They all do it. Whether they’re a dainty Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a hardworking kelpie, a polite greyhound or a fun-loving Labrador. No matter the breed, age or temperament, at some stage you’ll look over to your four-legged child and groan as you watch him roll in something disgusting.
What is it about dead lizards, old cat poo and puddles of stinky goop that are so attractive to your pet? It’s a question that vets, dog owners and animal behaviourists have been pondering for decades.
Here are some theories:
- The dog is trying to disguise a smell about himself that he doesn’t like. If you’ve ever spent an hour washing and drying your pet, only to see him run to the garden and roll in the dirt, you’ll find this easy to believe. Remember, a dog’s sense of smell is millions of times more sensitive than ours, and if that dog shampoo has a scent, it might be overpowering to your dog. He’s going to try to get rid of it and the garden bed seems like a good place to do it.
- The smell makes the dog more appealing to other dogs. This theory is hard to believe as it still doesn’t explain why a dead lizard smell is appealing any dog.
- Given dogs are pack animals, there is a theory that a dog rolls around in a dead animal to take information about that dead animal back to other members of the pack. Researchers have observed wolves rolling around and then heading back to their pack, where other wolves smelled them. The pack then went back to the source of the smell. This could be a way for the first wolf to tell the pack that they have found a possible source of food.
- The dog might be trying to disguise his scent because of some deep evolutionary need to make it easier to sneak up on prey. If the prey can’t smell the predator they will be easier to catch. Hence a dog can’t help but try to disguise his smell.
- Another theory is that the dog isn’t trying to pick up a scent but actually trying put his scent down, in a way marking the object as his.
- Given their incredible sense of smell, the dog might just be seeking some sensory stimulation.
While some theories make more sense than others there is no definitive answer as to why. And as pet owners we probably just want the dog to stop it. The bad news is, you can’t and you should certainly never punish your dog for rolling in something off. Avoidance is the key, so if your dog is prone to a roll, keep him on a lead when you go out for walks and keep your eyes out for anything you think he might want to roll around in so you can avoid those stinky patches.