Why do dogs roll in stinky stuff?

Chico simply adores rolling in stinky things.

Poop, especially if it’s frozen,

and dead things, seemingly the slimier and smellier the better.

Of course, Chico’s not exactly the only dog to feel this way and I have discussed the question “Why do they do that?” with other dog owners. A number have explained, sometimes with great authority, that dogs roll in stinky stuff to mask their own scent. It is, these folks explain to me, to cover their smell lest they alert prey to their presence.

In his book The Truth About Dogs scientist and animal writer Stephen Budiansky looks at the issue. Wolves and other predators, he says, have been observed engaging in the behavior. Budiansky says that scent masking may be the reason, but asks us to consider the idea that the animals might be leaving their own scent on the object. A dog has scent-producing glands on its head. Stinky things, he points out, are attractive to canines because they eat them, so this may be a way of saying to other dogs, “I was here and (perhaps, Budiansky suggests) I intend to return.”

Whatever Chico’s motivation, as the human who lets him sleep on my bed, I am supremely grateful that I have a handheld shower head and can fairly easily rinse him off.

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One Response to Why do dogs roll in stinky stuff?

  1. Silverton says:

    And it’s always the stinkier the better!

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