A dog sniffing around a yard.

What Are Smells Dogs Don’t Like?

If you’ve ever taken your pup for a walk, you may have noticed some scents that make it turn its nose up in disgust. Dogs have incredible smell receptors, and they even sense smell 10,000 – 100,000 times much better than humans! As such, certain smells can be particularly distressing for them. So, what are these smells dogs don’t like?

Dogs have a heightened sense of smell, so there are several smells they do not like. These include strong odors from citrus fruits, vinegar, ammonia, and alcohol-based cleaners. Even natural things like peppers and mint can be overwhelming for dogs if the scent is too strong. Additionally, artificial fragrances in air fresheners and perfumes can irritate sensitive canine noses.

Dogs And Their Sense Of Smell

A dog sniffing the air while laying down outside.
This dog seems to like whatever it’s smelling.

Dogs have an impressive sense of smell and their ability to detect odors that would be undetectable to humans. Not only can they detect a variety of smells, but they can also distinguish between smells they like and those they do not like. 

In fact, there are several smells that dogs find unpleasant and may even try to avoid. The nose is the main organ to sense the smell and is much more sensitive than the human nose. 

The canine nose has up to 300 million olfactory receptors, and humans have only 5 million, allowing them to detect scents at up to 100 times lower concentrations than us.

Dogs have another unique feature that helps them with their sense of smell: their vomeronasal organ is located inside the mouth at the upper surface. This special organ helps them identify pheromones from other animals and certain types of human odors, such as fear, joy, or stress. 

Top 8 Common Smells That Dogs Don’t Like

Here is the list of 8 common smells that dogs don’t like.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are among the smells that dogs generally don’t like. This is because of the strong and sharp smell of citrus fruits, which can be too overwhelming for a dog’s sensitive sense of smell. 

Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit have especially pungent aromas that dogs don’t like.


Vinegar’s acrid smell is created by combining acetic acid with oxygen from the air. 

Dogs do not like the smell of vinegar because it is an acrid and pungent odor that is quite overpowering for their sensitive noses. 

The smell of vinegar can be unpleasant to a dog, and the strong scent has been known to cause some dogs to become distressed or even anxious.


Ammonia is one such smell that dogs generally do not enjoy. The harsh chemical odor of ammonia can quickly overpower a canine’s nose and cause intense irritation.

The smell of ammonia is produced by the combination of nitrogen and hydrogen molecules, which can be found in urine, cleaners, or other strong-smelling substances. 

Dogs find the smell so intensely unpleasant that they often back away from it or try to avoid it entirely.

When exposed to ammonia, their noses may start running, and their eyes may water as the scent irritates their mucous membranes.

Alcohol-Based Cleaners

Dogs often react negatively to the strong odors emitted by alcohol-based cleaning products. 

This is because the volatile compounds in these cleaners are picked up by their noses and can cause irritation or discomfort. Alcohol-based cleaners are particularly pungent and can be offensive to humans and animals. 

The vapors produced by these types of cleaners contain aldehydes and ketones, which are volatile molecules that are easily detected by our furry friends.


Peppers contain a chemical compound called capsaicin, which gives them a strong, spicy smell. 

When a dog’s nose comes in contact with this compound, it triggers a reaction in its olfactory system, causing distress or discomfort. 

This irritates the mucous membranes of the nasal passages and can cause sneezing, coughing, eye tearing, and even nose bleeding. 

In addition to these unpleasant side effects, peppers also have a robust and intense flavor that can be off-putting to dogs. The burning sensation they create when consumed also has an unpleasant taste for dogs as well.


The pungent scent of mint can irritate a dog’s nose and make them uncomfortable. Dogs may also find the smell of peppermint oil too intense, which can cause them to become anxious or agitated. This strong smell could cause headaches or nausea for some dogs. 

Furthermore, the essential oils used in mint products can be toxic to dogs if ingested, so it’s best to avoid giving your pup anything with a strong minty aroma.

Air Freshener And Perfumes

Common substances in air fresheners and perfumes can irritate or even burn a dog’s nose, eyes, or respiratory system. 

Synthetic fragrances and essential oils used in these products can be overwhelming for them due to the high concentrations and the fact that many of these scents linger for hours or days at a time. 

Ingredients such as alcohols, ammonia, chlorine, solvents, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), petroleum-based chemicals, phthalates, and phenols may also cause adverse reactions in dogs when they smell them in the air.

Nail Polish

Nail polish is one such smell that many dogs tend to stay away from. The fumes that nail polish releases contain chemical compounds such as toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate, which can irritate dogs.

Dogs can experience nausea from the chemicals in nail polish fumes, making them feel nauseous or even vomit if exposed for too long. 

As most dogs rely heavily on their noses for navigation and exploring their environment, being overwhelmed by the smell of nail polish can completely disorient them. 

Use Unpleasant Scents To Keep Your Dog Away From Certain Areas

If you’re looking for an effective and natural way to keep your dog away from certain areas of your home, using unpleasant smells can be a great option. Here’s what to do:

  • First, identify the areas you need to keep your pup away from. This could include places like your furniture, carpets, or countertops.
  • After you have identified the areas that need to be avoided, it’s time to figure out what smells will help deter them.
  • Place bowls with these aromatic items near the areas that need to be avoided. Alternatively, if the surfaces are fabric or carpeted surfaces, you can use sprays instead. Make sure not to drench the area but rather lightly spritz it for optimal effect.
  • For added potency, combine multiple scents together into one bowl or spray bottle to create a more pungent smell.
  • Lastly, make sure that whatever scent-deterring method you choose is safe for both humans and pets alike. No one wants any allergies or skin irritation.

In Conclusion: What Are Smells Dogs Don’t Like?

Overall, there are many smells that dogs don’t like. From citrus and vinegar to mint and menthol, these odors can act as a deterrent for your pup when used properly. 

While it’s important not to rely on pungent scents alone to keep your pet away from certain areas or objects in the house, they can be an effective tool for training purposes. 

If you’re looking for ways to make sure your pup stays out of trouble around the house, try incorporating some of these unpleasant aromas into your strategy!

So, have you noticed your dog avoiding any smells we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!

Dr. Majid Tanveer (DVM)
Dr. Majid Tanveer (DVM)
Dr. Majid is a licensed veterinarian, writer, and animal welfare advocate. He obtained his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan. He has been working as a senior veterinarian for five years. Over the last few years, Dr. Majid has worked extensively for the betterment of animal welfare and rights in his country. He is also a proud owner of a dog, which he loves dearly. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his dog and indulging in his hobby of writing.