Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop? And Other Smelly Stuff!
Why do dogs roll in poop? It's not really known. However, from research and observation, we can make educational guesses. It is likely to come from their wild, predatory ancestors. The main reasons are to hide their smell, to mark the scent, to tell others where they've been, to establish a community or a characteristic odor, or to benefit or protect their skin.
Whether it's pee, fox poop, rabbit poop, dirt, grass, or carcasses, dogs seem to love rolling in the smelly stuff! Their neck and back seem to be the most common areas for dogs to want to cover, and they look like they're enjoying it!
In this article, we will explore each reason, how to prevent them from rolling, and if the inevitable happens - how to clean them.
Busy? Get Your Hands Paws On The Answers Quickly…
Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop?
To Alter Their Smell
This is the most commonly assumed reason for dogs covering themselves in poop. It dates back to their wild ancestors who had been observed rolling in poop to hide their own scent. Both for hiding from predators and approaching prey.
Hide From Prey - By rolling in the poop of prey animals (e.g., those who eat vegetation like sheep, rabbits, zebra, etc.), dogs can hide their natural smell, which gives them the ability to creep up on their prey undetected as they smell like them.
Hide From Predators - Despite being predators themselves, wolves are also at risk of becoming prey themselves. Animals, such as tigers and bears, can prey on wolves. By rolling in the poop of tigers or bears, they can disguise their own scent to help them escape.
To Communicate With The Pack
It has been proposed that wolves roll in areas they have been to communicate to their pack the route they took.
Pat Goodman, of wolfpack.org, observed wolves eating and then rolling. Goodman suspected this is a way of communicating that there are leftovers if the others wanted to backtrack and find the food source through scent.
To Establish A Community or Common Smell With The Pack
Dogs often rub up against each other's scent glands. They rub their scent on one another leading to a shared smell.
In the wild, foxes have been observed to roll in something, with the rest of the pack following.
In the wild, those looking to join a new pack roll in the urine of the desired pack.
This is thought to be a social-sign. They are potentially establishing a group or common odor.
The sharing of an odor is believed to bring them closer together (link).
To Improve Their Coat
Although not proven, it has been suggested that the rolling in poop could protect their skin. Whether that's from sun exposure, insects, or as a waterproof layer.
To Mark Or Deposit Their Own Scent
Some think that dogs aren't necessarily looking to pick up the smell of the poop, but rather deposit their own smell onto it. More common in males, but also displayed in females, dogs urinate to mark their territory. This shows both ownership and can also be a sign of anxiety.
Boredom or Attention Seeking
As they say, all attention is good attention. If your dog is bored mentally or physically and the only reaction they get from you is when they start rolling in poop, this may become a learned behavior. Your dog may continue to participate in the poop rolling as they know they get attention and a reaction. By providing this reaction to your dog, you instill the behavior, making your dog want to repeat it.
How To Prevent Dogs Rolling In Poop
Prevention is always better than cure, although attempting to train out a natural instinct can be difficult. Dogs are dogs, and we believe they should be allowed to behave like them to a certain extent. However, there are a few techniques you can try to attempt to curb the problem.
Control - Keep your dog on a leash in areas that are common for rolling. If you walk through a farm or particular field that your dog always finds poop to roll in, keep them close, and use praise and treats to keep them engaged, focused on you, and away from the poop.
Keep Area Clean - If your dog rolls in their own poop, then make sure to clean up as soon as they go to prevent them from having a chance to roll in it.
Engage With Them - If your dog is exploring and rolling as they're bored, try playing games like fetch or tug during a walk, practicing their recall, playing 'find the treat', etc.
Train 'Leave It' - When your dog learns the 'leave it' or 'away' command, you will be able to get your dog to walk away from the poop.
Notes - Ensure your dog NEVER receives the treat or item you are training 'leave it' with.
1. To start - Hold a low-value treat in a closed fist in front of your dog and hide a high-value treat behind your back. When your dog pulls away or loses interest in the low-value treat, use a command to mark the movement such as 'yes' 'nice' or if you use a clicker, 'click.' Repeat until your dog automatically moves away from your fist with the command.
2. Increase the stakes - Once your dog can leave the treat in a closed fist, try with an open palm. Repeat the same steps. Increase the stakes further, try moving the treat to the ground, then stepping back.
3. Test run - Once your dog can complete the other steps, use the command in real life with a leash to remain in control. Try with lower value things before attempting the poop. Make sure to have high-value treats for when your dog listens.
4. Repeat - Keep repeating until the command is engrained. Don't be afraid to return to previous steps if needed.
How To Clean A Dog Who Rolled In Poop
Poop stinks, and even when you think it's all out, the likelihood is that your dog still smells. This is the best way we have found to keep our dogs clean:
Step 1 - Wipe - Use a dog safe or baby wipe to try and remove the majority of the feces.
Step 2 - Rinse - Use water to rinse out the poop thoroughly.
Step 3 - Wash - Lather with dog shampoo and scrub specifically into the affected area.
Step 4 - Rinse - Rinse through to remove the shampoo.
Step 5 - Repeat - If you notice your dog still smells, repeat steps 3 and 4.
There are certain shampoos explicitly designed for eliminating the scent of poop. Many brands also sell doggy perfume, which may also be handy.
Many people also recommend things like tomato ketchup, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice to remove the scent of poop from their fur. However, we haven't used any of these and believe that it could cause a skin reaction. Ketchup may alter the color of their coat.
Do you have any home remedies or tricks for removing the scent of dog poop? Let us know below!
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Disclaimer: Each dog is different, and every circumstance is different. All efforts have been made to provide accurate information. However, it is not provided by a qualified Veterinarian, Veterinarian Surgeon, or Behaviorist. The information provided is purely educational. The information should not be used as an alternative or substitute for medical care. If you have any health or medical concerns, contact a qualified Veterinary Surgeon or Veterinarian immediately.