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Why do dogs roll in poop?

White dog rolling in the grass advice
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Dogs who roll in poop are not as uncommon as one might think. In fact, dogs love to roll around in smelly things! In this pet guide, you will learn why dogs roll in poop.

By Daniel Mar

Nowadays, dog behaviourists can explain a lot of different canine behaviours, like why dogs scratch the carpet, or destroy shoes and cushions. However, there are some behaviours that can still evade the understanding of even the most experienced scientists. One of these is precisely the ‘rolling in stinky things’ behaviour.

You may wonder: why do dogs roll in poop? Over the years, many different theories have been created in an attempt to explain why some dogs love to cover themselves in weird smells that can simply leave you disgusted. Well, wonder no more! This article will cover all the theories on why dogs roll in poop!

Why do dogs roll in poop? Top theories!

While there's no definitive answer, the veterinarian and animal behaviour community has come up with three main theories to explain why dogs roll in poop and other equally smelly things:

  1. It’s a way to hide their own smell: Your dog’s ancestors had to hunt to survive. So, by rolling in their prey's smell, they were able to mask their own scent and hunt animals without scaring them away. If your dog rolls in smelly things, he is simply obeying an old instinct that has been passed down for generations.
  2. It’s a way of communicating with other dogs: By rolling around in a smelly mess, dogs can make their location known to other dogs near their territory. This theory was originally developed by the Wolf Park research facility in Indiana, US. It proved that wolves can find other wolves and prey animals by following their scent to its origin. This helps with hunting and tracking! The same thing happens with dogs.
  3. It’s a way of leaving their own scent behind: The answer to why dogs roll in poop can be as simple as this. A dog might just be trying to leave his own scent at the poop zone. This is very similar to another canine behaviour called marking. You may be familiar with the image of a dog urinating on everything as a way to mark his territory. Rolling in poop might mean the same thing.

What to do if your dog likes to roll in poop?

Even though this may be a natural behaviour in dogs, it doesn’t mean that you have to live with a smelly pooch. Nevertheless, you cannot punish this behaviour. You just need to teach your dog how to stop. There are a few steps you can take in order to do this.

For example, if your dog rolls in his own poop, you should immediately clean up any poop he makes in the garden as soon as he has gone. No poop, no opportunities to roll in it!

If you’re out walking your dog, try to keep him on a short leash. This will prevent him from rolling around in another dog's poop.

This, however, won’t stop your dog from trying to roll in poop. To try to eradicate this behaviour, avoid any type of punishment. This will only increase anxiety and stress in your dog, consequently increasing the undesirable behaviour.

Instead, try to distract your dog by calling him back to you when you notice he’s picked up an interesting scent. Praise him when he comes! Additionally, increase your dog’s exercise routine and try problem-solving or mind-games at home. A tired and busy dog will be less interested in new smells: if you satisfy his cleverness, he may not need to find other ways to keep himself occupied!

How to clean a dog after he rolled in poop?

Once your dog has rolled in poop, you know he won't smell good for a long time, unless you clean him properly!

You may need to get odour-neutralising shampoos to get the job done. Make sure you use products made specifically for cleaning dogs, as other substances might be irritating for their skin or even toxic! If your pooch is particularly stinky, you could bring him to see a trusted groomer.

Have you ever wondered if a dog could be washed with human shampoo? Let's find out

Even after substantial research, the enigma of why dogs roll in poop remains unsolved! Regardless of this, there are some ways to properly deal with this type of problem. Good luck!