Most Dogs Hate the Smell of Citrus · The Wildest

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Does Your Dog Hate Citrus?

Its the one food most dogs can't stand. Heres why – plus, how to use their dislike of citrus to your advantage

Chihuahua puppy wearing a native Indian necklace sitting next to a lemon
niknikp / Adobe Stock

When it comes to things dogs love, its safe to say that most enjoy going for walks, eating chicken, getting belly rubs and chasing squirrels. Sure, there are exceptions, but these truths apply to most dogs. Similarly, there is general agreement around what dogs dont like. At the top of the list? Citrus. Most dogs can't stand the taste and smell of oranges, lemons and grapefruit.

Why dogs hate citrus

The scent of an orange to most dogs is like the scent of rubbish to most humans – which is pretty gross. We dont know exactly why dogs dont like citrus, but its probably similar to why us humans have specific scents that we prefer over others.

To be fair, a small percentage of dogs actually like citrus – they consider these flavours to be the icing on the cake, so to speak, and are even more likely to go after any object covered with such an odour. (Maybe this is nature’s way of preventing any of us from ever feeling confident that we know whats going on with our pups.)

Does your dog hate citrus? 

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

How to use citrus as a dog repellant

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. For a DIY solution, mix concentrated lemon juice with water in a spray bottle. Or, pick up a pre-made dog repellent spray. With some patience and thoughtful training, you can use citrus to help train your dog to stay away from places (or things) you don’t want them to chew or access.

Just be mindful if you decide to use citrus to scent your home. Whether you are using essential oils or candles, you may inadvertently be making your home smell as bad to your dog as the rubbish dump would smell to you.

Karen London holding up a small dog

Karen B. London, PhD, CAAB, CPDT-KA

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, and has also trained other animals including cats, birds, snakes, and insects. She 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 training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.