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Why Do Dogs Like Stinky Things? Smelly Stuff They Love

Written by: Keri-Beth Clur

Last Updated on May 7, 2024 by Dogster Team

Chihuahua dog playing with socks

Why Do Dogs Like Stinky Things? Smelly Stuff They Love


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

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

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Your dog’s sense of smell far surpasses yours—they do have a millions more scent receptors than you, after all. However, their scent receptors interpret smells vastly differently from the way humans do, which is why dogs are attracted to stinky things and we opt for fresh, floral smells.

There are some things people and dogs will never see eye-to-eye on, and that is the way they smell. They’ll cover themselves in stench, and we’ll promptly put them in the bath and scrub them clean. There are a few theories for this behavior, which we’ll take a look at.

We’ll also discuss common smelly things dogs love, so keep reading to see how many of these stinky items your dog has gotten into.

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Why Do Dogs Like Stinky Things?

Although no one knows for sure why dogs like stinky things, here are a few theories as to why they always end up getting good and stinky.

  • They’re masking their own smell. For wild dogs, masking their own smell with the poop of another animal might mean that their prey won’t smell their scent and run off. Your dog might be doing the same thing out of instinct.
  • They’re leaving their scent. Your dog might be rolling in stinky things to rub their scent off on it. They could be doing this to mark it as their own or tell other dogs that they were there first. Dogs gather information through scents, so your dog might just be communicating with others or responding to another scent that was left behind.
  • They’re showing you what they found. Some dogs may bring back the dead animal they found, and others may roll in it and bring back the smell. They might be doing this to tell you what they found and where to find it. Wolves are known to roll in smelly things so that when they return to their pack, they know where to find the origin by following the scent.
hunting dog holding a dead pigeon in its mouth
Image Credit: ALPA PROD, Shutterstock

The 4 Smelly Things Dogs Love

1. Animal Poop

Whether it is the poop of another dog or a different animal species, dogs will waste no time to dive right in. Rolling in poop is unimaginable for humans, but for dogs, it is one of the most accessible stinky things to cover their bodies in. Not only does it smell bad, but depending on how long ago it was left there, it can be squishy and warm.

Poop is uniquely scented since everyone and everything has their own population of gut bacteria. This is exciting for dogs who are very scent-driven.

2. Socks, Shoes, and Feet

Does your dog seem far more interested in your feet after a long run when they’re hot and sweaty? They may even lick your toes and shove their face in your shoes while you take a breather on the couch. Well, the truth is that your feet most likely stink, and your furry friend loves it.

The stinky smell is the result of bacteria on your feet that are feeding off your sweat. Your socks and shoes also contain these bacteria, which is why your dog is so interested in those items, too. Your shoes also give your dog information about where you’ve been because they carry the scents from all the places you’ve walked.

So, they’re likely smelling your feet because they like the stink, but also because they’re getting information about you.

Yellow Labrador dog playing with sock
Image Credit: Zachary Pennington, Shutterstock

3. Something Dead

The smell of a dead animal is undeniable, and you may try to find the body to bury it. Instead of being put off by the smell, a dog will seek it out and cover themselves in it, eager to go back to their family members and brag about what they found.

Dogs likely roll in the smell of decaying carcasses for bragging rights because the smell tells all the other dogs that they have access to resources, which also appeals to them.

4. Garbage

Garbage is one of those things you need to keep away from your dog because they have a habit of getting into it. It’s important to keep a secure lid on your trash can to keep your dog out of it and keep trash bags in an area your dog cannot get to. Not only will your dog try to eat the old, moldy food that you’ve thrown out, but they will end up smelling like the contents inside.

Dogs love garbage because it contains so many different strong smells, and of course, stinky stuff is fun.

Why Does My Dog Stop to Sniff Everything?

Dog sniffing grass
Image Credit: Lyns157, Shutterstock

If you stopped at least 20 times on your last walk so that your dog could sniff around, you’re not alone. Dogs love to sniff just about everything because it is how they gather information and make sense of their environment. It also stimulates them mentally.

Instead of rushing through your walk to get in the exercise, allow your dog to sniff wherever they want to. Taking your dog to the park to run around freely to sniff other dogs, fire hydrants, and lamp posts is a great way for them to process information and have a good time doing it. Denying them the chance to sniff here and there is denying them the opportunity to truly experience the world around them.

Why Don’t Dogs Like Perfumes?

In the same way that we don’t like some of the smells our dogs like, they aren’t going to enjoy all of the smells we enjoy. Perfumes and colognes are a good example. Dogs are very sensitive to smells, and perfumes can be very overwhelming for them. Your dog also may not enjoy certain fragrances found in your floor cleaners or washing detergents.

Perfume also masks a person’s natural scent. Dogs get a lot of information about a person by smelling them but might have some difficulty doing so when they’re covered in perfume or cologne.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Getting Stinky

If your dog seeks out stinky smells all the time only to come back for a cuddle smelling worse than ever, you’re probably excellent at giving them baths.

Here are some tips to prevent them from getting so stinky:
  • Wash them with shampoo that is gentle on their skin, such as an oatmeal shampoo that is free from soaps and other harsh ingredients that will dry out your dog’s skin.
  • Keep your trash can securely shut so that even if your dog pushes it over, the contents won’t spill out over the floor.
  • Pick up your dog’s poop as well as the poop from other pets daily to prevent them from rolling in it or eating it.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when venturing outdoors, so you have control over where your dog goes and what they roll in.
  • Check your yard regularly for unsanitary things your dog may be tempted to roll in.

At the end of the day, your dog is going to find a way to get to stinky smells every now and then. Just be prepared for it and do what you can to prevent it from getting all over them.

Corgi getting a bath
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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Dogs like stinky things, such as animal poop, stinky feet, garbage, and dead carcasses, because they interpret smells very differently from humans. They don’t often like the smells we enjoy, such as perfume, and we often don’t like the smells they enjoy. Other reasons why dogs seek out stinky smells and will roll in whatever is responsible for the smell are because they’re trying to mask their own smell, leave their own scent on what they found, or brag about what they found to their owners or other dogs.

It’s important to allow your dog to sniff around because they gather information about the world around them through their sense of smell. However, you prevent your dog from becoming stinky by washing them often, making sure your garbage can is securely shut, and picking up poop often.

Featured Image Credit: kamilpetran, Shutterstock

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