Whether your dog shows up at your doorstep covered in faeces after roaming the woods or your arm is sore from pulling them away from poop piles, you might be wondering—why do dogs roll in poop?
Scientists have several theories on why dogs may roll in poop, including marking their territory, camouflaging themselves, and communicating food sources with other dogs.
There’s one factor that these theories have in common—they all involve scents. A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans. When comparing that with human vision, if a person can see 1/3 of a mile into the distance, a dog could see 3,000 miles. What a difference!
Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop?
Evolution is likely the biggest reason why dogs roll in poop. However, within the evolutionary sector, scientists have several unproven theories. They include:
- Marking a territory
- Sharing food sources with other dogs
One item that scientists agree on is that urine-marking in dogs is a territorial behavior. Therefore, some researchers suspect that dogs roll in poop to mask the urine of other dogs. As a result, they can then lift their leg and re-mark the territory as theirs.
Alternatively, rolling in poop might be your dog’s attempt at rubbing their own scent into the area. That way, they mark the site so that other dogs won’t claim it as theirs.
In contrast, some people believe that dogs roll in poop to prevent predators from being able to smell them. If this is the case, poop serves as a type of camouflage for the nose.
Camouflage can work on the flip side, too. For example, if you have foxes in your area, you might wonder—why do dogs roll in fox poop?
Dogs may roll in their prey’s poop to try to mimic the prey’s smell. As a result, they might be able to get closer to a fox before attacking, increasing the odds of them catching a meal.
Finally, a dog may roll in poop to indicate food sources. As a dog owner who struggles with their dog rolling in poop, you know all too well that poop carries a scent long after an animal excretes it. So, your dog might roll in poop to show their friends that they encountered a possible food source.
If you’re saying to yourself, but poop isn’t a food source, you’re right. However, the poop could indicate that a living food source is nearby. Alternatively, it could be that your dog is mistaking the poop for actual food—a rotting animal, which they also typically enjoy rolling in.
Should You Be Worried About Your Dog Rolling in Poop?
As you’ve likely gathered by now, there’s no need to be worried about your dog rolling in poop since it’s an instinctive behaviour.
Nevertheless, even though the act of rolling in poop isn’t harmful, poop can carry items such as:
- Other harmful germs
Furthermore, if you don’t thoroughly bathe your dog every time they roll in poop, they could bring these parasites and bacteria into your home.
Keeping your dog on a regular deworming program will help lessen the possibility of parasites living in their body. Veterinarians recommend deworming your dog a minimum of once every three months.
However, if your dog has free range of your property and you suspect they roll in poop frequently, you should talk with your veterinarian about deworming them more often.
Needless to say, even though your dog looks like they’re having a blast when they roll in poop, you can legitimately cite health reasons (and keeping a clean house) for wanting to keep them away from it.
Should You Stop Your Dog From Rolling in Smelly Things?
As a dog owner, you love to see your dog happy. However, when your dog rolls in poop and other smelly things, it can be harmful to their health—and your health, too, if they track it through the house.
So, when your dog spots something smelly to roll in, what should you do?
First, keep Fido on a leash. It may be less fun for him, but it’ll give you the most control over where he wanders. You should also aim to walk him in a place where people pick up after their dogs, such as at a park.
If your dog runs loose in your yard, pick up their poop daily. Dogs sometimes take advantage of rolling in anything smelly that they can, even if it’s their own droppings.
Regardless of whether you’re walking your dog on a leash or letting your dog loose in the backyard, make sure to also look for the carcasses of dead animals.
Since dogs will take advantage of rolling in just about anything that makes humans turn up their noses, watch out for garbage as well. Whether it’s your garbage can or a neighbor’s, a dog will take any chance they can get to rummage and roll through it.
If you hate the thought of keeping your dog on a leash all the time, training with positive reinforcement techniques is also helpful. Teach your dog words such as “come,” “leave it,” or “no.”
The Bottom Line
So, why do dogs roll in poop? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as straightforward as scientists would like. However, evolution likely plays a significant role, whether dogs want to mark their territory, camouflage themselves, or communicate with other dogs.
If your dog rolls in poop and isn’t up-to-date on a dewormer, you should contact your veterinarian. Furthermore, if your dog has a wound and then rolls in poop, you should also bring them to the vet so that they can ward off any possible bacterial infections.
Otherwise, if your dog drags you to a pile of poop to roll in even when they’re on a leash, it might be time to get a trainer involved. A skilled trainer will use positive reinforcement techniques to teach your dog to focus on other things when you pass by something smelly.