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Why do dogs roll around in smelly things

dog covered in mud

If you are one of the lucky dog owners, you'll have a dog that would never think of rolling in anything that smells bad.

However, for the unlucky ones (and that is probably a lot of us), we have a dog that is as happy as a pig in mud when it comes across something very smelly to roll in.

Our own family consists of two lovely dogs with wonderful characters and they could not be more opposite. Our oldest boy would never dream of getting dirty - he actually goes out of his way to avoid puddles and is certainly not a very happy chap if he has to walk through mud!

Our youngest female on the other hand does not have a care in the world.

So much so that we really have to keep a close eye on her when walking through country fields, as sheep poo seems to be one of the 'girl about rural town' things to roll in these days!

So why do some dogs love to get smelly?

Well it could be an instinctual behaviour from when the dog's wild ancestors would go off hunting and scavenging.

If they came across something organic like an animal carcass the dog may roll in it, especially if it was a suitable source off food. This behaviour goes some way to let the rest of their family/pack know what they have found and give the pack the option to go and check it our for themselves.

If it happens to be poo from another animal or a dirty muddy area, they may choose to roll in it just so a message gets back to the pack which roughly translates to "Look where I've been today".

Where does this behaviour come from?

The fact is that Wolves have been observed rolling in animal carcasses before they go hunting. It is thought they could be disguising their own scent so they can hunt and get very close to their prey.

This way they have more chance of catching something, as the animal they are hunting would not be able to smell them as they approach.

Dogs may do the same if they have a keen hunting drive. They may want to roll in smelly things with the simple aim of disguising their smell from other dogs in their area, especially if they feel insecure or nervous. Stopping others knowing they are there may also help to make them feel more confident.

There is also a theory that they may not even be trying to pick up the odour to transfer onto themselves, but they are in fact trying to cover the smelly substance with their own scent. This will let other dogs know that they have been there first.

This will basically put their mark on the item, and this in turn says it belongs to them, in much the same way as they do with a new toy or bed.

On a personal level, I have witnessed very happy looking dogs rolling in a dead fish by the river or a nice fresh cow pat when walking through a field. The reason for this contentment might be because dogs have a heightened sense of smell and they just get a great deal of enjoyment from the excessive sensory stimulation caused from rolling in very smelly things.

A dog's sense of smell is so much more complex and acute than a human's so it is very possible that when they roll in something very smelly it causes them to get a little high from a combination of hormonal scents that are released from the object, as they vigorously roll around in it.

So if you have a dog in your life who loves to roll in smelly things, the chances are you will never change them. My only advice would be to accept it, love them as they are and have a regular supply of sweeter smelling dog shampoo and clean fluffy towels in your cupboard to use when you get home.

Sammi J, snugglezzz

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