This Is Why Dogs Roll In Poop (And Other Stinky Things)

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: May 6, 2022
Image Credit UfaBizPhoto/Shutterstock.com
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Nothing ruins a walk quite as much as your dog rolling in poop. One moment your four-legged friend is trotting along beside you but the next moment they are rolling in…something quite disgusting. As soon as you spot your dog rolling in the grass, you know that whatever they are rubbing themselves in is not going to be pleasant. On most occasions it is poop! So, why do dogs roll in poop, and can you do anything about it? We’ve got all the inside information from experienced dog owners here.

Is It Normal For Dogs To Roll In Poop?

If this is your first dog, it can be quite alarming when they first head over to a pile of poop and start rolling in it. You will have obvious concerns about whether this is a normal thing for dogs to do. Don’t worry – this is typical canine behavior and most dogs have done it at some point in their lives. Many dogs do it every time they head out on a walk. Wild dogs, including wolves, have been seen rolling in poop so it’s not just a domestic dog thing either!

You will probably notice that they roll in poop just when you don’t want them to – perhaps when they have just been to the groomers or when you have just bathed them.

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Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop?

Experts have struggled to come up with a solid explanation for this bizarre behavior. Even so, there are several possible theories that make sense. Here they are:

Dogs Don’t Like the Smell of Our Fragrances

You may think that the latest canine shampoo or spray smells divine but your dog will have other opinions. When it comes to fragrance, humans, and dogs have vastly different opinions. So, perhaps it is no coincidence that dogs roll in poop just after a bath, a spray, or a trip to the groomers. They love to swap the adorable scents of dog hygiene products for the stench of rotting food, dead animals, and of course…poop!

Dogs Like the Smell of Poop

If we find a smell that we like, from a fragrant flower, for example, we will stay awhile to appreciate the lovely aroma. For centuries, we have used flower petals to make perfumes and scented oils that we apply to our skin so that we can smell the things that we love.

Dogs are no different. They like to smell odors that they find attractive. The bad news is that dogs find the smell of poop attractive!

Golden retriever rolling in grass
One of the reasons that dogs roll in poop is that they like the smell!

jewels bejeweled/Shutterstock.com

Camouflage for Hunting

It’s not that long ago that our dogs had to catch prey to survive. Some experts believe that dogs roll in poop to camouflage their natural smell so that their prey do not know that they are coming. Wolves still roll in deer poop for this very reason and have also been seen rolling in motor oil!

Carrying a Message Back to the Pack

When dogs lived in packs, it would have been useful to have a mechanism that allowed them to tell their pack mates where they had been. By rolling in a dead animal they could share news of the food that they had found. Dogs have very sensitive noses and can detect many layers of odors, so the pack may be able to tell a lot about the carcass by the way it smells.

Many ancient wild dogs were scavengers and would have lived off carcasses of rotting meat. These smell very similar to poop so this may be why our dogs are so attracted to them. Research carried out on wolf packs has shown that the wolves will follow such a scent back to its origin after they have detected it on their pack mate’s coat. It helps them to track where their prey has been.

Territory Marking

Traditionally dogs were territorial animals and so there may be an evolutionary connection with this. Your dog may be trying to leave their own scent on the area where the poop is found to communicate to other dogs in the area that they are here. It’s a type of “I’ve been here and seen this” type of message.

It’s a Way to Get Your Attention

How do you react when your dog rolls in poop. You call them over and start interacting with them or you go rushing over to them. This is great attention for a dog and they love it! Perhaps your pooch has learned that rolling in poop is a good way to get your attention.

A corgi looking guilty
Sometimes dogs do naughty things like rolling in poop simply to get our attention!

Masarik/Shutterstock.com

How to Stop Your Dog From Rolling in Poop

There are two approaches to stopping your dog from rolling in poop. The first focuses on minimizing the opportunities they have to access the poop. To do this, you should clear up their poop as quickly as possible by picking it up in a poop bag or scoop and disposing of it correctly. When you are out on a walk, keep your dog on a short leash so that you can haul them away from anything that looks like poop.

The second approach requires a bit more work. You can interact with your dog when you are out and about so that they are more focused on you than the environment. This takes a lot of training and effort by you and you will probably need some toys and balls to help you out. You could also try to distract or startle your dog when they start to roll in the poop by making a loud noise or spraying them with water if you have some with you.

Finally, the ‘leave it’ command is perfect for this situation. You start by rewarding your dog for leaving something of low value to them (e.g. a piece of kibble) with a high-value treat. With a lot of time and patience, you can teach your dog to turn away from something as desirable as poop – but don’t forget to reward them with a very tasty treat.

What to Do if Your Dog Rolls in Poop

Inevitably, your dog is going to roll in poop so you need to know what to do in this situation. It’s a good idea to carry some pet wipes with you so that you can remove the bulk of the poop before you get back in the car! A dog spray is also a good idea – and can save you from having a very unpleasant journey back home!

The only option to get rid of the stink is a good bath, perhaps with an odor-neutralizing shampoo.

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why do dogs roll on their backs in poop?

This probably relates to the hunting theory. By getting the scent on their back, dogs can offer other members of the pack to smell it quite easily and then they can set off to find what smells so good!

Why does my dog roll in grass?

Grass is where the poop is most likely to be! It may look to you like they are rolling in grass but there will certainly be something unpleasant lurking near the soil. You may not be able to smell it yet, but your pooch knows that it is there.

Why do dogs roll in fox poop?

Because is smells so bad – at least it does to us. To your dog, however, it smells great and they want to smell like that too. Also, it’s readily available – no one clears up after the fox when it has had a poop!

Should you let your dog roll in poop?

It’s not the best activity for your dog and you should try to discourage them if you can but never tell your dog off for doing it. After all, it is an instinctual behavior that their ancestors have displayed for thousands of years. Having said that, it is disgusting! You are left with the job of cleaning it off your dog and potentially your car and your home. Also, poop can contain harmful pathogens that could make you or your dog ill if ingested.  The best approach is to calmly try to discourage the behavior as much as you can.