A frolic through the field at your local dog park can be great exercise for your energetic dog. But when your beloved pup comes back, bounding happily in triumph and bringing a horrible stench, you know he’s gotten into something.
Rolling around in something foul can make your dog happy, but it can be a source of disgust and frustration for you.
If understanding why your dog chooses to roll on something dead or in poop doesn’t give you some comfort, knowing that there are ways to discourage the behavior can.
Why do they do it?
It isn’t entirely clear why dogs will find a seemingly random patch of grass and become head over heels, literally, for whatever they’ve found. Dogs have incredibly powerful noses, so a patch of grass with no discern-able appeal for us, might be a luxurious mix of smells for your dog. One thing is certain, for your dog, the smellier the patch of grass, the better.
Veterinarians and experts have no real reason why dogs have this habit, but there are a few theories that can shed some light. Researchers believe that your dog is tapping into his or her instincts.
In the wild, their ancestors, the wolves, will roll around in decaying leaves, carcasses, or excrement from other animals and even other wolves. This is a common practice because wolves use these scents to disguise their own, making it easier to deceive prey and rivals.
Dogs have this natural instinct, too.
Though dogs don’t necessarily need to disguise their scents for the same reasons as wolves, they still find the process enjoyable and fulfilling, and they often give in to those instincts, much to our displeasure.
Other studies suggest that rolling in poop or other random patches of grass was once a means of “conversation”. Before domestication, dogs would wander off and explore areas, rolling in everything that they encountered that would be of interest.
At the day’s end, they would return to their pack and share their smells as a way of telling the others where they had been and what they had found.
Perhaps, this is an interesting way for your dog to communicate with you. Is it possible that your dog is confused by your negative reaction? Fortunately, there are ways to discourage the behavior without breaking your dog’s spirit.
What can you do about it?
As dog parents, we want to see our fur children happy, so we must remember that this rolling in disgusting and smelly patches of grass is deeply ingrained in our dog’s instincts. As easy as it is to become upset at your dog for returning stinky and gross, we need to instead learn how to prevent this behavior.
Puppies can be the easiest to train when it comes to this behavior. It’s important to keep a close eye on your puppy whenever you take him out to explore. If his nose is glued to a patch of grass and he seems like he’s about to plop over and absorb the smells, distract him with a treat or a toy. This tells him that the behavior isn’t bad, but he should be more excited about something else.
Older dogs can also benefit from distraction. It may take a little extra work, but your dog can develop a new habit.
If distraction with a treat or a toy doesn’t work, there is another option. This is similar dog training to house training your puppy or rescue. At the first hint of rolling, make a loud noise or clap to disrupt your dog’s plans. This can be startling for your dog, but they will forget about the smelly patch of grass, and you can move on.
Another option is to have a squirt bottle handy to use in place of the sharp noise or the loud clap. Keeping your dog from the areas they like to typically explore can help prevent rolling as well.
Because your dog is following its natural instincts doesn’t mean you have to live with the behavior and the smell. Remember to be patient, and you’ll be able to prevent your dog from rolling in a random patch of grass in the future.
Why Do Dogs Roll in Smelly Stuff?