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Why do dogs roll in poop?

Have you watched on hopelessly from afar as your pooch delights in covering themselves in something smelly? For many dog owners, this is an all too familiar sight. 

While dogs don’t tend to roll in their own poop, they can find the poo of other animals irresistible. But why do dogs roll in poop? 

Why does my dog roll in poop? 

A dog’s sense of smell is much greater than our own, and when our pooches pick up on an alluring scent, their senses go into overdrive. A common complaint among owners tends to be the particularly offensive smelling fox poo, but why do dogs roll in fox poo? Read our sister article to find out.

Here are a few possible explanations as to why our dogs can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to rolling in something smelly. 

dog rolling in poop

Read more: Why do dogs eat poo?

Masking their scent

Rolling in poo is a behaviour known as scent-rolling, and although the exact cause is not known, it’s thought to be an evolutionary hangover from their descendants, wolves. In the wild, wolves have been observed rolling in poo, to mask their scent to help them sneak up on prey. 

Marking territory

Rolling in poo could be a way for dogs to mark their territory with their scent. Spreading their scent helps dogs to communicate with each other through their environment. 

Delivering messages

Another theory is that dogs might roll in poop in order to “perfume” themselves with the scent of another animal. By rubbing themselves in poop or rolling in animal carcasses, it’s thought that dogs can bring home the scent to the other dogs in the pack.

This act could let them know about potential predators or food sources, depending on the scent. 

How do I stop my dog from rolling in poop? 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do if your dog feels compelled to roll in poo. Rolling in smelly things is a perfectly natural behaviour for dogs. 

If you’re walking in an area where your dog has previously rolled in poo, you can take extra care to keep them on the lead and give previous problem spots a wide berth. 

If your dog is displaying tell-tale signs that they are about to roll in something, such as lowering their shoulders to the ground, you can try a "leave it" command and call them over. Give them plenty of praise and treats if they come to you without rolling in poop. 

golden retriever rolling in poop

Read more: Why does my dog lick my face?

How to bathe your dog 

Some dogs take to bath time like a duck to water, but for others, getting in the tub can be a real battle. To make bath time a pleasant experience for both of you, there are a few things you can prepare in advance to make sure that things go swimmingly. 

Before popping your dog into the bathtub, make sure you have everything you need ready:

You may want to brush your dog before bathing them. This will help you get rid of loose excess fur. Before turning on the tap, you might want to measure out the shampoo and set it to one side. 

If your dog is uncomfortable and skittish around water, try putting down a non-stick bath mat - this will reduce their risk of slipping.

Once your dog is in the tub, wet their coat with lukewarm water. Do this gently, and avoid getting water in your dog’s face, especially his/her ears and eyes. 

Next, apply the shampoo and gently massage it through your dog’s coat. Take extra care to rinse your dog gently and thoroughly with lukewarm water. Towel off your dog and reward them with a tasty treat!

Read now: The full guide to bathing your dog 

Need more info?

For more advice on your dog’s behaviour whilst you’re out and about, or tips for bathing your dog, have a chat with your local vet. Locate your nearest vet practice by visiting our Find a Vet page.

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