There are certain dog behaviors that are cute and a little unusual, and then there are those that are downright baffling and, frankly, a bit gross. When your dog is out and about, and suddenly they make a dash for a pile of poop to roll around in, it definitely falls into the latter category. While this behavior might leave you scratching your head and reaching for your dog shampoo, there are evolutionary and behavioral reasons behind this habit.
1. Covering Up Their Scent
At the heart of the "poop roll" is your dog's keen sense of smell. Dogs have an olfactory sense 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than humans. In the wild, ancestors of modern dogs would mask their scent to help them hunt without alerting their prey.
Rolling in a strong-smelling substance, such as poop, would conceal their natural scent and increase their hunting success. Rolling in poop can also be a way for dogs to acquire the scent of the animal who originally deposited the poop. So your dog isn't just going a little crazy; there's a method to the madness here.
2. Relaying Messages to the Pack
Another theory suggests that dogs roll in poop, or other strong-smelling materials, as a means of communication. By transferring the smell onto their own bodies, they are able to bring the scent back to their pack, conveying information about what they've found. While our domestic dogs no longer need to relay messages to a pack, this instinctual behavior remains.
3. They Just Like It
As bizarre as it sounds, your dog might roll in poop because it finds the smell attractive or interesting. The smells that are revolting to us may be intriguing to a dog. This is especially true if the feces belong to another animal. The scents provide a whole lot of "news" about the animal in question, which can be irresistible to a curious dog.
4. Attention-Seeking Behavior
Some dogs might roll in poop simply because they've learned that it gets a strong reaction. If your response to your dog's stinky roll is a high-energy way, and you go right to giving them bath time, your dog may view this as attention and fun playtime.
It's additional time they get to spend with you soaking up all your affection as you scrub them down. This theory may not account for all cases, but it's a possibility if your dog tends to engage in other attention-seeking behaviors.
5 Ways to Prevent the Poop Roll
Understanding why your dog loves this messy pastime is the first step, but stoping the behavior altogether is going to prove difficult, However, you can work to prevent it. Here are a few tips:
- Keep a clean yard: Regularly cleaning up after your dog can remove the temptation before it even begins.
- Stay vigilant on walks: If your dog starts to show interest in feces or begins to drop and roll, redirect their attention with a toy or treat.
- Keep them on-leash: If you walk your dog along paths where you encounter other animals' feces, such as in a park or along a hiking trail, keep your dog on-leash so they don't have the chance to go roll.
- Provide plenty of baths and dog-friendly smells: Keeping your dog clean and introducing them to pleasant dog-friendly smells can discourage them from seeking out more pungent odors.
- Training: Teach your dog commands like "Leave it" or "Come" to help deter unwanted behaviors. The best way to do this is, train your dog when distractions are present. It's no good if your dog won't come under stress.
Remember that, while this behavior can be bothersome and smelly, it's typically a normal part of being a dog. However, if your dog's penchant for poop-rolling seems obsessive or causes health issues, like skin irritation or parasites, it's best to consult with a vet or a dog behaviorist.
Parasites are common among dogs, especially those who live outside and have access to wild animals. One of the main concerns is Giardia, which spreads through infected canine feces.
A Less Than Appealing Behavior
In the end, our dogs' quirky behaviors, even the disgusting ones, are part of what make them so endearing. So, the next time you catch your dog mid-roll, remember, they're not doing it to annoy you. They're just being a dog. Don't get mad or scold them, as they won't understand, and you might just friengthen or confuse them. Instead, lovingly work to redirect the behavior and bust our your dog shampoo to clean up.