8 Smells Dogs Hate The Most – A Real-World Test

smells dogs hate

Because dogs have such an incredible sense of smell using smells they hate can keep them off your garden, furniture, and anywhere else you don’t want your furry friend to be. Of course, some dogs will be less bothered by certain smells, so in this article, we will look at 6 smells in particular that dogs supposedly dislike, giving you a better chance of repelling your dog.

In order to get a better understanding of which smell works the best, I wanted to conduct my own testing. Before we get into the testing let’s have a look at 6 smells that dogs supposedly hate.

  1. Citrus 
  2. Cayenne Pepper
  3. Vinegar 
  4. Coffee Grounds
  5. Chilli Pepper
  6. Cumin 
  7. Alcohol
  8. Perfume



Cirus is one of the most commonly used dog repellents and there are some good reasons why. First off dogs absolutely hate the smell. If you take half a lemon over to a dog 9 times out of 10 they are going to run off. After testing this theory with my pooch he now is very suspicious whenever I’m cutting a lemon in the kitchen, most of the time finding another spot further away to watch me cook.

Obviously, it’s not something you want your dog to be afraid of, just something that causes them to make a different choice. Diluting a lemon into a spray with some cold water can be enough to scent mark an area. Lemon is, of course, all-natural and so a great choice for gardens and flower beds, it’s also readily available and cheap.

smells dogs hate

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is another natural ingredient to use as a dog repellent. The powder is readily available in the shops or may even be in your cupboards right now. It’s important to understand that cayenne pepper in large quantities can cause irritation to the eyes and nose. Because your dog’s nose is extremely sensitive you should be cautious with the amount you are using and what location you are using it in.

When applying to a garden or flower bed simply dilute the cayenne pepper into some cold water, 1 tsp for every 300 milliliters of water. Apply using a spray bottle to be more generous in wet weather. For internal use, you shouldn’t apply the cayenne pepper directly to a surface. Instead, use a bowl to store the pepper close to the sofa, mixing it with some scented items like potpourri will help disperse the smell more.


Vinegar is another popular choice when it comes to smells that dogs hate. Most vinegar is good for repelling dogs, apple cider vinegar and white vinegar is amongst the most popular. Once again diluting the vinegar into some cold water and a spray bottle will help disperse the smell, more easily.

If you are planning on using this in the garden it’s recommended not to apply the vinegar onto the plants or grass as there is a possibility it could kill them. Diluted vinegar is less likely to kill your grass or plants but be careful with how much you use. Soaking a sponge or ball of cotton wool in vinegar can help protect your plants and also repel any dogs wanting to investigate that area.

According to the AKC, apple cider vinegar and white distilled vinegar are non-toxic to dogs so you can happily apply a diluted mixture to your floor or a non-garden-related area of ground.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are another strong odor when it comes to your dog’s smell. With so many of us enjoying a coffee, why waste those coffee grounds by throwing them in the bin? Some dogs are more sensitive to the smell of coffee than others. You may simply be able to sprinkle coffee grounds over your garden or flower beds to repel your dog. If your dog doesn’t mind the smell as much, coffee grounds can be a great ingredient for a homemade dog repellent. This can be done by combining some other ingredients mentioned in this post, such as lemon or orange peel.

Chilli Pepper

This is another great one to use as you can find chili powder in most kitchen cupboards. Although a non-toxic choice for a dog repellent, spices like this should be used in moderation as they can cause irritation to your dog’s eyes and nose.

The best way to use this depends on what you’re trying to prevent. If you are trying to stop unnecessary chewing, then rubbing a small amount on chair legs can help prevent them from being destroyed. Make sure you keep an eye on the chair leg and if it is still being chewed, remove the chili powder, and use another preventative method. Obviously, your dog is not totally disgusted by chili powder and so you don’t want them ingesting too much of it.

For preventing garden destruction such as digging or trampling, dilute some in a spray bottle with cold water. Spray generously around the areas in which the crimes are happening.

smells dogs hate


Cumin is another strong spice that can be quite pungent to a dog’s nose. The powder is of course going to cause the biggest upset although the seeds will often give a more intense smell when freshly broken. I decided to include cumin as I have seen my dog’s reaction to it and he was not pleased.

