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Does Your Dog Hate Citrus?

It's the one food most dogs can't stand. Here's why — plus, how to use their dislike of citrus to your advantage.

by Karen B. London, PhD
June 10, 2021
Chihuahua puppy wearing a native Indian necklace sitting next to a lemon
niknikp / Adobe Stock

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When it comes to things dogs love, it's 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 don't like. At the top of the list? Citrus. Most dogs can't stand the taste and smell of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Here's why — plus, how to use their dislike of citrus to your advantage.

Why Dogs Hate Citrus

The odor of an orange to most dogs is like the odor of trash to most humans — 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.

To be fair, a small percentage of dogs actually like citrus — they 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. (Maybe this is nature’s way of preventing any of us from ever feeling confident that we know what's going on with our pups.)

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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 a trash dump would smell to you.

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karen london

Karen B. London, PhD

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. 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 canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.