Why Do Dogs Roll in Smelly Stuff?

Kate, my Long Coat ChihuahuaLast weekend I gave a bath to Kate, my Long Coat Chihuahua. She looked so pretty, her cream colored coat was fluffy and soft. Kate smelled of French vanilla and white tea. All combed and dry she was allowed to go play outside. When she came back in wagging her lovely tail, I noticed a strong stench in the house. It was enough to gag the strongest of stomachs. It smelled like a very long dead ground hog.

I went to investigate and found the unfortunate animal, a dead bunny under a bush. It was possibly the handiwork of Penny, my daughter’s dog. Animal removed I went to find little Katie.

Bath time again for my stinky girl.

Why do our dogs love to stink? It seems what smells great to us does not smell so nice to our dogs. Their first instinct is too mask that smell with something nasty. And not just a dead animal, poop is good too!

“Have you ever caught your dog rolling around in poop? Believe it or not, this behavior is quite common – and very natural. Many believe it’s instinctual behavior, harkening back to the days when your dog’s wild ancestors would mask their scent to help them sneak up on their prey. Wolves, for example, have been observed rolling in animal carcasses or the droppings of plant-eating animals, to cover up their own smell during the hunt.”

Although our dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, this instinct is still strong and perfectly normal. There is no sense in scolding your pet. It’s best to make sure she does not have access to such nasty things. Keep your yard clean, pick up the poops, make sure your trash is secured and in my case, a watchful eye on Penny the bunny killer. And when walking your dog, always keep them on a leash. Dogs will run to nasty stuff as fast as they can.

More thoughts on why dogs love to stink:

Mask Own Scent
The most popular theory is that dogs roll in nasty stinky things to camouflage their own scent, making it easier to sneak up on prey animals. This is a wolf instinct that has carried through many generations to your pets, even though they have never had to hunt for their own food. A potential meal would not expect to be attacked by something that smelled as if it was rotten.

When dogs meet they invariably sniff each other. If your dog is broadcasting his stinky new scent to others, it is his way of letting others know he found something that was really interesting. You might not think it is exciting to know there is a dead animal nearby, but the beagle from next door probably will.

Cover Up Perfume
Sometimes dogs find dead things that smell bad to roll in soon after getting a bath. Dogs have noses that are far more sensitive than yours, and they may find the perfumes in dog shampoos unpleasant, even though you might like it. In this case they are trying to cover up the unnatural scent, and this is a quick and easy way.

Coat Improvement
There is also a theory that the sticky, rotting remains of a dead animal or fish act as a beauty treatment for your dog. As the creature breaks down, the fat degrades and provides a water resistant coating to your dog’s fur if he can spread it through his coat. Whatever the reason, it is clear that what you think is a nice smell probably differs from what your canine companion thinks.

My favorite theory comes from CANINE CORNER’S Dr. Stanley Coren:

I have another theory, however, which is of no scientific merit whatsoever. For human beings our dominant sense is vision while for dogs it is their sense of smell. Dogs, like people, enjoy sensory stimulation and may well be prone to seeking such stimulation to an excessive degree. Therefore, I believe that the real reason that canines roll in obnoxious smelling organic manner is simply an expression of the same misbegotten sense of aesthetics that causes human beings to wear overly loud and colorful Hawaiian shirts.

So the next time you give your pooch a bath, it’s best to keep a watchful eye on her when she goes outside. She is likely to look for some nice nasty stuff to roll in. Maybe she just likes the smell or maybe she’s just feeling her inner wolf!


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