Our four-legged friends sometimes do very questionable things. One of them being rolling around and rubbing himself all over the area where something has died. Be it bugs, worms, birds, a mouse it doesn’t matter what, they’ll going to roll around in that spot. But why, what is behind this foul behavior?
“Numerous dog behaviorists believe the actual reason for such rolling is that dogs try to deposit their natural scent on the dead stuff: Scent-marking their prey, dogs’ ancestors publicly claimed it and kept other scavengers away,” says Claudine Sievert, DVM, a Kansas-based veterinarian and veterinary consultant at CatPet.club for AKC.
But Sievert says it doesn’t make much sense to her because dogs aren’t rubbing their neck and lips to leave saliva, they rub and roll around on their backs, which looks like they’re trying to absorb or “wear” the scent.
So why do they do it?
Well, there are multiple theories as to why dogs do this.
The first theory is that this behavior is likely a holdover to the dog’s ancestors, the wolves, known to roll around in smelly stuff and dead things to mask their odor on a hunt. Which makes sense, right?
“Wolves camouflage their natural odor this way to “hide” from prey and hunt more successfully,” says Sievert.
Another theory claims that your dog is actually bragging to his friends the other dogs that he’s found something good by rolling in the foul odor and carrying the smell on him where other dogs can smell it, too. “Look what I found,” the scent may say.
“As you know, dogs sniff each other not only to say hello but to gain information about each other,” says Sievert. Thus, your dog is kind of saying, “Great news! There’s something deliciously dead nearby.”
A third theory is that your dog is claiming the kill as his own by “wearing” the scent signaling other dogs to stay away from his prize or respect him for the kill or the find.
“Rolling around in smelly things helps weaker animals keep out of other, stronger predators’ sight,” Sievert says.
In the end it doesn’t matter which theory you want to believe, one thing is for sure, keeping your dog from doing this is tricky. A good recall and his favorite treats when out and about is the best way to stop your dog from rolling around in guts and goo.