What smell do dogs hate to pee on? Potty training my dog was one of the hardest parts of raising a puppy. No matter how vigilant I was about watching him, he seemed to pee in the house the minute my attention was elsewhere! And, when a dog has peed somewhere in your house, they’ll be able to detect traces of it much better and longer than we can, meaning they’ll keep going back to pee in that same spot. One potential solution to this issue, if you’re having a hard time with potty training, is to use different smells to deter your dog from peeing where they shouldn’t. In this guide, I’ll take a look at some safe but off putting smells you can use to keep your dog from using your home as a toilet!
- What smells do dogs hate to pee on?
- Is it safe to use smells as a potty training deterrent?
- Fresh herbs
- Cleaning products
- Coffee grounds
- Tips to keep dogs from peeing on rugs
What Smell Do Dogs Hate to Pee On?
Dogs like to be comfortable when they pee. Before the dog relieves themselves, they’d sniff around looking for a nice spot. You can use this fact to your advantage when you want to keep the dog from peeing on the rug, the furniture, or any other place they’re not supposed to use for potty.
Fortunately for this situation, dogs seem to find many odors totally distasteful. If you spray the spot that the dog often pees on with one or more of those odors, the dog will not go there again either to pee or even to play. You can also stop the dog from chewing on the furniture using the same odorous technique.
Is it Safe to Use Smells as a Potty Training Deterrent?
Our dogs have sensitive noses. Smells can be a great way to deter them from peeing in certain places, just as some smells can encourage dogs to pee in certain places. If a dog has urinated somewhere in the house, they will keep going back there to do it again, since they can smell the pheromones. Covering these smells can prevent this problem. However, it’s important to research the smells you use. Some scents are toxic to dogs, which some owners sadly discover when their dogs get sick from scent diffusers in the home.
Toxic scents can cause gastrointestinal upset, liver damage, and other issues. Any problems can be made worse if your dog is able to ingest the source of the scent – such as licking at essential oils. It’s always worth checking with your veterinarian if you are uncertain about a scent that you can use for your dog’s potty training experience. Let’s take a closer look at some of the smells that might prevent recurring accidents in your home.
If you’re looking for a quick fix to the problem of the puppy peeing on the rug, you can’t go wrong with vinegar. It’s one of the strongest odors that dogs find extremely offensive. The acidity of the vinegar is so powerful that the dog will smell it from afar and will keep circling around the spot without daring to get closer.
Vinegar is a natural and non-toxic product, so it’s safe to use it around the house. To use it to deter the puppy from peeing on a spot, mix one tablespoon of white vinegar with one cup of water and spray the spot twice a day. Don’t use vinegar on the lawn or garden as it might kill the grass and other plants.
Vinegar is generally a safe scent to use, especially when diluted like this. It will usually only pose problems when a dog ingests over a tablespoon. Some dogs might try to lick at vinegar you spray in the house. If this happens, watch for any signs of stomach upset, and consider trying a different scent deterrent.
After vinegar, alcohol comes a close second on the list of smells that dogs can’t tolerate. That’s all for the better. Because if you have a tough time getting your puppy potty-trained, you can use rubbing alcohol to help them understand which spots in the house are off limits.
Rubbing alcohol is often used as a sterilizing material, so spraying it around the house has the added advantage of killing germs and bacteria and keeping the place clean. However rubbing alcohol dissipates in the air quickly. And, if ingested, it can cause some real problems for our dogs.
A solution to this is to use rubbing alcohol nearby the areas you don’t want your dog to pee, but out of reach of your puppy. Don’t use rubbing alcohol on floors or surfaces that your dog can lick.
Mothballs contain either naphthalene or para- dichlorobenzene. Either of those chemical compounds are very odorous on top of being toxic. If you place a few mothballs in the closet to keep mites away, you’ll notice that your dog will stay clear from the closet as well. And that’s exactly what you’d want when you want to train your dog not to pee around the house.
Mothballs are a cost-effective solution since they’re cheap and readily available. However, because of their strong smell, they can keep the dog out of the room altogether. Choose where to place the mothballs around the house carefully, since they’re toxic to dogs if ingested. Place them up high and out of your dog’s reach.
