Why Do Dogs Roll in Stinky Stuff?

You are having a nice leisurely walk, your dogs having a good sniff around and THEN… the dreaded roll. Neck, face, shoulders, back covered in something very unpleasant, but how pleased with themselves they are!


WHY oh WHY do they repeatedly wish to roll in things that smell so unpleasant?


The truth is, we are not sure why!


You will find an abundance of research on dog health and behaviour but surprisingly very little time has been spent exploring why dogs are so fond of poo… however, there are some theories. Which do you think is the most likely?


  • Was it to assist in hunting and has stayed with them during domestication? Prey animals would run if they smelt a wolf, wild dog etc., however, the prey animal would be less likely to distinguish them as a threat if they were coated in another smell.

  • Consider that whilst scent is commonly used in prey animals, many are highly visual and use their sense of sound too!


  • Is it to share valuable information with other dogs? (Wolves would follow a scent to its source once smelt on a pack-mate e.g. rubbed in a dead animal = food source). Maybe that makes the dog more attractive to others if they can find valuable resources...

  • Studies in wolves have shown them to roll, go back to their pack, the others greet and sniff and have followed the scent back to its source (Goodmann).

  • Interestingly, studies have found the scent rolled in is not always stinky and can be sweet-smelling too!


  • One of the less convincing theories is rather than our dogs wanting to smell [awful] they may be rolling around in it to distribute their own scent onto the stinky thing. Importantly, we see dogs use urine to mark most frequently which could discredit this theory!

  • But it would help show they have been there first, could territory be involved?


  • Maybe it is just super fun! They look like they’re having a blast when they’re doing it, right?! Some believe it produces a rush of dopamine (pleasure hormone). So the behaviour may have been more useful in the past but domesticated dogs simply enjoy it…

  • Similar to this theory, we can’t rule out that dogs may actually like the smell of poo!


  • Or could it be something else? We are not 100% sure and there are many theories to explain why they roll in stinky stuff. Some definitely make more sense than others.


Soon we will be discussing ways you can deal with your dog rolling about in poo and how to get the smell off your dog!


Feel free to comment if you have any other theories or thoughts.


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