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Do Dogs Like Being Dirty? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Dogster Team


Do Dogs Like Being Dirty? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Our canine companions can be so cute and cuddly, providing us with all the snuggles and love that we could ever want. Then there are times when they do things like eat poop and get into the garbage! So, when it comes to getting dirty, it should not be a surprise that the typical dog doesn’t mind it. That said, not all dogs enjoy getting dirty. Perhaps your pup avoids puddles, mud, and other things while outdoors that could hamper their luxurious coat. But not all owners are this lucky.

So, why do some pups like getting dirty? What can be done about a dirt-seeking dog? Let’s explore this and more here!

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It’s Usually About the Scents

Dogs tend to like rolling around in grass, mud, sand, and dirt due to all the smells that are involved. Canines communicate using scent much more than we humans do. While we have about 6 million olfactory receptors in our noses, dogs have upwards of 100 million! Understanding this can help make sense of why dogs might enjoy rolling around on the ground even if they are getting dirty.

Big Brown Dog Rolling in Grass
Image Credit: Valeria Boltneva, Pexels

Dogs Don’t Perceive Dirt the Same Way That We Do

It seems that dogs don’t see getting dirty as a bad thing like we tend to do. When they are rolling around in the grass or a patch of dirt (even if dog poop and other gunk are lying around), they aren’t intentionally getting messy.

They're likely trying to do one or more of a few different things, such as:
  • Hiding Their Scent — Dogs may roll around in grass and on other types of ground to try to get rid of their scent. This instinct may have helped them sneak up on prey because their scent is covered by the grass, poop, or whatever else they rolled around in.
  • Getting Rid of Unwanted Scents — Sometimes, dogs don’t like their scent because it isn’t their true scent. You may notice that your pup rolls around anywhere it can after getting a bath. This is typically in an attempt to get rid of the shampoo scent and try to recover one of the scents they usually associate with themselves. So, they might rub their face on the couch or carpet inside or find a pile of mulch to lie on outdoors.
  • Communicating With Others — Lying in grass or mud is an effective way for a dog to communicate with other canines. Either they are trying to pick up the scent of another dog that was there before them (such as pee in the grass), or they’re leaving behind their scent to “mark” the area and let other dogs know that they’ve been there.
  • Feeling Good — Sometimes, dogs roll around in the grass, mud, and dirt simply because they enjoy the sensation. They might be scratching an itch on their back or enjoying the cool feel of the mud or grass on a hot summer day. They could also be celebrating their freedom and happiness while spending time outdoors.
  • Showing Off Their Adventures — Dogs like to take on the scents of stuff that they roll around in so they can share these with “pack members” and let them know where they’ve been. Since family members are part of their pack, your dog might want to bring home various smells to share with you and other pets.

Most humans don’t roll around in the grass or on the ground for any of these reasons. But then, we don’t communicate the same way that dogs do, and we also don’t have furry coats to keep mud and dirt from irritating our skin. These reasons for lying in grass and dirt are legit and perfectly normal in the canine world.

Image Credit: Will Rodrigues, Shutterstock

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Should You Stop Your Dog From Getting Dirty?

If your dog is rolling around in grass, sand, or mud on your property or somewhere else that is (relatively) sanitary, there is no need to stop them from the activity for any other reason than you not wanting to clean them up afterward. Dogs typically enjoy rolling around and tend to do it when they’re happy, so allowing them to do so can be a healthy activity.

However, if your dog likes to lie in animal feces or where dead animals or garbage are present, you should not allow them to roll around, as the activity would be unsafe and unsanitary. Keep them on a leash to control their movements. Redirect your dog’s attention and reward them for their cooperation. If your dog seems to excessively scratch and roll around in grass, sand, or mud, it could be a sign of parasites, a skin allergy, or infection, and a checkup with a veterinarian should be scheduled.

a canadian eskimo dog playfully rolling on grass
Image Credit: Karen Appleby, Shutterstock

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How to Discourage Your Dog From Getting Dirty

First and foremost, keeping your dog on a leash when out and about will give you more control and allow you to catch them before they can dirty themselves with whatever happens to be in the vicinity.

Since a possible reason that dogs like to get dirty is to get rid of or cover their scent, you may be able to discourage the behavior by using unscented shampoo during bath time. You may also need to redirect their attention to another activity every time you catch them starting to roll in an unsafe area until they understand that the behavior is unacceptable. Make a sudden, loud noise when you want them to stop.

If you have a hard time keeping your dog from rolling around in your yard, make sure feces, garbage, and other debris are regularly cleaned up.

Dog walker strides with his pet on leash while walking at street pavement
Image Credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

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What to Do When Your Dog Gets Dirty

The only thing that you can do when your pup gets dirty is clean them! If they aren’t wet but have a little dry dirt or sand on them, you can wipe them off with a clean dry towel and brush them at the door before letting them come inside. An oatmeal-based shampoo wash can help remove the mud and debris from the coat, and is gentle on the skin.  Another option is to utilize dry shampoo and a brush, which can come in handy when you’re on the go or are simply low on time. Shampooing and rinsing with water is the only way to remove all traces of dirt.

Giving your pet a bath can be a difficult task, but the first step is to choose a great shampoo. We love Hepper's Shampoo Products, both of which are natural, pet-safe options specially formulated to clean your pet's skin and coat without causing irritation. Both formulas are also free of things like dyes, soaps, sulfates, and phthalates. Your pet will enjoy the soothing aloe vera and oatmeal, and you'll love the clean, fresh scents!

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Hydrates dry skin
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No rinsing required
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At Dogster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding products of this cool pet company!

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Unfortunately for us, most dogs don’t seem to mind getting dirty. Luckily, there are a few things that we can do to discourage the behavior and methods to combat the dirt once it infiltrates our dogs’ coats. As long as there are no threats in the vicinity, a little rolling around can be good and relieving for canines, so allowing this activity to take place at least occasionally isn’t a bad idea. Just make sure it’s in an area where feces and other unsanitary debris aren’t present.

Featured Image Credit: Thicha6327, Shutterstock

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