Hold a slice of lemon or grapefruit to the nose of a dog and watch them sneeze with disgust and run out of the room. They might also stay sore at you until you give them a treat and promise not to prank them with citrus again. Citrus has a sharp and acidic smell that is hard to miss. If your goal is to keep your puppy off a certain spot in the house, scatter a few fresh slices of lemon or the rinds of orange and grapefruits there.
Some veterinarians may also recommend spraying diluted essential citrus oils on the area you want to keep your dog away from. But, citrus and essential oils can be dangerous to our dogs. If not properly diluted, citrus oils can cause serious health issues. Citrus can be problematic when ingested as a fruit too, so keep any pieces of fruit our sprayed diluted oils out of your dog’s reach.
5. Fresh Herbs
Dogs and herbs don’t mix. Especially if the herbs are freshly collected from the garden. Mint, basil, and rosemary are some of the most odorous herbs you can grow in the garden. And having a bunch of their fresh leaves on a countertop or placed on the corner of a rug is enough to deter your puppy from using those spots to relieve themselves.
But if you don’t have a garden and you’re not keen on growing plants, you can easily find these fresh herbs in the supermarket. Another option is to boil the fresh leaves in water then spray the scented water wherever you like. Make sure you only choose safe herbs. Avoid toxic options like chives.
6. Cleaning Products
Dish soaps and laundry detergents that contain lemon odors work the same way as fresh citrus fruits in repelling dogs. The same applies to laundry products that contain ammonia such as stain removers. Dilute any of these cleaning products with water and spray them in spots outside the house that your dog prefers to pee on such as the garage or toolshed. But since they’re sticky and can be a hazard, don’t spray them on the floor or surfaces inside of the house.
You can also use enzyme-based pet safe cleaners. Rather than masking the scent of old urine, they will be able to break down the proteins that cause these smells. Dogs will stop being able to smell the old accident, and it will be easier to prevent them from peeing there again.
7. Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds are used as fertilizers because of the high concentrations of carbon in them. If your dog likes to pee in the garden, you can sprinkle those areas with dry coffee grounds. Most dogs dislike the smell of coffee. But some are not affected by it.
And, it’s important to note that coffee grounds can be toxic to dogs because of the caffeine they contain. So, whilst they can prevent your dog from peeing in places, they can also be a hazard. Don’t let your dog access any areas where you put coffee grounds. Dogs are naturally curious, so they might try eating something even if it does smell off putting.
Tips to Keep Dogs from Peeing on Rugs
While repellent odors and smells will go so far in preventing the puppy from peeing where they’re not supposed to around the house, they have their limitations and even health risks. You can use the following tips to make the smells dogs hate more effective.
- Allow the dog as many potty breaks as they need.
- One reason the puppy is peeing on the rug is that their potty training wasn’t successful. Try retraining the dog to break the bad habit.
- If you have to keep the dog alone in the house for a few hours, put them in a crate. The dog will not pee as long as they’re inside the crate that properly fits them.
- Dogs develop habits in new settings which are hard to unlearn later. Keep an eye on your new puppy for the first week to make sure they don’t make a habit of peeing wherever they like.
What Smell do Dogs Hate to Pee on? A Summary
Dogs have a strong sense of smell and they’re usually averse to the smell of vinegar, alcohol, fresh herbs, mothballs, citrus, and ammonia among others. Teach your dog not to pee on rugs and the furniture by spraying them with any of these smells. But, be aware of any potential hazards involved with spraying these scents in areas that your dog can access.
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- Polgár, Z. (et al), ‘Strategies Used by Pet Dogs for Solving Olfaction-Based Problems at Various Distances’, Plos One (2015)
- Kokocińska, A. (et al), ‘Canine Smell Preferences – Do Dogs Have Their Favorite Scents?’, Animals (2022)
- Lazarowski, L. (et al), ‘Methodological Considerations in Canine Olfactory Detection Research’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2020)
- Fischer-Tenhagen, C. (et al), ‘Odor Perception by Dogs: Evaluating Two Training Approaches for Odor Learning of Sniffer Dogs’, Chemical Senses (2017)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website