Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop (and Other Smelly Things)

Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop (and Other Smelly Things)

There is no doubt that one of the strangest doggy habits out there is when they go out to roll around in poop or some other smelly substance. And the instinct weirdly seems to be the strongest just after they have had a bath! Why do dogs roll in poop? First of all, we have to accept that what smells good to us is going to be a long way away from what smells good to your pooch. While we can’t over a surefire explanation of why dogs like to roll around in stuff that smells so unpleasant to us, we can offer some possible explanations to get our heads around this weird habit.

Labrador retriever dog rolling in the grass

Why Do Dogs Roll in Stinky Stuff?

While we cannot know for certain, we can speculate based on what we know about canines.

Hunting Instincts

Dogs’ noses are much more powerful than our own, and they tend to explore the world using them. But this doesn’t mean that their sense works exactly the same as our own. When a dog goes to smell something, they can pick up the myriad of different scents in and around it. So, when your dog rolls around in something, this can be used to communicate with other dogs. And when they were in the wild, they may well have been attracted to scents such as rotting carcasses, which would have been a potential food source.

Wanting to Smell ‘Good’

Just as humans coat themselves in deodorant, perfume, and aftershave in an attempt to smell good, the same goes for dogs as well. Only what smells nice to your average human isn’t the same as your average canines. It certainly appears that the smelly shampoos that we use on our dogs don’t agree with their noses, and believe it or not, feces do! Ultimately, this may be something we are never able to fully understand as dogs have entirely different senses of smell to our own.

Marking Their Territory

You will probably already be aware that dogs are territorial creatures who urinate on things as a way of marking it. The scent lets rival dogs know that this area is already spoken for, and they are only going to get it if they fight for it. By rolling in poop, this may be an attempt to override another animal’s scent. Again, this is an evolutionary explanation, which is sometimes hard when we know that dogs have become so domesticated these days.

Used as Camouflage

Rolling in poop may be a way of covering up your dog’s own scent, which will help to prevent any prey animals from knowing what is coming. Over the years, dogs have had to develop various skills and techniques in an attempt to give themselves the edge over their prey, and this may be yet another example of this.


The final explanation is a simple one: your dog has simply got bored and is looking for something to do to pass the time or get your attention. We know that problem behavior can include whining, chewing, and shredding your possessions, so this may be just an extension of this. If this is a cry for attention, you may have to work a bit harder to keep your pooch mentally and physically engaged on a regular basis.

Puppy rolling on the grass

How to Stop a Dog from Rolling in Poop

There are a few different strategies that you can put into practice in an attempt to stop your dog from rolling in poop. Here are some of the techniques that you can employ.

Pick Up After Your Dog

If the poop isn’t there in the first place, your dog isn’t going to be able to roll around in it. It’s as simple as that! Always supervise your dog when they are going on a potty break and pick up any feces straight away. Obviously, you should always do this when you are out in public, but it is worth keeping on top of the problem in your own backyard too, rather than allowing it to accumulate.

Read here our article on Dog Waste Disposal Systems.

Leash Your Dog at the Right Times

If your dog likes to roll around in other pooch’s business, you could try keeping them on a tighter leash, especially when you are in public areas like dog parks. This way, you have greater control in directing them away from anything stinky.

Distract Your Dog

If you see the look in your dog’s eyes and you know what they are going to try and do, use some distraction techniques. Call them back over and try playing a game instead. Shake one of their toys or make a loud noise to focus their attention on something else.

Check out our review of Dog Toys.

Teach the ‘Leave it’ Command

If your dog is better trained, it is more likely that you are going to be able to control any problem behavior. ‘Leave it’ is a useful command that lets your dog know that they shouldn’t continue what they are doing.

Keep Your Dog Entertained

If you believe that the problem stems from boredom, you need to make a special effort to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Invest in some puzzle toys, learn some new tricks or games, build an obstacle course for them.

Dog rolling in the sand

Final Thoughts

While dogs and humans are very close, there are some aspects of their behavior which is always going to be difficult for us to understand. Rolling in smelly stuff certainly falls under this category. And while we can provide some possible explanations, we cannot be completely certain why they enjoy doing it so much. What you can do is prevent it from becoming a problem, and the easiest way of doing this is stopping them from getting near the poop in the first place. You can also train your dog to keep closer control of them and make even more of an effort to provide them with less unpleasant activities that they can engage in!


  1. John Perritano, Dogs Love Rolling in Stinky Stuff, HowStuffWorks
  2. Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA, How to Stop Your Dog from Rolling in Poop, PetMD
  3. Dr. Patty Khuly VMD, Why Does My Dog… Roll in Poop?, VetStreet
  4. Smelly Dog: Why Does My Dog Stink?, Best Friends Animal Society

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