Most Dogs Hate the Smell of Citrus

The #1 Smell That Repel Dogs
By Karen B. London PhD, June 2010, Updated July 2021
The odor of an orange to most dogs is like the odor of trash to most humans--ugh.

Typically, dogs like going for walks, eating chicken, belly rubs and chasing squirrels. Sure there are exceptions, but these truths apply to most dogs. Similarly, there is general agreement among canines about what is undesirable, or even repulsive. At the top of the list of smells that repel dogs is the smell of citrus.

Dogs’ distaste for oranges, lemons, grapefruit or the smell of same can be useful. Many dogs can be deterred from chewing on items that have been treated with citrus odors.

To be fair, a small percentage of dogs just consider these flavors to be the icing on the cake, so to speak, and are even more likely to go after any object covered with such an odor. This is nature’s way of preventing any of us from ever feeling confident that we know what is going on. 

To see how your dog feels about these fruits, peel a messy orange so that your hands are covered with the sticky juice and put your fingers near your dog’s nose. If your dog backs away, making a ugh face, then you’ve got a member of the citrus-hating majority. If your dog licks your fingers, then you don’t.


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The odor of an orange to most dogs is like the odor of trash to most humans—ugh, which is pretty gross. We don't know exactly why dog's don't like citrus but it's probably similar to why us humans have specific scents that we prefer over others.

If your dog dislikes the smell of these acidic fruits, it may be possible to use the scent or juice of them as a deterrent. However, be mindful of using these odors to scent your home for your own pleasure. Whether you are using essential oils or candles, you may inadvertently be making your home smell as bad to your dog as a trash dump would to you.

This video shows Aspen turning away from an orange. She is among the citrus-hating majority of dogs.

With some patience and thoughtful training you can use a dog's powerful nose and a little citrus to help train them to stay away from places (or things) you don’t want them to chew or access.

Photo by Bruna Branco on Unsplash
Photo by Sereja Ris on Unsplash

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life

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