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Why Roll in the Stinky Stuff????

Posted: September 17, 2010, 7:45 p.m., EDT


September has arrived and so has the cooler weather in the Northeast. If my 13¾-year-old Chocolate Lab, Marley, could talk I am almost certain she would say that fall is her favorite time of the year. The sunny but cooler weather is ideal for long walks in the park or just laying in the sun on the cool, autumn ground. Last Sunday, while folding the laundry, I looked out the window and saw her on her back, legs in the air, rolling in something. As I’ve blogged before, she is very fond of grass baths. I tapped on the window to try to get her attention but she continued to roll and roll and roll.

I finally opened the window and called out her name. She stopped rolling, gave me that look as if to say "Come on, Mom, why are you always ruining my fun?" and ran to the back door to be let inside the house. It was only then did I realize that this was not your typical grass bath because this one was complete with rabbit droppings. Great, a bath for the dog was not part of my to-do list. It did, however, get me thinking--why do dogs enjoy rolling in stinky stuff?
 
I did some online research and came to the conclusion that there are a variety of reasons dogs roll in something that smells bad. The first thing to realize is what smells bad to humans may not smell so bad to a dog. Conversely, what smells good to humans may not be so appealing to a dog. Sometimes dogs will roll in the grass or in something smelly right after getting a bath in an effort to mask the unpleasant and un-dog-like odor of some shampoos.

Another reason for rolling in the stinky stuff goes back to dog’s ancestry. Wolves often roll in decomposing carcasses or the feces of other animals in order to mask their own scent and enable them to sneak up on their prey without detection. This instinct may have carried over to domesticated dogs.

Similarly, dogs may roll in feces or a dead animal's remains to "advertise" what they have found to other members of the pack. Rolling in the material is a way for the dog to let you know that it found something interesting. In Marley’s case, I hate to tell her but rabbit droppings really are not that interesting.

Those of you who walk your dog in a public park or around the neighborhood know too well that male dogs will urinate on just about anything (fire hydrant, tree, bike rack, stop sign, etc…), while the females will be smelling around looking to urinate near the object the male dog just relieved himself on. They do this to either mark their territory or as a way to communicate--a calling card if you will. Rolling in something stinky may be a way for the dog to claim whatever it is by imparting its own scent onto the object.

Finally, dogs that roll in stinky stuff may just be playing a little game with you--one where they always win by getting more attention from their stink-smelling masters. Enjoy the fall weather with your pup--it won’t be long before the snow is flying.



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