You’re walking your dog, and off he runs playing and rollicking around, and when he comes back, you think, “Oh no, he’s got mud all over him.” But when he gets up close, you can smell him; you wish he had only been rolling in mud. Because now you see he’s been rolling in poop, and it’s everywhere.
So, why do dogs roll in poop and other smelly things?
We listen to dog behaviorists, and we think they have all the answers to why dogs do certain things. You know what I mean. Ask a behaviorist why a dog runs in his sleep, and the answer will come right back at you, oh, he’s only dreaming.
But ask a dog behaviorist why dogs roll in poop and other assorted dead or disgusting things, and they can’t give you a definitive answer. From roadkill to poop and goodness knows what else, if it’s there to roll in, most dogs will oblige. And what’s more, they seem to be incredibly proud of their endeavors to stink us out of house and home.
A dog believes it’s some kind of badge of honor. And, why is it always straight after you have just bathed them?
Why Do Dogs Roll In Stinky Things?
No-one has come up with a reliable answer to this question, and dogs aren’t talking. So all that’s left are theories. Could it be some kind of hangover from the time dogs were wild animals? That seems to be the likeliest explanation, but why was it necessary for them to cover themselves in disgusting smells back then?
1. Camouflage Their Scent
Back then, life was undoubtedly harder for dogs than today, so any kind of advantage they could create would be welcome. One of these advantages might have been camouflage. There is some support for this theory from watching wild animals’ behavior, such as wolves and foxes.
Modern-day wolves cover themselves in the feces of other animals, notably the ones they are hunting. Camouflaging in this way might make it easier to hide their scent from the animal they’re hunting.
Another animal that is a relative of the dog is the fox. These animals are known to find the feces of large predators and roll in them. Again as a means of camouflaging their scent. This time to avoid being on the menu for an animal much more sizable than themselves.
Who knows, perhaps it is a carry-over from a dog’s past life. There are many things in a dog’s behavior that suggests this is a common occurrence with dogs. But rolling in feces is probably one we wish they had forgotten.
2. Marking And Hunting
Its well-known wild dogs live in packs, and so too would the ancestors of modern dogs. Communication within the group would have been vital to survival. Could this be another reason why dogs roll in poop and other things?
Presumably, some members of the pack were sent out on foraging missions to find food. When they discovered it, they would roll in the dead carcass and go back to the pack. Then other members of the group would follow the scent back to its place of origin. According to an article by Wolf Park in Indiana, this type of behavior is a means of communication in a wolf pack. Possibly this might help the wolves track down the prey.
Another theory is by rolling in poop, he’s leaving his scent behind to tell other dogs he’s been there. Now we know dogs urinate everywhere they go to leave their scent behind. And on walks, they are always stopping every few feet because they have picked up the scent of another dog.
However, it stretches the imagination to believe they roll in poop to leave their scent behind. First, is a dog’s scent going to override some poop that is probably fresh and stinky? I don’t think so myself. Well, everyone to their opinions, but that’s one theory that doesn’t work for me.
3. Are They Bored?
Could it be they are just bored, it’s something to do? Not every dog has this type of behavior. Most will get up close and personal to sniff some feces, but they don’t all think it’s a good idea to cover themselves in the poop they find.
Or, are they being naughty? I did say earlier they seem to love to do this after a bath. Maybe, they just don’t like to smell sweet. They may have some instinct that tells them other dogs will not know it’s them because of the perfume smell – just surmising.
Preventing Poop Rolling Behavior in Dogs
Poop-rolling (is it a real thing now) is not easy to catch in time. So if your dog is partial to the odd roll or two, then you need to keep your eyes open, especially if you allow him off-leash.
If you see this repeatedly, you might notice some signs he’s about to go for it. Try to recognize what these telltale signs are. If you know it’s about to happen; you have a better chance of getting him away before he performs the stink dive. Your dog has to smell it first before he can do anything. If you notice he’s paying particular attention to a specific area, you know he’s found something.
Dogs tend to rub their face and neck into the object first before they roll over it. If your dog gets down and ready to do that, there’s going to be one disgusting collar. You might even have to throw it away when you get it home. In my experience, if it’s a leather collar, it’s almost impossible to get the stink off, and the collar is never the same again.
From a very early age, an excellent command to teach a dog is “Leave” or ‘’ Leave it!” I prefer just one word. If your dog obeys this command every time, it’s the best way to stop poop rolling before it starts. It’s also a handy safety command for many other situations.
So, Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop?
It’s natural dog behavior and virtually impossible to stop. Keeping your eyes on him when he’s off-leash and being prepared to clean him properly if you don’t catch him in time are the only solutions.
As a kid, I grew up with lots of dogs in my family. My earliest recollection was a Labrador mix called Bruce, and I must have only been about three years old.
When I was around seven, we began to move around frequently, so having a dog was very difficult until we adopted a baby long-haired Dachshund. I was thirteen by then. We called him Pepe; I have no idea why; all I can say was it wasn’t my idea. But he did seem to grow into the name.
I’ve personally been the parent of a Great Dane called Lady, a French Bulldog we called Spike. I have also had the privilege of being the parent of one of the gorgeous cats on the planet; a British Blue Shorthair called Ellie. Right now, we have an amazing little Havanese in our family; we call Biscuit; he’s four years old.
I pride myself on being the very best dog-parent I can be. I refuse to bring a dog into my life without investing as much time as possible to understand that dog’s particular needs. Every dog I have parented has been an experience, and they are all different with incredible personalities.
To understand dogs as much as possible, I have taken several courses regarding dog care and training. The most recent course is The Truth About Cats And Dogs, offered by The University Of Edinburgh.
My dogs and cat have been the funniest and most unique animals I have ever been privileged to spend my life with. They can teach human beings so much if we take the time to watch and listen to them. My ambition is to share what I have learned with other passionate dog lovers.
I am obsessed with writing and researching everything I can about dog health, care, psychology, and finding the best dog products available to help ensure a dog’s life is as happy and contented as possible.