What Smells Do Dogs Hate?

If you have a dog, you know that they will smell everything from the trash can to their own butts. While dogs seem immune to bad smells, there are plenty of scents that most dogs tend to hate.

These smells, like citrus and vinegar, are known for being strong and overpowering. Pungent odors can overwhelm your dog’s strong sense of smell, which leads to your dog avoiding areas where the smell is present. So what are the strong scents that our dogs loath?

border collie mikey

Top Smell That Dogs Hate

  • Chili Peppers
  • Onions
  • Ground Spices (such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cardamom, mustard, and cayenne pepper)
  • Garlic
  • Citrus Fruits (such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits)
  • Vinegar
  • Fresh Herbs (such as basil, mint, rosemary, and thyme)
  • Alcohol
  • Household Cleaners
  • Strong Perfumes or Colognes
  • Mothballs
  • Nail Polish and Remover

Leveraging Scent to Train Your Dog 

Understanding your dog's keen sense of smell can come in handy for training purposes. 

While not a foolproof plan, you can use your dog’s aversion to overwhelming scents to keep them out of certain areas of your home or garden (especially if your dog has a lot of unsupervised time outdoors through a pet door).

Consider the following scenario: You just installed a brand-new pet door to give your dog the freedom to come and go from the yard. In all the excitement your dog is causing mischief in the yard, wreaking havoc on your garden.

To solve this issue, try squeezing some lemons around an area you want your dog to stop digging. If you don't want to harm your plants with pure lemon juice, you can also try laying lemon or orange peels on the soil instead.

Strong citrus scents are unpleasant for your dog and may deter them from digging up your plants or specific areas in the yard. You can also use this tactic for indoor plants that your dog is digging around in. 

Citrus scents are excellent for deterring your dog from areas you don't want them to get into. Try coupling this deterrent with additional positive reinforcement training for the best results. 

Teaching your dog to "leave it" when you see them messing with the plants in your home or garden is a great way to enforce which areas are off limits. 

An especially tenacious dog will power through a bad smell to get what they want, but some pet owners found that spraying down restricted areas of their own with strong sprays or planting odorous plants in the garden can dissuade a dog from going and playing where they shouldn’t.

Border collie with bee costume on

How to Utilize Scent to Stop Flap Chewing

Does your dog love to chew on anything and everything? Then chances are they've nibbled on the pet door flap after deciding their chew toys aren't cutting it anymore.

Using strong scents to prevent your dog from chewing the pet door flap is a great training method. Try rubbing the inside of a lemon peel on the flap to make it smell unpleasant to your dog to chew on. 

Tip: Only rub the lemon on the parts of the flap your dog is chewing (likely the bottom corners), not the entire thing. If the entire flap is coated in lemon it may deter your dog from using it if they're getting coated in citrus every time they use the door. 

You can also spritz the flap with a pet-safe bitter apple spray. The scent and flavor of the spray are unpleasant to your dog and can help deter them from chewing on the flap.

If you opt for a different strong scent to deter your dog, please ensure that it is is safe and will not irritate their eyes or skin. For example, steer clear of cayenne pepper, which can get into your dog's mouth and eyes causing burning and itching. 

If they simply refuse to stop chewing the flap, check out a chew-proof dog door door like the Gun Dog Heavy Duty Pet Door. The rigid flap is impossible for even the mouthiest of dogs to gnaw on. 

Just installed a new pet door for your furry friend? Check out these tips for keeping your dog in the yard.   

Mia Daniele

Written by

Mia Daniele

Copy Editor

Pets: I have a fluffy, 14 year old chow-collie mix with red fur named Rosso. He's very stubborn and has the standoffish personality of a cat.
Fun stuff: I am a hot chocolate connoisseur.

Copy Editor

Pets: I have a fluffy, 14 year old chow-collie mix with red fur named Rosso. He's very stubborn and has the standoffish personality of a cat.
Fun stuff: I am a hot chocolate connoisseur.


  • Hi Denise,

    I would recommend spraying any of those areas where your dog is peeing with an enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle. This helps erase the scent of old urine so that she is less likely to go there in the future.

    Since she is older, the issue may also be that she doesn’t want to walk that far, or potentially down steps/less stable ground, to do her business. You could try creating a stable wood pathway into the garden for her to use.

    For a simpler solution, you could also place an artificial grass potty mat on the verandah for her. This way you have one spot to clean rather than random spots all over the place.

    I hope this helped! If you have any questions about dog doors, please feel free to call us at 1-800-826-2871 or email

    Elizabeth (Staff)
  • Help help help . My neighbour’s dogs bark non stop everyday and night . We asked her to do something about it and we just got attitude and it got worse. It’s been going on for 4 years. We phoned the police one day and they said there’s nothing they can do . We phoned the spca but she is friends with them . I started giving them food and it helped but one day she saw me and told me to stop . It’s 3 big dogs in a small space. Please can somebody help us or give me advice as to what to do.

    Pieter du Plooy
  • I have an old small dog who prefers to pee etc on our wooden verandah than venturing too far into the garden. I’m forever rinsing the verandah down and use vinegar spray or disinfectant but doesn’t deter her. Wondering if you could suggest another spray solution please.

  • Hi Florence,

    The best option here would be to make your fence escape-proof. If there is a hole she is sneaking through finding that and covering it securely will keep her from slipping out.

    I would recommend checking out this article on how to keep your dog in your yard for some tips:

    Additionally, most pet doors come with locking covers, so if you have a pet door I would recommend using the locking cover at night to block access to the yard and prevent any surprise escapes!

    I hope this helped answer your question, please feel free to reach out any time!

    Happy holidays!

    Elizabeth (Staff)
  • I have a wheaten terrier that protects our property from turtles and other small animals. So when they come close to our fence, she will not stop til she gets out of the fence. We have a tracker on her that is to ting a cell phone and send us a notification. Tonight was another one of the nights that she got out. When I went out back to give my dogs a face rub and tell them Goodnight, she was not in her bedroom in the garage but she was just walking next to the fence where she got out. How do I train her not to go crazy and feel the need to get out of fence???

  • Thank you for this.Im tormented by a neighbour letting his dog wee on my garden.Might plant some of those herbs

    Michaela Hayes

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