Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop?

Adrienne Farricelli

Let's face it: dogs roll in poop, there's no much that can be done about that. Despite the fact that nowadays dogs sleep on dog beds and wear collars studded with rhinestones, they still engage in behaviors that are reminiscent of their past. Let's discover why do dogs roll in poop and what can be done to prevent it.

Why do dogs roll in poop? Let's face it, scent rolling is one of those dog behaviors dog owners find most repulsive, especially when dogs roll in poop right after a bath! While we lather ourselves with body soap and a spritz of eau de toilette after a bath, dogs instead head for their own version of "eau de toilet" literally using any form of animal poop they can come across!

Whether your dog rolls in fox poo, rabbit pellets or cow pies, this behavior sure leaves us baffled especially when we notice that satisfied, "look what I just did!" look on the dog's face. Until dogs can talk, we can only make some assumptions as to why dogs engage in certain behaviors, but here are a few educated guesses as to why dogs roll in poop and other stinky things.

A Case of Identity Theft

When your dog rolls in poop, it may look like a rather simplistic behavior, but there's a lot going on. First of all, when a dog rolls in poop, he's depositing his own scent on the poop, and at the same time, he's also acquiring the scent of the animal who has originally deposited the poop. 

But why would a dog want to smell like a fox, deer, rabbit or a cow? There is likely a good reason.

One theory has it that this behavior is reminiscent of the times when dogs were hunting for as living. When prey animals detected the smell of predators, they would normally leave, but what if the predators smelled just like them?

Chances are, if predators could disguise their smell and smell just like their prey, prey animals would be fooled and consequently would become easier to catch. Talk about "a wolf in sheep's clothing!"

Dog Bulletin Board

Another theory has it, that dogs roll in poop to advertise something that may be relevant to the other members of his social group. It's the canine version of social bragging, sort of like saying "Hey, look what I found!" 

It's the sensory version of a bulletin board, where dogs send sensory messages to one another through scent. If bragging seems to be too much of an anthropomorphic explanation, there may be another good reason for dogs to roll in poop or other stinky things.

So here's another theory: since dogs in the past used to wander for food sources, animal feces may have proven to be interesting information that was worthy of sharing with other members.

Since dogs cannot talk to one another and reveal their findings verbally, scent carried on their coats may have been worth 100 words. Their scent could have therefore informed other dogs about some interesting findings in their neck of the woods. 

Gaining Their  Identity Back

And then there is the classic nerve-wrecking scene of a dog rolling on poop right after they are given a bath. When we give our dogs a bath, we are adding scents that we find appealing, but dogs can't wait to get that scent off of them. 

No offense, but we're talking about two different species here. As humans, we like the scent of fruit and flower blossoms because our evolutionary past revolved around gathering nuts and fruits.

Dogs on the other hand, were hunters and scavengers at heart. Yes, you can dress up your dog in pink, paint her nails and bathe her with baby powder cologne, but she will always be a dog who is attracted to stinky, rotten scents no matter what you do. 

So we shouldn't be surprised if the moment we give our dogs a bath, they can't wait to get that vanilla or lavender scent off of them, and gain back their identity. All the want to do is smell like a dog again! Or even better, smell like a dog covered in fox poo!

DIY Self-Grooming

Dogs have different perceptions when it comes to grooming. We want our dogs to smell good, while all our dogs care about is that their coats get rid of dead hairs and are free of mats.

While we use brushes and combs to remove any dead hairs, dogs in the wild used to resort to rolling over stuff to shed those dead or dying hairs away from their undercoats. 

Of course, the fact that whatever they find to to roll over is stinky and gross, makes the action from as dog's perspective even more appealing! Welcome to the Poop n' Groom Dog Salon!

Now That You Know...

As seen, dogs have their own good set of reasons to roll in poop or other stinky, rotten stuff. Whether your dog rolls in dung, dead fish or trash, consider that it's an instinct. And when we talk about instincts, we can't really do much about it, especially once dogs have begun to drop, roll and start writhing while grunting in pleasure. 

So to prevent this behavior in the first place, your best option is limiting exposure to stimuli that trigger the scent-rolling action  (regularly patrol your yard for things like dead mice or rotten bird eggs) and/or invest on a leash or long line for those hikes in the country.

If it's too late, and your dog has already managed to roll and absorb bad odors deep into their pores, use a shampoo that is crafted to neutralize odors. This should help cut down those awful smells, at least until the next time.