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5 Reasons Dog Rolls in Poop (and How to Stop It)

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Jack Russell rolling

One dog behavior that frustrates pet owners is their pup’s seemingly relentless desire to cover themselves in poop. At times, it even looks like they are doing it on purpose.

You do not want your pooch covered in poop for obvious reasons. And bathing a dog repeatedly isn’t fun.  This article will discuss the reasons why dogs roll in poop and how to remedy it. First, we’ll look at the top five reasons dogs roll in poop. Then, we’ll offer you three tips to get them to stop!

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Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop?

To us, it seems otherworldly that an animal can willingly cover itself in another’s fecal matter. However, we have to understand that there must be a reason for this because all canid species – ranging from foxes to wolves – have been observed to engage in this behavior.

In fact, this behavior is not limited to poop, but to nearly all foul-smelling organic materials. Considering that we domesticated dogs 30,000 years ago, which is quite recent in the grand scheme of things, our lovely dogs still have wild instincts hardwired in them.

While there are no conclusive findings from studies on why dogs roll in poop, there are a few plausible theories floating around. The following are some of them.

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Top 5 Reasons Dogs Roll in Poop:

1. There is Something about Pungent Smells that Dogs Love

No, it is not that your dog loves foul smells specifically; rather, it does not register the same way to them as it does to you.

dog poop_xtotha_shutterstock
Credit: Xtotha, Shutterstock

According to estimates, an average dog’s sense of smell is between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than that of a human.

This heightened sensitivity allows them to detect multiple layers of scent within one general smell. Perhaps poop contains a scent that is so irresistible to dogs that they cannot help themselves but roll in it.

Moreover, it is important to consider that what you deem as a nice smell might not be for dogs. Perhaps your pooch rolls in poop to get rid of that shampoo smell!

2. To Hide their Own Scent

You have to remember that your lovable furball is a descendant of ferocious hunters who kill for a living. In fact, a good percentage of modern dogs are still avid hunters and killers.

As with any carnivorous animal, canids have to get close as possible to their prey before launching an attack to enhance the chances of success. Prey animals, on the other hand, have evolved to detect the scent of predators so that they can take off without even having to see it.

Therefore, by using poop to mask their natural scent, a hunting dog reduces its chances of being detected by its prey.

Masking their scent with poop may also be a defense mechanism against other predators. For example, smaller canids such as foxes have been observed to roll themselves in mountain lion poop to deter coyotes from attacking them, as the scent of a bigger predator makes the potential attacker wary of their own safety as well.

This masking instinct might still be ingrained in your pooch.

3. To Mark their Territory

dog peeing on tree
Image Credit: Sukpaiboonwat, Shutterstock

Dogs typically mark territories by urinating in several spots in an area. Doing this leaves the individual’s unique scent behind as a warning that that spot is taken.

Rolling in another dog’s poop is the ultimate form of disrespect among canids. This is because a dog that does that is usually trying to override the scent of the one that left the poop behind, thereby making his more dominant.

While your sweet pooch might look cute rolling around in poop, he might essentially be calling another animal’s bluff and claiming his or her territory.

4. To Communicate with their Pack

It is also plausible that dogs use this bizarre behavior as a way of communicating with other members of their pack.

For example, by rolling in smelly carrion, the dog communicates to other members of his pack the scent they need to follow to find the score.

This might not make sense when you look at your dog, but you must remember that they have had their instincts for far longer than they have been with us. Therefore, if their pack nature is yet to leave them, it is highly unlikely that the behaviors that come with that nature have faded.

5. They are Bored

We might be looking for logical scientific explanations for this behavior while, in fact, it could be that your pet is simply bored.

Pug dog waiting for a permission to eat cheese_mariia boiko_shutterstock
Credit: Mariia Boiko, Shutterstock

Any canine parent is painfully aware of the destructive behaviors that dogs are capable of when left to their own devices. Dogs need constant physical and mental stimulation to be well balanced.

In the wild, canids get that stimulation from other pack members, in addition to having roles and responsibilities. The lives of most pet dogs, however, are rather boring.

This is why any breeder worth his salt will always advise you to provide your pup with adequate exercise and entertainment to prevent them from looking for ways to entertain themselves.

Providing your dog with physical stimulation is the easy part, as all you need to do is exercise them. Mental stimulation, on the other hand, requires a great deal of creativity. Fortunately, a simple dog toy should help you with that.

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Top 3 Tips to Stop Your Dog from Rolling in Poop:

It will take time to get your dog to understand that rolling in poop is unacceptable behavior, as it might be a need that is deeply ingrained inside them. The trick is to take a proactive approach towards curbing that behavior while being patient. Consider the following tips:

1. Clean Up Your Yard

Labrador Retriever poop_wasitt hemwarapornchai_shutterstock
Credit: Wasitt Hemwarapornchai, Shutterstock

Your dog will not roll in poop if there is no poop to roll in, to begin with. This is why it is extremely important to crate-train your pup to ensure that they only use one spot to handle their business. If they do it outside, ensure that you take care of it as soon as possible.

2. Be Observant

Observe your dog – especially during walks – to try to pinpoint the behaviors they display before they rush off to roll in some poo. This knowledge will allow you to stop them in their tracks before they decide to act on the impulse.

3. Teach them a Command

This will take some time. After identifying the behaviors that your pup displays before they dive into the stinky pile, intercept them on their way there with a quick tug of the leash plus a command such as “Stop!” or “Leave It!”

commanding dog
Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

After that, call them to you and give them a treat. Repeat this action several times to get the animal to understand that you do not like them rolling in poop.

Do not expect them to stop the behavior overnight, but with time and patience, they will eventually stop it.

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Man’s four-legged best friend comes with some peculiar habits that might not be acceptable. Rolling in poop is one of those habits.

Just as it is with any relationship, the key is to understand the other party while helping them change. Consider following through on the tips offered in this article.

Featured Image: Pinpals, Pixabay

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