Why does my dog roll in smelly things?

Dogs have many quirky behaviours, it’s one of the things that make them so endearing. But one of the most baffling, is their desire to roll around in things that smell awful. From rubbish to animal waste, dogs seem to take great pleasure in rubbing themselves all over the most pungent substances they can find. But what makes your dog roll in smelly things?

Marking their territory

Dogs can be quite territorial. Their noses are 10,000-100,000 times more sensitive than humans. As such, it’s only natural that they use their sniffers to gather information about their surroundings that we might not pick up on. The substances they’re rolling around in are likely to be packed with scents and pheromones. This will communicate important information to other dogs in the area. Your dog might be trying to claim a particular spot as their own or asserting their dominance. It’s one of the reasons that dogs mark their scent with urine during a walk.

Attention seeking

Some dogs may simply be rolling around in stinky stuff in order to get some attention. It’s likely that this behaviour causes you to make a big fuss of them. If you subsequently spend ages giving them a thorough grooming session that they appear to enjoy, it’s no surprise that they might make it a bit of a habit.

dog roll in smelly things

Showing off what they’ve found

It’s easy to look at todays’ domesticated dogs and forget that they descended from wild animals. Their DNA will be hardwired with ancient behaviours that go back hundreds of years. Pat Goodmann, a researcher at Wolf Park in Indiana, says her research suggests that wolves display this behaviour to alert the rest of the pack to what they’ve discovered. It could be a fresh meal, or a scavenging opportunity and could help them trade information about their surroundings. It’s even been suggested that a pack might all scent themselves in the same smell to distinguish their unit.

Covering their scent

In a similar vein, but in slight contradiction to the above point, it’s also been suggested that dogs might engage in this behaviour in order to cover their scent. Again, it is likely due to their wolf days where dogs would have had to hunt for food in the wild. Rolling around in something strong-smelling will have helped to mask their own scent. In turn, this would have made it easier to track down and hunt prey.

Fri Apr 28 2023