Many owners use spices to cook with and often they will let their pooches have a taste. It appears from research online that a fair amount of owners give their dogs cumin, although hopefully, this is in small quantities. Cumin is generally safe for dogs but if given in large amounts it can really do a number on their stomach. Check out the testing part of this post to see how I used cumin to test how well it might repel a dog.


Alcohol is a substance that many people are familiar with, whether it’s in a beverage or your windscreen wash. Strong alcoholic beverages can be strong smelling to people, so when it comes to your dog’s sense of smell it can really blow them away. In fact, they may well smell alcohol from a mile off.  It’s important not to give your dog alcohol and the methods used in our testing allowed us to eliminate any possibility of consumption.


Perfume encompasses a large number of products, in fact, perfume is used in soaps and creams not just on its own. Your dog will probably recognize your own perfume or deodorant and become somewhat familiar with it. In most cases, soaps, creams, and hair products won’t offer that pungent odor dogs will hate.It should be obvious that the consumption of perfume is not recommended but you can allow your pooch to smell your own perfume in its bottle form. They may well take a shine to it when it is on your own body, however, if it is a concentrated liquid within a bottle they may not be so keen. we tested the effect of perfume using the same methods as highlighted below, this keeps the dog away from the liquid but allows him to approach if the treat attracts him enough. Check out our results below for more information.

Testing Which Smells Dogs Hate The Most



In order to conduct an effective study, I needed to create something to hold the smelly item within. With the smell held I also needed to allow the dog to get close enough to smell it, whilst not letting him accidentally eat it.

To do this I created a square frame glued together, the hole in the middle is the exact size of a plastic lunchbox, this will contain the smell. In order to prevent my dog from eating the item, I used some nylon netting which was hooked onto the edges of the wood. Check out the pictures below for a more detailed look.

Coffee Granules With a Treat Above


During the test I will be using my own dog Cooper, he is a very risk-averse golden retriever. Due to Cooper’s ability to learn quickly, I will be carrying out each test at different intervals throughout the day, this will stop him from sussing out what I’m about to do next.

Beneath the mesh will be the smell contained in the plastic box, I will be placing a high-level treat, in this case, ham onto the mesh. I will then let him into the room and observe his actions both on approaching the treat and his decision once the treat has been found.


SmellReaction On ApproachFinal Reaction
Coffee GranulesInstantly approached and ate the treat. Didn’t seem bothered at all.No Reaction
Coffee Granules + Boiling WaterInstantly approached and ate the treat. Started to enjoy it!!Licked The Mesh
Cayenne PepperInstantly approached and ate the treat. UnphasedNo Reaction
Chilli FlakesInstantly approached and ate the treat. UnphasedNo Reaction
Chilli Flakes + Boiling WaterInstantly approached and ate the treat. Steam was visibleRecoiled Slightly
Cumin + Boiling WaterInstantly approached and ate the treat. Steam was visibleRecoiled Slightly
VinegarSlowly approached and ate the treat. Much more apprehensive.Backed Away
LemonVery hesitant on approach, still ate the treat. Seemed to know what it was from a distance.Backed Away

Lemon On Top

Slightly quicker on approach, still at the treat. seemed to get used to the idea.Remained Close
AlcoholHesitant to approach, possibly because of the previous lemon. Eventually took the treat.Recoiled Slightly
PerfumeApproached with ease, a little hesitant when taking the treat.Remained Close


By analyzing the results it can be seen that certain smells had no effect and some had a partial effect. It should be noted that no smell 100% repelled the dog. The lemon and vinegar appeared to have the greatest effect, however, they were not good enough to repel the dog completely. The reasoning behind this could be twofold. Firstly the smells were not strong enough and a more concentrated mixture was needed, although in the spirit of keeping things natural I didn’t want to use concentrates like essential oils. The most obvious reason was that the treat was too higher value.

Because the vinegar and lemon caused Cooper to be hesitant and back away instantly, it would indicate that the treat was worth the smell. Another interesting observation was when he had the lemon again, this time being slightly less hesitant, this could also indicate that he was getting used to the smell or familiarity was making him more confident.

It was highly obvious from looking at the results, coffee was ineffective in both forms, with cayenne pepper and chili mixed with boiling water being only slightly effective. The diffusion of these spices was clearly a good way of dispersing the smell. This could indicate that spraying a diluted mixture could work well.

