Why do dogs roll in and eat poop?

Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop?

As a dog owner you never fully understand the motivation for your furry friend’s behavior. Dogs do a lot of strange (and sometimes disgusting) things. One of the most repulsive of these odd habits is rolling in poop.

Whether it’s their poop or another animal’s poop, most dog owners agree that at one point or another, their dog has rolled in it. One minute you’re enjoying a nice stroll outside and the next your dog is getting excited over something on the ground and starts rolling around. It isn’t until the pungent odor hits you that you realize what they have done.

If you’re dying to know why your dog loves to roll in its feces, you’re not alone.

Keep reading for the main theories behind this behavior, to find out if it’s a serious problem, and learn how to stop your dog from poop-rolling once and for all. We’ll also go over why dogs eat poop and what to do about it.

Without further delay… let’s get to it!

Behavioral Reasons Why A Dog Rolls in Poop

Brown Labrador rolling in grass

Before we dive into the possible reasons why dogs roll in poop, it’s important to let you know that there are actually no definitive answers to this puzzling question. Scientists and pet experts can only speculate as to why our dogs seem to enjoy doing it and we may never know with 100% certainty.

However, here are a few theories that stand out above the rest as plausible explanations for this behavior:

1.Your dog is hiding its smell from prey (or predators)

Our dogs’ ancestors had to hunt to survive. They didn’t always have us humans to feed them dry and canned foods conveniently purchased at grocery stores. It’s possible that by rolling in the feces of their prey, dogs and wolves were able to hide their scent enough to ambush their prey more easily.

By rolling in the feces of their predators, it’s possible that dogs and wolves could also hide their scent from predators as well. If this is the case, the habit is an instinctual need that dogs still carry today, even though the need to hide their smell from prey or predators is not as necessary as it was in the past.

2. Your dog is leaving its scent behind

Another popular theory is that dogs roll in poop to show other animals that they have been there and investigated the smell.

Just like dogs like to urinate to mark their territory, this action may let other animals know that your dog is aware of their presence and/or ready to protect its space.

3. In the past, dogs did this to communicate with their pack

Other people who disagree with the first two theories believe that the reason that dogs roll in poop is not to leave or hide their scent, but to carry the other animal’s smell back to the rest of the pack.

The reasoning behind this is that a dog who is hunting and has found a good meal may roll in their prey’s poop before going back to the pack. This gives important information to pack members who can now follow the smell to find their next meal or even a good spot to track more prey.

4. It gives them pleasure

Dogs’ sense of smell is about 40 times greater than ours. They experience a lot of the world through their noses and to them, poop might not be such a horrible smell. You can tell by how excited they are to find it and roll in it, or how proud they are when they run back to show you.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

Related Reading

Is Rolling in Poop a Serious Problem?

If you’re wondering if your dog rolling in poop is a serious problem, the answer is yes and no.

Since dogs and wolves have been rolling in poop for years and it probably served an evolutionary function in the past, chances are it isn’t terribly harmful. It’s something that many dogs do, so even though it’s gross it’s not unheard of or abnormal.

However, rolling in feces means being exposed to germs and parasites that if ingested could cause your dog some problems. It is also very unpleasant to have to deal with as an owner. Even though there isn’t cause for too much alarm when it happens the first time, it isn’t a habit that you should encourage.

How to Stop a Dog from Rolling in Poop

Terrier rolling in green grass

If you have a dog that loves to roll in poop and does it every chance they get, you have our sympathies. Cleaning up a dog that has rolled in feces is not fun. Unfortunately, the smell tends to linger.

The best way to avoid this problem is by being proactive about preventing it as much as possible. There are several ways you can do this:

  • Keep your dog leashed in popular poop-rolling spots: If you notice that there’s a part of your walk where there is frequently dog or other animal poop lying around, don’t leave your dog loose so they can find it. Leash your dog so you can steer them away from any piles before they get a chance to roll in them.
  • Change your route: If your dog is still managing to find poop to roll in when leashed, try switching streets or parks where you walk to see if other areas are cleaner.
  • Maintain your own outdoor space: Always pick up your own dog’s poop right away. Look around every once in a while and pick up anything gross in your yard that your dog might want to roll in. Poop is a popular one, but dogs also enjoy rolling in disgusting things in general, like trash or dead animals. An extended reach pooper scooper can help is bending is hard on you.
  • Train them to “come” or “leave it”: No matter how much effort you put into prevention, it’s possible that your dog may come across a smelly poop that they can’t resist wanting to roll in. As soon as you see them bend down to eagerly check something out (or tilt their head like they’re about to roll) use a command to deter them. Make sure to reward them for listening! 

It’s important to pay close attention to your dog while outdoors to make sure they do not find poop to get into. If you follow these steps, it should greatly reduce your dog’s chances of doing this behavior.

How to Clean Up Dog Poop 101

That being said, you never know what will happen so you should always have some pet-safe cleaning supplies on-hand.

One good item to have in your home is a good odor neutralizing shampoo, since regular dog shampoo usually won’t take the smell away.

Best Odor-Neutralizing 
Dog  Shampoo

Arm & Hammer Super Deodorizing Kiwi Blossom Scent Dog Shampoo

  • Odor eliminating shampoo for smelly dogs & puppies
  • Safe for your pet, made of all-natural ingredients.
  • Long-lasting refreshing scent of kiwi blossom.
Pet Shampoo

You can also make your own solution that works well with baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and some gentle liquid dish soap. Just remember to keep this mixture away from your dog’s eyes! Other people recommend a ketchup/tomato juice bath and good rinse to get rid of the smell.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop??

Dog sniffing grass

According to the American Kennel Club, the term for a dog that eats poop is coprophagia. This is a habit that can be both behavioral and psychological.

The AKC references a study released in 2012 at the annual conference of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior which found that 16% of dogs are considered “serious poop eaters”, having done so at least 5 times, while 24% or 1 in 4 have eaten poop at least once.

Like rolling in poop, the motivation for dogs to eat poop is not always clear. Some of the possible explanations are:

  • Evolutionary behavior, just like rolling in poop: Some believe that dogs’ ancestors ate poop to protect vulnerable pack members from intestinal parasites found in the feces around where they lived. It could also have developed as a way to ward off starvation in emergencies.
  • Normal puppy behavior: Moms eat their puppies’ poop to clean their living space and hide their smell from predators. It’s normal for puppies to copy this, although if it’s not their poop watch out for parasites, viruses, etc. This behavior usually stops on its own before they are a year old.
  • Nutritional deficiency: If you see your dog is eating poop a lot, you may want to take them to the vet to rule out any health problems. Parasites, an incomplete diet, diabetes, thyroid disease, and problems absorbing important nutrients are just a few reasons why dogs might eat poop.
  • Environmental/psychological stress: Some dogs eat poop in reaction to isolation or confinement. If they are living amongst their feces, the smell may make them confuse poop with food. It can also be an attention-seeking behavior from a bored dog.

To stop this behavior you need to find out if the underlying cause is health-related or just behavioral. If its health related, you can try things like a vitamin or enzyme supplement if necessary. Taste aversion products can also help deter your dog from eating poop.

Just like rolling in poop, a big part of stopping dogs from eating feces is by controlling the environment and being proactive.

Pick up poop that is in your yard and be vigilant on walks. Use positive and not negative reinforcement, since yelling or getting physical is not an effective or healthy way to stop the behavior. 

Keep your dog leashed if you need to until you can train them to ignore poop on command.

For more great ways to keep your dog healthy, read Why Dogs Lick Their Paws? and Why Dogs Eat Dirt?

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