Does Human Perfume Affect Dogs?

by Adrienne Farricelli Google
    Rover's favorite cologne is "Roulin Peu," or "roll in poo."

    Rover's favorite cologne is "Roulin Peu," or "roll in poo."

    Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

    You may be fond of the scent of Chanel No. 5, but your dog has a different take on what constitutes a pleasant smell. Even Princess Fufu, the aristocratic French poodle across the street, has fragrance preferences that would make you gag. Like all dogs, she'll roll in the foulest funk -- think animal waste, animal remains and even reproductive leftovers -- and delight in showing off what she found to her people.

    A Human's Perspective

    In the human world, perfume is a multi-billion-dollar industry. New scents are always being developed, and more and more products are smothered with an aroma for the purpose of attracting consumers. While humans and dogs share a lust for covering the body with some sort of scent, what's perceived as a good odor is a whole different story, explains applied animal behaviorist and dog trainer Patricia McConnell in her book, "The Other End of the Leash."

    A Dog's Perspective

    Blessed with a powerful sniffer, thought to be 1,000 to 1 million times more powerful than a human's nose, Rover is constantly affected by the many wafting aromas that surround him in a positive or negative way. While a spritz of perfume may seem pleasant to you, from your furry pal's perspective it's more like dealing with an elephant-sized dose that can be very intense and often stressful, explains veterinarian Ernie Ward. This reaction isn't limited to perfume; indeed, Scruffy is likely also bothered by carpet cleaners, potpourri, hair sprays and air fresheners.

    A Dog's Confirmation

    Conducting research on how perfume affects Rover is tricky, for the simple fact that dogs can’t easily convey their emotions upon encountering a certain scent, explains veterinarian Crista DeJoia. However, you can obtain some anecdotal evidence by observing his behavior. If you put on some perfume or aftershave and let your dog sniff it, most likely he'll back away or plead with you to go take a shower to get it off. Giving your dog a bath with a scented shampoo seems to further confirm his strong opinion; as you watch in horror, he'll likely roll in the grass in hopes of gaining back his dearly missed doggie smell.

    An Evolutionary Difference

    It makes sense for humans to be attracted to certain smells and dogs to others. After all, humans and dogs are different species. Your ancestor, the early humanoid primate, was naturally drawn to plump, juicy fruits, which explains why you continue to be attracted to fruity and flowery smells. With a past as a scavenger, your canine companion is likely repelled by your strong perfume but terribly attracted to scent of ripe carcasses.

    A Common Ground

    Dogs and humans have different scent preferences, but by looking at the big picture, humans and dogs are not entirely different. Human perfume is often made of musk, a special jelly obtained from a deer's belly; ambergis, a liquid obtained from sperm whales; and secretions obtained from the anal glands of various animals. If you think about it, soaking yourself in whale goo isn't all that different from Rover's rolling in cow pies, observes Patricia McConnell.

    A Dangerous Concoction

    On a more serious note, dogs can be negatively affected by perfume if they happen to ingest some; indeed, both perfume and aftershave contain ethanol, which can be very toxic to dogs. Not to mention the essential oils contained in perfume, which -- when combined with the ethanol -- can result in a very dangerous concoction when ingested, according to the Gwinett Animal Hospital in Snellville, Ga. Perfume and dogs, therefore, ultimately don't mix. If you want to make keep your dog safe and happy, try to limit his exposure to perfumes, lotions aftershave and the like.

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    About the Author

    Adrienne Farricelli has been a writer since 2005, serving as an editor, steward and writer for several online publications. She brings expertise in canine topics, previously working with the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification as a dog trainer from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Farricelli offers reward-based training and behavior consults at Rover's Ranch Home Boarding and Training.

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