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What's Up With Dogs Acting Odd Around Lemons?

Let's face it: dogs can sure act weird around lemons. If you have never noticed that or given it a thought, consider that there are many testimonies about this, courtesy of the many YouTube video compilations of dogs reacting to lemons. The latest one, features a cute Bernese Mountain dog pup dealing with Mr. Lemon (we featured this video at the bottom of the article in case you missed it). The videos are often hilarious to watch, but one question worth pondering is; what exactly makes dogs react this way? It's not like the lemon ever did anything to the dog to deserve such a treatment! Yet, show them the yellow fruit and you'll see dogs bark at it, fight against it or back away as if it was their worst enemy. What's up with the citrus fruit?


Go Suck a Lemon

In the human world, lemons don't have a very good reputation. We refer to crappy cars as lemons and when people are bothered by others they may tell them to "go suck a lemon." Well, guess what? In the dog world, lemons are frowned upon too.

Dogs don't need to suck on a lemon to detect its bitter taste as their powerful sense of smell may be enough to make them pucker up or drool in total disgust.

And no offense to lemons, the hatred is directed to many other specimens of the citrus family including limes, grapefruit and sometimes even sour oranges and mandarins. So yes, don't expect to see Rover anytime soon selling lemonade at the country fair stand!

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The Effect of "Lemon Law"


We can't blame dogs for their reactions to lemons. After all, even us humans make all sorts of sour faces when we try to eat a lemon, so for a moment, let's imagine how a dog who has a greater sense of smell may feel.

Let's just say it's an effect of "lemon law" to make us and our dogs react this way!

A dog's reaction to bad tastes though is there for a good reason. According to Stanley Coren, in a natural setting, bad tastes are often a red flag that informs animals that they may be dealing with something that can be potentially harmful, indigestible or even poisonous!

Did you know? A dog's reaction to bitter/bad tastes is why products like Grannick's Bitter Apple Spray are effective in discouraging dogs from fur biting, hair chewing and licking of hot spots. However, surprisingly these products do not work all the time and there are some dogs who can care less or even seem to somewhat enjoy the bitter taste!

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A Good Reason to Hate Them

While it may be funny to watch dogs reacting to lemons, it could be that dogs may have a "gut feeling" that lemons are something that they should be somewhat "wary" about.

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Where is the Stop on a Dog's Head?

If you're looking for the stop on a dog's head, you'll need to look at the head correctly and have a dog breed blessed with this feature.

According to the ASPCA Poison Control, lemon plants can be toxic to dogs, toxic to cats and toxic to horses. Citrus limonia, the scientific name for the lemon tree, is known for containing essential oils and psoralens that can cause clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, depression and sensitivity to light due to its toxic principles.

While these problems are likely associated with the ingestion of parts of the lemon plant, according to the ASPCA, other than the problems associated with ingesting the stems or leaves of the citrus plant, the peels, fruit and seeds can also be a problem.

Citrus acid and essential oils are to blame for causing irritation or even central nervous depression when stems, leaves, peels, fruits and seeds are ingested in large amounts.

The ASPCA though claims that small doses are not likely to cause anything more than a minor stomach upset. Luckily, in most cases, this is a no-brainer as most dogs don't seem too eager to eat the yellow fruits!

"Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset." ~ASPCA

So What's Up With Dogs and Lemons?

So if dogs don't like lemons, why do they interact with them and act so oddly around them? The answer is that until dogs can talk and give us an exact explanation we won't know for sure. Many dogs seem to show approach/avoidance reactions where they investigate the lemon, then they get a whiff of its intense smell or a bit of its sour taste, and then they back away only to go back to "attack it."

Other dogs try to avoid lemons like the plague after getting a whiff and some others will try to play with them or bark at them as if they're their worst enemies. Regardless, we can't deny that their reactions are quite entertaining to watch and some are adorable too!

Funny Dogs Reacting To Lemons Compilation

Bernese Mountain Dog Versus Lemon


  • ASPCA, People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets, retrieved from the web on May 12th, 2016
  • ASPCA, Lemon, retrieved from the web on May 12th, 2016
  • Psychology Today, How Good Is Your Dog's Sense of Taste? by Stanley Coren, retrieved from the web on May 12th, 2016

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