Why Do Dogs Roll in Dead Things That Smell Bad?

by Naomi Millburn
    Rolling around in icky stuff isn't abnormal canine behavior.

    Rolling around in icky stuff isn't abnormal canine behavior.

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    As strongly bonded as many owners feel to their cute pooches, some canine behaviors often still have them furrowing their brows in confusion. One such example iS rolling around in things that smell bad. Although bizarre to people, this action is totally normal for your doggie. He's not a weirdo!


    If your pooch rolls around in something absolutely revolting to you, whether roadkill on the side of the street or a dead bird, then his actions possibly are related to his wolf relatives from generations ago, according to the ASPCA. This behavior may have something to do with dogs obscuring their own individual odors they give off, permitting them to be more clandestine and discreet in their preying and hunting. If a dog smells like rotting matter, then he can be much more stealthy in all that he does.

    Bragging Rights

    Rolling around in things that smell less than pleasant also may be how dogs brag to their peers. If a dog rolls around in the decaying carcass of a rabbit, he's basically boasting to all of the other neighborhood pets about his new "discovery" -- yikes. Even if you're not impressed with the aggressively foul odor, it doesn't necessarily mean that the Labrador retriever from two doors down won't be, of course.

    Coat Improvement

    Yucky and sticky things also may be beneficial for the appearance of a dog's fur. If a dog rolls around in the rotting remains of roadkill, for instance, the fatty acids that emerge due to fat degradation actually may help the coat in impeding water penetration. By rolling around in nasty stuff, your doggie actually may be working on his beauty regimen.


    By rolling around in something dead that emits a strong and an extremely conspicuous decomposing smell, a dog may be sending a message to all the other nearby canines -- "Hey everyone! Check out what I happened to come across today. You're all going to be pretty impressed!" Remember, what's exciting and interesting to a dog probably won't elicit such a positive reaction in most typical human beings. Dogs are fascinating, albeit totally lovable animals.

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    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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