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Why Do Dogs Roll in Stinky Things? Vet-Reviewed Reasons & Prevention Tips

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on June 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog rolling on mud outdoors

Why Do Dogs Roll in Stinky Things? Vet-Reviewed Reasons & Prevention Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Ashley Darby Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

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

Learn more »

Dogs are notorious for rolling around in just about anything stinky they can find, including dead animals, garbage, and poop. The behavior is normal, but you may wonder why dogs can’t seem to resist such smelly things.

No one is entirely sure what lies behind this behavior, but there are several theories. One suggestion is that dogs do it to mask their scents from predators and prey or to bring information about nearby prey back to their “packs,” much like wolves do.

Dogs may enjoy pungent objects simply because they are interesting. Canines have incredible senses of smell and really like getting up close and personal with strong odors. They could also be rolling around to mark the area with their own scent.

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Is There a Definitive Explanation?

No, and there are issues even with the most current ones. While wolves may roll in smelly things to mask their scents while hunting, dogs that do so are generally not trying to catch prey. Some roll in filth when their owners walk them or play with them in the yard. Ultimately, veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists aren’t sure why dogs like to roll around in poop, garbage, and dead animals.

golden retriever rolling on sand and debris
Image Credit: Kim Britten, Shutterstock

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Are There Ways to Keep Dogs From Rolling in Stinky Things?

Ensuring that dogs are well-trained and come back when called can keep them from playing with pungent objects and dead animals.

1. Training

Teaching the recall command can ensure that your dog returns quickly when you call them, so you can preemptively manage unpleasant situations. Most dogs enjoy training, particularly when it involves time spent with their favorite people and lots of treats.

You can use positive reinforcement techniques that involve rewarding dogs for demonstrating desired behaviors. Training is also a great way to provide mental stimulation, which is vital for dogs’ happiness and health.


2. Leashes

The easiest way to prevent dogs from getting into stinky things is to keep them leashed during walks. Short leashes can keep dogs close by, so they don’t have as many opportunities to find (and get into) problematic objects during outings.

man training a leashed border collie dog
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

3. Fences

If you have a backyard, consider fencing it in so your dog has an area to explore that you can keep free of dead animals, garbage, and poop.

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What Should I Do If My Dog Rolls in Something Stinky?

Baths are required after dogs get into and roll around in garbage, poop, or other stinky things. The sooner the substance is washed off your dog, the better.

It’s always best to use a shampoo specifically designed for canines, as products for people are too harsh and can irritate dogs’ skin.

If you are looking for a product that eliminates dog odors without masking them, the Hepper Deep Clean Shampoo is our favorite product. It works by neutralizing any smells lingering in your pet's coat, leaving them refreshed and scentless once dry. You can also combat static, tangles, and restore moisture with the Hepper Pet Conditioner. Both products are all-natural, pH-balanced, and free of harsh chemicals and additives. Learn more about each below. 

Hepper Deep Clean Pet Shampoo for Smelly Pets:...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Deep Clean Pet Shampoo for Smelly Pets:...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Deep cleans coat & skin
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harsh chemicals
Combats tangles & static
Scentless
Hepper Deep Clean Pet Shampoo for Smelly Pets:...
Hepper Deep Clean Pet Shampoo for Smelly Pets:...
pH balanced
Deep cleans coat & skin
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harsh chemicals
Combats tangles & static
Scentless
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Deep cleans coat & skin
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harsh chemicals
Combats tangles & static
Scentless

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!

How Strong Is the Canine Sense of Smell?

Dogs have stunning senses of smell, and their olfactory abilities completely put humans’ to shame. While people primarily rely on sight to understand and interact with the world, dogs move through the world using their noses.

Dogs have more than 100 million scent receptors in their noses, but humans only have around 6 million.

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Conclusion

Although there are a few theories, no one is entirely sure why dogs roll in smelly things. They may do it to mask their scents, or it could be a way of bringing information about nearby prey back to their packs. There are also suggestions that dogs roll in smelly objects to mark them as theirs or because they’re interested in ripe odors due to their strong senses of smell.


Featured Image Credit: Carlos Gomez Martinez, Shutterstock

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