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Dogs Roll In Smelly Stuff: Why Do They Do It?

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Ever been walking with your dog and suddenly he begins rolling in something smelly on the ground? The May 2020 issue of Whole Dog Journal shares reasons why dogs roll in smelly stuff..

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Possible Reasons Why

Cover Their Scent

This theory dates back to evolutionary behaviors. Biologists suggest when dogs would hunt, they would roll in feces or carcasses to conceal their natural scent. This would also conceal their appearance, allowing them to blend in with the environment.

The concealment allowed them to sneak attack prey easier. Some pet behaviorists dispute this theory. Many prey animals rely largely on sight and sound to discover presence of predators. If their sense of smell was keen enough, although predators would work to concel their scent, some prey animals would still be able to identify them by scent.

Announce Access To Food

Some researchers associate the behavior with sharing source of food with pack mates. Wolf researches found that wolves would follow a scent that was smelled on a pack mate.

In addition, it’s possible this information put the finder as a favorable mate by advertising access to available food resources.

It’s Fun!

Does your dog have a look of pure delight when he finds something super stinky and begins rolling in it? The theories I mentioned above are based on evolutionary conditions, but those no longer apply for the most part.

Dogs have a very different meter from humans in determining what smells good. Your dog finds something stinky on the ground, loves the scent, and wants to smell that same way. The act of rolling in the smelly stuff feels good, too.  From the dog’s perspective, it’s a total win, great scent, fun getting it, what’s not to love?

Preventing the Behavior

To prevent this behavior on a regular basis, note where the smelly stuff is, and avoid that area if possible.

When your dog is walking ahead of you, notice and reward the times he pauses, looks back and returns to you. It’s important to reward natural check-ins, especially if there’s something smelly he might be tempted to roll in.

Off leash time with your dog can be tough. When you notice your dog sniffing quite a bit in a specific area, it’s time for a recall. Coming when called is an important skill when out with your dog. If  you haven’t worked on training your dog to come when called, spend time on that skill. It’s a life saver!

After Dogs Roll In Smelly Stuff: Clean Up

Ah yes, we dog guardians dread that moment when we discover, a minute too late, that our dog has rolled in something really stinky.

The Whole Dog Journal article suggests a long-held recipe to neutralize the odor :

Mix a1 quart hydrogen peroxide, and 1/4 cup of baking soda in a bucket, add 1-2 teaspoon grease cutting dishwashing detergent. Mixture should be fizzy.

Rub into dog’s coat, making sure to avoid eyes and lips. Leave on for a few minutes, then thoroughly rinse. (Don’t leave on too long, as the mixture can bleach dog’s coat).

Do NOT attempt to store any unused solution, as the mixture can explode if left in a bottle!

If you don’t all the ingredients for the recipe above, Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover is a good alternative to keep on hand.