Taste deterrents are substances designed to taste bad to dogs. They can be bitter or spicy hot. Some commonly used deterrents are Grannick’s Bitter Apple® Spray or Gel, Veterinarian’s Best® Bitter Cherry Spray, Yuk-2e Anti-Lick Gel, Bitter YUCK!® No Chew Spray and Chew Guard® Spray. Similar to people, dogs have taste buds for sweet, salty, sour and bitter, and they tend to reject bitter foods. But there’s significant variation in dogs’ reactions to taste deterrents. Some dogs act like they’re the worst thing they’ve ever tasted, while other dogs seem to like them!
Taste deterrents are intended to stop dogs from chewing and licking things they shouldn’t. Pet parents can apply taste deterrents to various off-limits objects outdoors and around the house—and even to their own hands. Specific taste deterrents can be used to discourage dogs from chewing or licking themselves, too. (Please consult a veterinarian before applying any taste deterrent to your dog’s skin or fur. Some products can sting if applied to raw or broken skin.)
When you first use a deterrent, apply a small amount to a piece of tissue or cotton wool. Gently place it directly into your dog’s mouth. Allow him to taste it and then spit it out. If your dog finds the taste unpleasant, he might shake his head, drool or retch. He might sniff the piece of tissue or wool, but he probably won’t pick it up again. Ideally, he’ll recoil from it. You want him to learn the connection between the taste and the odor of the deterrent so that he’ll avoid chewing objects that smell like it. After letting your dog taste the deterrent, spray or rub it on all objects you don’t want him to chew or lick. Reapply the deterrent every day for two to four weeks to be sure your dog will no longer bother with the objects.
If you use a spicy-hot deterrent, remove your dog’s access to water for an hour or so after he tastes the substance. (Be sure not to withhold water for any longer than that. Animals need water to survive!) If you don’t remove your dog’s water, he might drink it to alleviate the discomfort of the spicy substance. Then, because he’s learned he can easily get rid of the unpleasant sensation and taste, he’ll be less likely to avoid the deterrent when it’s applied to objects in the future.
Using Taste Deterrents for Your Cat
Even though they’re notoriously finicky eaters, cats have fewer taste buds than dogs do. (It’s thought that cats select their foods based on a combination of factors, including texture and temperature, not just taste.) Despite this, cats, like dogs, possess taste receptors for bitter. So bitter deterrents can work for them, too. In fact, some taste deterrents, such as Grannick’s Bitter Apple® and Veterinarian’s Best® Bitter Cherry Spray, are formulated for both dogs and cats. If you plan to use a taste deterrent for your cat, introduce him to the taste in the same way as described above for dogs.