Why Do Dogs Rub Their Bodies on The Ground?

Dogs rub their bodies on the ground for various reasons, and in order to obtain a better insight, it helps to take a closer look at the context in which the behavior occurs. Did your dog carefully sniff the area before rolling? Even the manner in which your dog rolls can provide some clues. For instance, is your dog moving his body around from one side and the other as he happily groans? Following are several possible reasons as to why dogs rub their bodies on the ground.

It's a common cliche': your dog sniffs a spot and next thing you know he's rolling in horrible filth-the stinkier the better. Every day, hundreds of dogs rehearse this scene over and over, what's up with them?  Why do dogs rub their bodies on the ground?

Dogs rubbing their bodies on the ground is possibly the reason why so many dogs living in the country are relegated to the porch area. Who wants to share a clean home with a dog whose fur is the color of mud and that stinks to high heavens? Fortunately, there are several strategies to keep Rover from making people reel.

Relieving a Back Itch

Dogs lack our manual dexterity, so when they get an itch, it's not like they can just grab a back scratcher and pass it on their backs. In order to scratch their backs, dogs must therefore get quite creative. 

Bears rub their backs on tree trunks and goats may use sturdy fencing, dogs instead must either present their back ends to their owners in hopes they get the scratch-my-back please message or they may just toss themselves to the ground rubbing their backs on whatever surface they prefer.

Whether dogs rub their backs on a carpet, a grassy area or on a ribbed rubber toy, dogs who are hoping to relieve an itch typically move their backs side to side as they happily groan with satisfaction.

Problems With the Glands 

The body part your dog rubs on the ground can also provide details as to why your dog is performing the behavior. Is your dog rubbing his rear end on the ground? The technical term for this is "scooting" and often this behavior is triggered by the presence of parasites or perhaps the glands under your dog's tail are bothering him.

Dogs have anal glands on the sides of their rectum and these glands are meant to be emptied when your dog passes solid poop. 

However, if your dog lately has softer than usual stools, the glands may not empty as they should and this can cause problems with the glands.

 Full anal glands are uncomfortable to dogs so they do what they can to relieve the pressure and often this entails licking and biting the area and scooting. 

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When grass is not an option, concrete will do

An Unfamiliar Sensation

Sometimes, dogs will rub their bodies on the ground when they sense something on their bodies that shouldn't be there. This can be the case when your dog hasn't had a chance to acclimate to wearing a harness or a head halter. Some dogs are also bothered by ID tags attached to their collars. 

Young puppies may toss themselves on the ground when they are first introduced to collar or harness and feel the pressure from the leash. These dogs are rebelling to the pressure and trying to remove the unfamiliar gear from their bodies. 

Attracted to Scent 

Dogs are equipped with millions of more scent receptors in their noses compared to humans. If your dog carefully smells a spot on the ground and then starts rubbing his nose, head, and then the whole body on the ground, most likely something on the surface is really attracting him.

Perhaps a rabbit was there earlier or there may have been cow dung or a carcass of some animal. Dogs who are intrigued by the scent will often roll in it making sure they rub their bodies carefully so to capture its essence.

There are several theories as to why dogs may do this. One theory has it that the dog is trying to smell just like the animal that left the scent. Just as you may be attracted to J'adore Eau de Perfume, your dogs is attracted to eau de toilet (yup, you got it, that's the scent of animal dung). 

Another possibility is that, by smelling like the animal, dogs are at an advantage from a hunting perspective since by smelling like prey, they may be camouflaging their own smell and this makes them more stealthy hunters. 

This latter theory though is somewhat faulty if we think about it, considering that no prey animal would ever allow a large predator near just because it doesn't smell like a predator. 

Finally, some theorize dogs like to “brag” about certain smells, so they purposely get the stench on them, and then, when they meet other dogs, they can "spread the news" that they rolled into something super interesting and perhaps worthy of having them investigating its source too.

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Dogs are attracted to the scent of dead fish and will readily roll on it given the opportunity

Getting Rid of Shampoo

Many dogs roll on the ground shortly after they were recently bathed, and this is likely because they want to rid themselves of the artificial shampoo scent we force upon their coats.

This is one of those things that make us reflect as to how different dogs and humans are. Us humans enjoy flowery, fresh scents that we associate with cleanliness. Dogs on the other hand, enjoy scents that are old, smelly and that may even stink like death.

At a closer insight though this divergence makes sense. Dogs, with a history as scavengers, have come to appreciate scents that remind them of anything that can be considered remotely edible.  

Now That You Know...

As seen, dogs have their own good little reasons as to why they like to rub their bodies on the ground. Regardless of what we do though, dogs will remain dogs and nobody can change that. However, there are some things you can do to make your life easier while keeping Rover happy as well.

  • Give your dog some brushing. Many dogs feel particularly itchy when they are blowing their coats. A thorough brushing can help rake out the dead hairs and relieve a dog's itching. 
  • If your dog is rolling on the ground excessively, consider that he may be suffering from skin allergies or he may have fleas or some other pesky parasite causing the itchiness. Your vet can help find out what may be going on. 
  • Have your dog see the vet if his anal glands are bothering him.
  • Give your dog some time to get used to wearing a collar, harness or head halter. Here are tips to getting a puppy used to wearing a collar. 
  • After giving your dog a bath, take your dog on a walk. With the leash on, your dog will feel less likely to roll in something stinky and the walk will distract him.
  • Clean your yard. When possible, perform some routine checks and remove from your yard anything that may be tempting for your dog to eat or roll into. Remove things such as dead birds or mice, any animal droppings and rotten bird eggs.
  • Use a dog shampoo with an odor neutralizer. Regular shampoo may work well for routine maintenance, but when dogs roll in poop or other stinky things, you'll need something stronger so to neutralize those awful smells.  
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