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Why Dogs Like to Roll in Smelly Stuff

Updated on September 9, 2015

Fact: Dogs do not like to smell like roses as we humans do!

Dogs love rolling in smelly stuff,
Dogs love rolling in smelly stuff, | Source

You have just taken your dog to the groomer when on the way home you have to stop your car because Rover seems that he has a sudden urge to go do his business. You open the door and take him near some farm land where cows are greedily munching in the pasture. Your dog raises his leg and right when he seems to be done, he is attracted by something a little further down the road. He starts sniffing something on the country road and you start calling him but he appears oblivious to  your voice. Then suddenly, he starts rolling. Angry, you grab the leash and go get him only to find out that he has rolled into a pile of cow manure...

The above scenario can be quite nerve wrecking but it is quite common in the dog world. Unfortunately, dogs do not abide to our same social rules therefore they have no concept of ''cleanliness'' as we humans do. A recently groomed dog therefore will not think ''Oh, I was just groomed, better if I stay away from getting dirty'', rather, as an opportunistic species that lives in the present, most likely he will think ''Oh, some place great to roll in, let me go for it!''. Of course, dogs do not grasp the concept of being spiteful either, so owners should never think their dogs are acting out just to make them mad.

Why Dogs Roll in Smelly Things

But what makes Rover so eager to get all dirty and smelly? There are many theories as to why dogs enjoy rolling in the smelliest things on earth. Favorite things to roll in appear to be cow pies, dead fish, fox feces and the most horrendous to us: maggots and partially dried animal carcasses. Generally, the stinkier the smells the more dogs are attracted to these objects.

If we watch the body language of a dog rolling in some horrendous concoction, we will notice the dog is actually enjoying himself. Some dogs will also emit some grunts of pleasure as they roll their shoulders and body in the rotting mess. The dog will then raise up with a satisfied look as if he has just conquered the world and may now want to enter your immaculate living room. The question remains though: ''Why, but why does your dog have to this?''

• Theory 1: Resource Marking

We all know how dogs tend to mark territory to claim some areas as their own. The same thing may be going on upon rolling on something on the ground. Since there are chances they may want to ingest the object they are rolling on in a later time, they will not urinate or defecate on it. Rolling in it, therefore appears to be the most appropriate way for them to mark it as a belonging. So there is an assumption that dogs may roll in things they may later want to put in their mouths, assumes Patricia McConnell, an applied animal behaviorist, in her book ''The other end of the leash''.

• Theory 2: Camouflage Scent

Dogs are predators, therefore they must engage in effective strategies in order to hunt their prey. Rolling in something smelly helps camouflage their canine smell so they smell like something else. This would aid them in hunting and not being detected easily. As valid as this theory sounds, Patricia McConnell is not fond of it simply because several types of prey animals often rely more on sight rather then scent (think herbivores equipped with big eyes so they can have a glance of the world around them as they graze in a pasture). For instance, it is unlikely that a prey animal would be oblivious to the sight of a wolf smelling like a dead squirrel.

• Theory 3: Advertising to Other Dogs

Just as a woman advertises her economical well being by wearing a diamond ring, dogs may advertise their well being by stinking terribly. Rolling in terrible smells may therefore be a way for the dog to let other dogs know; ''Hey, I live in a high rent district where an abundance of great things are available'' further suggests Patricia McConnell. Of course, in order to understand this form of advertising you must go deeply into the nature of a scavenger's mind.

•Theory 4: ''Eau of Dead Squirrel''

Last, but not least, Patricia McConnell likes to add a fourth theory. What if maybe, just maybe, dogs like to smell stinky and enjoy such smells just as we enjoy wearing perfume? Maybe dogs just simply like the smell and love to take it along, just as we like to put perfume samples on our wrists when we visit that chic beauty store in Paris. While we find stinky carcasses straightforwardly obnoxious, dogs on the other hand seem to dislike the smell of our perfumes which after all are made out of reproductive organs (flowers), jelly from deer bellies (musk) and secretions from anal glands (civet)!

Whether dogs roll into smelly things because of their predator nature or simply because they enjoy it, at times we must try to understand that they are a different species. Before scolding dogs for getting all dirty and smelly, let's count up to ten, hold up our patience and remember that dogs are still animals and as such, they abide to a different way of living. Yes, they live in our apartments, sleep on our coaches and eat commercial food, but they still are canines and despite domestication, will still abide to some of their wild instincts. Perhaps this is what makes dogs so fascinating to study and understand.

References:Patricia McConnell, ''The other end of the leash'' Ballantine Books


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