to keep your dog away from a certain area of your home, soak cotton balls in rubbing alcohol and set them around the house. To keep the smell intense enough to repel your dog, you will need to freshen them periodically.


Most dogs don’t like the smell of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. Many dog owners sprinkle lemon or orange juice around areas they want to keep dogs out of, or even set the actual fruits around them. You can also spray citrus juice on items/areas you want Fido kept away from. Many people suggest spraying citrus juice on wooden furniture that dogs like to chew on, like tables and chairs. It is supposed to work as a deterrent to dogs yet still smells good to their human owners.


Dogs (and cats too, usually) hate the smell of mothballs. Growing up, my mother used to keep mothballs in areas she wanted to keep our cat away from, and it actually worked. Dogs, too, do not like mothballs, especially when they are placed in an enclosed area. Just be careful not to leave mothballs on the floor where your dog could find them and try to eat them (remember, just because it smells bad doesn’t mean it won’t go in his mouth!) If you’re using mothballs as a doggie deterrent, keep them high enough that your pooch can’t reach them and accidentally eat them (or turn them into toys).

Nail Polish and Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish is another unpleasant smell to dogs (and some humans). There are a bunch of chemicals in nail polish that dogs don’t like, including formaldehyde, isopropyl alcohol, acetate and nitrocellulose. The smell of nail polish can even make some dogs sneeze and start to itch, so keep your nail polish away from your dog.

Nail polish remover, likewise, is another smell that dogs hate, primarily for the acetone it contains. Many humans don’t like this smell either. Luckily, non-acetone nail polish remover is now sold, so if you’re worried about your dog’s reaction you can purchase this instead. Either way, keep nail polish remover away from your dog so that he doesn’t accidentally ingest it.


When my dog is watching me get ready for work, I’ve noticed that as soon as I spray even a small amount of perfume, she goes running. Turns out, dogs hate the smell of perfume. They contain a bunch of chemicals that are unpleasant to dogs. They also camouflage their owner’s natural smell, which dogs are comforted by, so anything that takes away from your comforting smell will be something your dog wont’ like. Dogs also don’t usually like doggie perfume, if you’ve ever tried spritzing some on them. If spritzed, my dog will immediately run away and try to rub it off of herself on the carpet, the grass, anything she can do to get her own natural smell back. If your groomer uses a small amount of doggie perfume on your pup, that’s fine, just don’t make a habit of doing it yourself at home.

Cleaning Products

Does your dog run and hide when you’re cleaning the house (like mine does)? If you’ve ever wondered why dogs behave this way, it’s because they hate the smell of most chemical cleaning products (not the natural ones, however). The ammonia in cleaning products can actually damage a dog’s esophagus and respiratory tract. It can also smell like another animal’s urine and can stress your dog out, thinking there’s another animal in the house. Most of the natural, chemical-free cleaning products are safe for dogs, but some don’t like their smell, either. It’s best to try to clean when your dog is out of the house, at the groomer’s or on a walk with another family member.

Naphthalene (pesticide)

Not only do dogs hate the smell of naphthalene, which is usually used in pesticides, it is also harmful for them. It is toxic and if ingested, can kill your dog. Just one ball of naphthalene can severely damage your dog’s liver and central nervous system. So be sure to keep products containing naphthalene far from your puppy.



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