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Why does my dog freak out over the smell of coffee grounds?

Joan Morris, The Mercury News on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

Dear Joan: We have an 8-year old Australian shepherd, Zorro, normally rational if somewhat excitable, who goes absolutely bonkers when I try to dump coffee grounds into the garden.

We have had him since he was a pup, and very much doubt that he has had any traumatic experiences with coffee grounds, but he has always done this.

What do you make of this? I've heard of lamb phobia in herding dogs, but coffee-ground phobia?

-- Sharon

Dear Sharon: I have good news and bad news about Zorro.

The good news is he's smarter than many dogs and knows that coffee grounds are bad for canines if they eat them or if they drink the coffee that comes from them.

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The bad news is Zorro will never work at Starbucks.

Dogs, just like people, have preferences when it comes to odors. I don't really like the smell of coffee either, although I wouldn't growl and try to keep you from putting the grounds on your plants. Zorro apparently has a strong dislike for the smell and doesn't want it stinking up his yard, which is not without irony considering many dogs like to roll in poo and other disgusting things.

It's probably just in the way that the brain registers odors. A scent can smell differently to different dogs and people. I have friends who love the smell of lilies. To me, they smell like smoke.

It's the same thing with dogs that have a lamb phobia. No one really knows why the aroma of lamb cooking can create a panic attack in certain dogs, and it's not just herding dogs that get upset -- after all, you're cooking a member of the flock he's supposed to keep safe. The phobia can be found in non-herding dogs, too.

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