Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop?

Picture this: it’s a situation that most dog owners can relate to, and it’s probably happened to you at least once.

You’re out for a leisurely walk or an adventurous hike with your furry friend. Everything is going smoothly, and then suddenly, your dog takes a nosedive into something less than pleasant. Yep, you guessed it – your dog has decided to roll around in poop. And of course, this happens right before you’re about to hop into the car for a long ride home. (I can tell you from personal experience; my dog Burgundy and I had a memorable encounter with this after an overnight backpacking trip.)

But let’s be honest, this likely isn’t the first time your canine companion has indulged in this aromatic activity. So, why do dogs do it, and can we do anything to prevent it?

Is It Normal for Dogs to Roll in Feces?

Believe it or not, rolling in poop is a pretty standard dog behavior. It’s something many dogs can’t resist, often at the most inconvenient times – like right after a bath, just before guests arrive, or as you’re heading out the door. In fact, it’s not only common; it’s perfectly normal. Even wild dogs, such as wolves and foxes, are known to engage in this behavior by rolling in the feces of other animals.

Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop?

Dogs have a unique way of communicating with each other through scent. Rolling in poop and other strong odors is a way for them to share information about their environment. This behavior harks back to their wolf ancestors, who would roll in food and feces to bring scents back to their pack, guiding them to potential food sources or marking their territory.

Here are three common reasons behind your dog’s poop-rolling adventures:

  1. They enjoy the smell. Strange as it may sound, some dogs appear to have a peculiar fondness for the scent of another animal’s feces. Think of it like humans splashing on a strong cologne – for some, the stronger the aroma, the better. Dogs seem to share this preference for potent odors.

While on a walk, many dogs eagerly search for the most repulsive thing they can find to roll in. Others, like my dog Toupe, might relish rolling in anything that’s no longer living, such as roadkill or even an earthworm. When it comes to dogs and their scent choices, there’s no accounting for taste.

  1. They’re masking their natural scent. Some believe that, as predators, wild dogs might gain a tactical advantage by not smelling like their typical selves when hunting. Concealing their identity in this way could provide a strategic edge.

However, some studies have suggested that wild animals will also roll in foreign substances when given the choice, like perfume or motor oil. So, it might not be the best camouflage strategy in the animal kingdom.

  1. They’re sharing their adventures. Think of it as your dog’s way of bringing home souvenirs from their journeys. When a dog returns to their pack, they carry with them the scents of the places they’ve visited. This allows other pack members to follow the trail back to the source and possibly to any nearby food. In a sense, rolling in feces serves as a form of communication among a pack – it’s like a dog’s version of a social media update.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Rolling in Poop?

For many pet parents, the real question isn’t why dogs do it but how to stop them from doing it altogether. Unfortunately, this can be a challenging lesson to teach.

If your dog is on a leash, it’s relatively straightforward. Simply guide your dog away from the offending pile, and the temptation disappears. However, if your dog is off-leash, the challenge increases.

Many animal behaviorists recommend teaching your dog a command known as “leave it,” where your dog learns not to touch certain objects. This training can begin indoors with items like a sock, which is interesting but off-limits.

Gradually, you can increase the value of the item, using treats as a reward when your dog refrains from touching it. Your dog should only approach and take the treat once you release the “leave it” command by using another cue, such as “OK.”

Once your dog reliably follows the “leave it” command indoors, you can take the training, along with intriguing objects, outdoors while your dog is on a leash. Over time, you can progress to off-leash training. I’ve personally found this command to be helpful in various situations with my own dogs.

The key to success is timing. Most dogs provide some signals before they decide to take the plunge into a pile of poop. By closely observing your dog’s behavior, you’ll learn their cues. Many dogs start with intense sniffing, followed by a slight head shake and then a full-body roll.

When you notice your dog gearing up for the roll, that’s the perfect moment to use the “leave it” command.

Keep in mind that some dogs are simply committed poop-rollers, and achieving a completely “clean record” might be a tall order. However, with patience, keen observation, and effective training, you can minimize those unexpected bath times.

Further reading: Why Do Dogs Roll in the Grass?

Washing your pup after a messy encounter with poop

Addressing the not-so-enjoyable part of having a dog – handling the aftermath when they decide to roll in poop – can be quite the task. Opting for a shampoo that’s specially designed to eliminate odors and contains ingredients like sweet orange oil can greatly increase your chances of getting rid of those unpleasant smells completely.

Frequently Asked Questions about Canine Behavior: Why Dogs Engage in Rolling in Excrement

Why does my dog want to roll in poop? Dogs may roll in poop due to their ancestral instincts. They might do it to mask their scent or communicate with other dogs, but it’s not fully understood.

How do I get my dog to stop rolling in poop? You can discourage this behavior by training your dog with commands like “leave it,” keeping them on a leash, or using scented deterrents to make poop less appealing.

Why do dogs roll in poop and dead stuff? Rolling in poop and dead stuff may be an attempt to mask their scent for hunting or to establish dominance. It’s a natural instinct.

Why do dogs roll in dirty? Dogs might roll in dirt to cool down, alleviate itching, or simply because they find it enjoyable. It’s not always clear-cut.

What smell do dogs hate to poop on? Dogs often dislike strong citrus or vinegar smells. You can try using these scents to deter them from certain areas.

How do you clean a dog after rolling in dirt? To clean a dog after rolling in dirt, use a mild pet-friendly shampoo, warm water, and a gentle scrub. Rinse thoroughly and dry your dog completely.

Why does my female dog roll in poop? Female dogs may roll in poop for the same reasons as males, including instinctual behavior or communication with other dogs.

Why do dogs roll in human poop? Dogs might roll in human poop for the same reasons they roll in animal poop. It could be related to their natural instincts or attraction to the scent. Be sure to clean it up promptly to prevent this behavior.

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