One form of dog behavior that owners dislike is when the animal will roll in something smelly. Although dogs may sometimes roll in the grass, a pile of autumn leaves or the snow in winter because it simply feels good, rolling on the carcass of a dead animal, feces or something else smelly has instinctive roots, perhaps going back to wolves and wild dogs. There are several theories on why a dog will roll in something smelly. Although there is a temptation to scold your dog, it is best to realize it is natural behavior and make sure your pet doesn’t have the opportunity to roll in stuff.
The question is, where do dogs get these habits from? The answers lie in how wolves behave in the wild.
It is believed that scent rolling is a way wolves use to bring information back to the pack. When a wolf encounters a novel odor, it first sniffs and then rolls in it, getting the scent on its body, especially around the face and neck. Upon its return, the pack greets it and during the greeting investigates the scent thoroughly. As a part of hunting instinct, every dog wants to roll over something that smells of something interesting, potential threat or a potential food. However much we may abhor, what smells disgusting to us might smell heavenly to the dogs.
Cover up perfume
Sometimes dogs will roll in the grass or in something smelly right after getting a bath. Some dog shampoos have perfumes that may be pleasant to humans but smell awful to the animal. It is just an effort to mask the unpleasant and un-dog-like odor.
Mask own scent for hunting
The major theory why dogs will roll in smelly material is based on the relationship of domesticated canines to wolves.
Wolves will often roll in decomposing carcasses or the feces of plant eating animals or herbivores. This would mask their own scent and enable them to sneak up on their prey without detection. It could even fool members of the other species into accepting it as one of their own. This ancient instinct may have carried over to domesticated dogs.
Working and hunting dogs tend to roll in smelly stuff more often than other breeds. Perhaps this is because they are more closely related to wolves.
Male dogs will urinate on a tree or post and females will urinate near the object. They do this as either to mark their territory or as a way to communicate concerning who has been there. Likewise, one theory is that the dog is claiming a carcass or remains as its own by rolling on it and imparting its own scent onto the object. One problem with this theory is that it seems a stretch in the case of rolling in an other animal’s feces.
Rolling in their own feces or that of another dog is not as common of a behavior. The dog does this as a way to get attention. Or it may be some sort of distorted behavior, perhaps due to stress or other problems.
Although rolling in something smelly is not desirable behavior, you should not punish the dog for doing what is only natural. It is better to try to prevent the chances of the behavior by keeping an eye on your pet. Fortunately, the behavior seems to diminish as the dog gets more mature.
Each time your dog wants to roll in a pile of garbage or anything disgusting, distract it with toys or its favorite game and then reward it with treats.
Also, if it happens after a bath, you might try a different, unscented shampoo.
Dogs that roll in dog feces or their own may be seeking more attention and just doing something like that to get some sort of attention
Although there is a temptation to scold your dog, it is best to realize it is natural behavior and make sure your pet doesn’t have the opportunity to roll in smelly stuff.