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Why do dogs roll in stinky things?

Like Joy here, many dogs love to roll in things that have a strong (disgusting) aroma. Fox poop and dead rabbits are both favourites in our household. But why do our dogs display this seemingly pointless and sometimes frustrating behaviour?

The simple answer is that no one knows for sure, but it’s almost certainly to do with scent. Dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in us. The part of a dog's brain that is devoted to analysing smells is about 40 times greater than ours. Dogs also have something called neophilia, which means they are attracted to new and interesting odours. Dogs use scent to understand, analyse and communicate with the world around them in a way that’s hard for us to fully comprehend. Dogs ‘see’ with their noses.

The explanation for scent rolling that makes the most sense is that this is an instinctive or remnant behaviour left over from a time when dogs needed to mask their own scents to creep up on potential prey. It’s also believed that scent rolling is linked to communication - dogs are either marking their own territory by rolling, or bringing the scent home to convey messages to the rest of the family. How kind of them 😂

Lots of people ask me how to stop their dogs from scent rolling. I’m sorry to say that it’s a very natural and hugely rewarding behaviour for dogs, so if yours is a roller, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to train the behaviour out of them. Teaching a very strong recall or ‘leave it’ cue can help in some cases, but for other dogs the urge is just too strong and the stink too alluring!

So stock up on dog shampoo and tomato ketchup (good for neutralising the smell of fox poop) and watch them roll 😂🐾

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