Dogs do a lot of things that we think are weird, but totally make sense from a canine perspective. Rolling around in gross stuff is one of those behaviors. Why do dogs roll in smelly stuff? Here are a few reasons they could be doing it:
1. It Could Be A Protective Instinct
One of the theories why dogs roll in smelly stuff or engage in “scent rolling” is that it is from an instinct to protect themselves. By rolling in smelly things, a dog covers up their own scent, which is a behavior some wild animals use to hide from prey or from predators. Modern dogs generally don’t need to worry too much about this, but ingrained instincts don’t tend to switch off that quickly.
2. They Could Be Trying To Share Information
Dogs navigate the world with their noses and smells provide them with a lot of information. Rolling in smelly stuff is a way for a dog to take a scent with them and share some of the information it provides with others.
Wolves will often do this as a way to bring important information back to the pack. Dogs may do this for a similar reason, which misses the mark a bit as their “pack” includes a human who doesn’t get the same information from a scent and also thinks it’s gross.
3. Your Dog Could Be Copying a Social Behavior
Scent rolling also has a social aspect, at least it does in wolves. Oftentimes, wolves belonging to the same pack will roll in the same scent to create a group smell. The act of scent rolling as a group also creates a sense of togetherness and is a bonding activity.
Your dog could be instinctually copying this social behavior. They may see rolling in smelly stuff with you nearby as a bonding activity, even if you don’t participate with them. If your dog tries to cuddle with you immediately after scent rolling, they may be attempting to create that group smell or they just want attention.
4. They Might Just Find It Interesting
Dogs get way more information from smells than we do. And, they navigate and explore the world through their noses and sometimes their mouths. This is how dogs choose their bathroom spots and why it sometimes takes so long for them to “just pick a spot”.
Your dog could be rolling in something smelly because they just find it interesting or they like it. They may or may not like it enough to eat it, but they may like it enough to want to roll around in it and experience it a bit longer.
5. Your Dog Could Be Doing It To Get Attention
When a dog is determined to get your attention, they will often do whatever it takes even if the behavior is something you consider undesirable. Negative attention is still attention. If it got a reaction from you in the past or gets a reaction from you, then they might do it to get your attention.
This can be one of the reasons why dogs eat poop, so it’s not a far stretch for them to roll in smelly stuff for the same reason. If you’ve given them a reaction for scent rolling in the past, getting your attention could potentially be a reason for them doing it now.
These are just a few reasons why dogs roll in smelly stuff and why you may have to hose down your dog before you let them come in the house. Hopefully, being able to figure out why your dog is doing it will help you keep a handle on how often it happens.