Cumin Seeds Diluted In Boiling Water

Final Thoughts

It would be good to conduct this experiment again using different treats. This test has proven that if a dog’s desire to do something is strong enough it will. I imagine that if you were to use lemon or vinegar to repel your dog from digging a hole or peeing on some flowers you could do this easily. Unfortunately, if your dog’s desire to pee on your dahlias is strong enough then you may need to try some more physical barriers, such as fences.

If I were to conduct this test again I would use a variety of treats including toys, food, and even some favorite slippers. It would also be interesting to test these smells in the real world, for example on the flower beds or areas where digging has occurred. The advantage of having multiple dogs would also be beneficial especially if they have desires to pee on flower beds or chew furniture.

Can you Use Coffee Grounds To Stop Dogs Digging?

One particular action some owners take is to use the coffee ground to stop their dogs from digging. Many dogs will have a particular part of the garden they think is great for digging up, so sprinkling some coffee grounds around this area may deter your dog if into the future. If you are interested in learning more about using coffee grounds to prevent your dog from digging up parts of your garden, have a look at this useful article. How to Stop Your Dog From Digging, this article also contains some other great tips to prevent digging and explores the reasons why it occurs.

As highlighted above coffee grounds can be an excellent dog repellent. Once your dog comes into contact with the grounds the smell should be strong enough for them to back off, that’s only if they don’t like coffee grounds. However, if you want to repel them at a larger distance, they may not be the best natural dog repellant you could use. take a look at some of our other suggestions to see if any of them would work for you.

What Smells Do Dogs Hate To Pee On

One of the biggest problems owners face is their pooch peeing where they don’t want them to. Whether this is in their house, garden, or someone else’s garden. The most recommended smell for stopping a dog from peeing is probably citrus. There are many benefits to using citrus as a dog repellent. It’s non-toxic, natural, easy to handle, and safe to use in the garden. If you want to stop your dog from peeing on your grass, try spraying citrus across it and see how your dog reacts, leave the location you want him to pee in clear of smell. You can try going through this list to see if any of the others work, just be sure to read up on each one based on where you are planning to apply it. As stopping a dog from peeing in certain areas is such a hot topic for green-fingered dog owners, we have produced an article solely on What Smells Dogs hate to Pee On, give it a read and see if it helps.

What Smell Deters Dogs From Digging

Another common problem that many owners face is their pooch loves to dig holes. You can use the powerful strength of your dog’s nose against them by applying some of the smells discussed earlier. Once again citrus is a good one to use as it is all-natural. Another natural ingredient mentioned was Cayenne Pepper, this can be sprinkled in the soil of pre-dug holes or even sprinkled on top of your grass. Dogs will tend to go back to a hole they had been digging to make it bigger or inspect its integrity. You can try some more ingredients from the list, just be sure they are garden-friendly and don’t want to cause your soil any harm. If you are interested to check out this article on “How To Puppy Proof Your Garden”

Can a Dog Lose Its Sense Of Smell

If you’re using these smells like a dog repellent and not getting much luck, your dog’s sense of smell may not be that strong. There are a few reasons as to why a dog loses its sense of smell, these being age, disease/illness, and environmental factors. It’s important to realize just how strong a dog’s sense of smell is. In comparison to our own, a dog has approximately 40 times more smell receptors than us, so when you smell some vinegar and gag instantly, spare a thought for your pooch. This is why it is important to dilute these ingredients properly.

Harsher less natural chemicals can cause damage to a dog’s nose and end up with them losing their sense of smell altogether. Bleach is a good example of this if anyone has ever cleaned a small bathroom with bleach before they will know that you can still smell bleach later on in the day. This is because the smell is extremely potent and for a dog, this can be a very bad thing. Of there is much more to learn about this subject, so check out this article from Cuteness, highlighting the reasons why your dog’s sense of smell may be declining or even gone.


So there you have it 6 smells dogs hate, tried, and tested. If you are ever in need of a good dog repellent and don’t want to buy one from the store then homemade may be the answer. However, it is important to realize that the testing I conducted showed you may need to have a more concentrated mixture. At least this way you will know about every ingredient that goes into it and be able to keep it natural for the application you want. If you enjoyed this post don’t forget to check out our other articles on our homepage. Here is a recommended article relating to this post. “13 Smells Dogs Cant Resist”.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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