Why Does My Dog Roll In Poop?
You turn your back on your dog for a minute at the dog park, and he comes running back towards you smelling of poo. Yuck!
Why do some dogs just love rolling in poop?
“We can't know for sure why dogs roll in poop (or other obnoxious things — our sheltie once found a dead fish and rolled on that!), but can extrapolate,” Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant in Texas, told The Dodo.
Here are some reasons why a dog might roll in poop (or other smelly things).
It smells good to him
Just because poop smells terrible to humans doesn’t mean the same for dogs. In fact, he might actually like it.
“Think ‘canine perfume,’ and how some scents make you feel wonderful to help understand,” Shojai said.
Dogs have a very strong sense of smell, which means he could be smelling so much more than the odor you consider foul. He might be more impressed by the strong scent of the other dog rather than the gross poop smell, for example.
He wants attention
Your dog might also just want you to pay more attention to him
“Just like human kids, if a dog craves attention and can't get it any other way, dogs may indulge in behavior that upsets the owner,” Shojai said. “Getting yelled at and a bath (yay, water games!) is better than being ignored.”
If you suspect this is the case, try taking more time from your day to play with your dog, maybe with a game of fetch or tug-of-war.
You can also add some new interactive dog toys to the rotation to keep him engaged and content. Toys that dispense treats can be especially fun for dogs, and keep him focused on things that you think smell good (or at least, better smelling than poop).
The behavior helped his ancestors
It’s possible that your dog’s poop-rolling behavior was passed down from his ancestors, since it might have actually been pretty useful hundreds of years ago.
“We speculate why canine ancestors might use this behavior,” Shojai said. “Perhaps rolling in the scent of poop or offal allowed them to carry this important scent information back to other members of the family group.” This info could help point the pack to a potential source of food.
Another explanation is that poop odor from other animals was used to cover up a dog’s own scent during hunting. “Rolling in the scent of a prey animal might help mask the hunter's own signature odor and provide smelly camouflage,” Shojai said.
Should I be worried if my dog rolls in poop?
There are a couple things you should be concerned about if your dog’s rolling in poop.
For one, if your dog’s rolling in poop, it’s possible he needs some more mental stimulation. “My concern would be the dog needs other outlets for exploration and fun if he resorts to poop parties too often,” Shojai said.
Another risk of rolling in poop is being exposed to things that can make him sick. “This also potentially exposes him to parasites, and can be a health threat,” Shojai said.
How to stop your dog from rolling in poop
One way to stop your dog from rolling in poop is to distract him the moment he starts. You can do this by making a loud noise, like a yelp or a whistle.
It’s super important you keep an eye on your dog, though, so you can stop him before he gets really into it. “Supervise your dog!” Shojai said.
If your dog rolls in poop on walks, try keeping him on a short leash to prevent him from getting deep into some doo-doo.
And of course, lots of time with his pet parent might reduce his urges to roll around in something smelly — so make playtime a priority!
Train the “leave it” command
A more permanent solution is to train your dog with the “leave it” command, which would instruct him to back away from whatever he’s interested in at the moment.
Keep in mind that training your dog won’t happen overnight, and requires lots of patience (and treats!).
To do this, offer your dog a treat in a closed fist without actually giving it to him. As soon as he gives up trying to get the treat from your fist and focuses his attention on something else, give him the treat. Repeat these steps until your dog starts diverting his attention from your closed fist on purpose in order to get the treat. Then, start pairing this behavior with a verbal cue, like “leave it.”
With enough repetitions, he’ll understand that backing away when you ask leads to a reward.
The reason your dog is rolling in poop is likely harmless, but that doesn’t mean rolling in poop always is. If possible, try to prevent your dog from doing it, and give him lots of love and praise when he’s not!
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