Why Do Dogs Roll in Smelly Things?

Why do dogs roll in smelly things? You’re out with your dog having a perfectly nice outing and the moment you take your eyes off them, they’ve found the most foul piece of garbage (or worse!) to lay down and roll around in. Not only are you immediately disgusted, but you’re also dreading the drive back home with your dog stinking up the whole car.

So, why do dogs roll in smelly things and what can we do about it? Are we destined for a lifetime of keeping a laser-focus on our dogs, or can they learn to let go of the habit once and for all? 

The good news is, you can teach your dog to stop their smelly hobby. With a few training sessions, a bag of delicious treats, and some patience, your dog can stop sniffing out the smelliest stuff so that you can enjoy your outings together!

Why do dogs roll in smelly things?

Our dogs show a lot of behaviours that we humans find questionable. From sniffing the rear end of their furry friends to gobbling down doggy doo, our puppers can be downright gross. But, even though we don’t quite understand why they do it, there’s probably an evolutionary reason for every one of your dog’s odd behaviour! In fact, this kind of behaviour is quite common in wolf populations, too!

When it comes to rolling around in smelly things, there are a few main theories:

  • They do it for camouflage. Like most predators, our dogs’ ancestors rely on camouflage to sneak up on prey. It’s possible that wolves evolved to roll around in foul smells as a way to cover up their natural scent so that they could approach herds of deer without being detected
  • They do it for the pack. Another interesting theory is that there’s a social component to your dog’s smelly habit. By rolling around in dead carcasses or garbage, your dog is able to carry the most interesting scents back to the pack. You might think of it like a picture slideshow that your relative shows you after their big trip to Europe–only smellier
  • They do it for fun. Many of the behaviours that may no longer be necessary for your dog’s survival continue to be enjoyable for them all the same. Your dog may roll around in the grossest things imaginable because it’s mentally enriching for them. What can we say? Our dogs have different preferences than we do. Humans enjoy bubble baths and clean linen sheets. Dogs prefer piles of garbage

We can’t know exactly what our dogs are thinking when they roll around in yucky things. But these theories give us some helpful ideas on why our dogs might do this and what we can do to stop the behaviour.

How to stop your dog from seeking out the worst that nature has to offer

 Here are a few steps that can help quell your dog’s smelly-rolling habit:

  • Manage their access to smelly things. While you’re working on phasing out this stinky behaviour, you’ll want to control your dog’s environment as much as possible. This might include limiting your outings to well-kept areas like parks, or putting your dog on lead in areas that could be harbouring stinky stuff
  • Make your walks more interactive. Some dogs are perfectly content to spend their walk sniffing along and staying by your side. But for many dogs, an ordinary walk is a bit boring, especially if you tend to stick to the same neighbourhood or you’ve got a working breed. By making it more interesting, either by incorporating training or bringing along a fetch toy, your dog will be more stimulated and willing to pay attention to you. Having your doggo go for walks with their favourite Dog Walker is another brilliant way to add novelty and excitement to their walks, which will make them less interested in straying off and sniffing out the smelly things
  • Work on your recall cue. Good recall is one of the best ways to interrupt your dog’s habit of rolling around in undesirable things. Always bring extra-special, flavourful rewards, like your dog’s favourite Waggly Treats, to call them off a smelly item. This will be especially effective if you’re able to keep a hawk’s eye on the horizon to spot smelly things before your dog does. Make sure to practice recall at home and at random times during your walk to remind them that coming to you results in delicious rewards! 
  • Appeal to their foraging instincts. As we mentioned earlier, your dog’s desire to sniff out and roll around in smelly things is a natural instinct. And, instead of trying to stamp it out completely, your goal should be to redirect it to more appropriate outlets. This could mean setting up a fun treat scavenger hunt in the backyard and allowing your dog to roll around in areas that are less stinky, such as freshly cut grass, sand at the beach, or their favourite doggy blanket. You can even work on training a “roll around” cue so that your dog learns that the behaviour is okay, but only with permission from their beloved Owner
  • Resist getting upset when it does happen. It’s completely understandable that your first reaction to your dog rolling in the most disgusting thing around would be frustration. Grooming is hard enough already when you don’t also have to pinch your nose! But, if you yell at your doggo when they’re doing something instinctual, chances are, you won’t see an improvement in the behaviour. Instead, your dog may be more hesitant to listen to their recall cue or will try to seek out their smelly spoils more sneakily. If your dog does manage to find something to roll around in, do your best to stay calm, redirect your dog’s attention (reattaching the leash if necessary) and continue on with your walk

Why do dogs roll around in smelly things? We may never know for sure, but we can prevent it!

We can’t know exactly why our dogs do things that make us turn green in the face. But with a little patience and understanding, we can find a compromise that works for us and our furry friends. Getting creative on your walks, offering tasty rewards, and providing your pup with alternative outlets is sure to put your pup on a path of phasing out their desire to roll in smelly things!