Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop? Is This Normal?

By: Brittany NataleUpdated:

why do dogs roll in poop
Chewy Studios

Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop? Is This Normal?

Q:When I take my dog out for a walk, he likes to stop and roll in smelly stuff, particularly poop. The worst part is, it’s not even his own poop! I’m trying to understand this baffling behavior. Why do dogs roll in poop?

A: Watching your dog roll in poop and stinky stuff can feel downright frustrating—cleanup is often a doozy—but it’s considered normal dog behavior. Dogs roll in poop to communicate with other dogs where they’ve been and to camouflage their scent, among other reasons.

What Is Scent Rolling?

As a dog parent, you've probably witnessed your dog roll in a pile of poop at least once. Maybe you’ve taken your dog on a quick walk around the neighborhood or enjoyed a weekend away in nature, when "bam!"—they’re suddenly writhing around in a pile of poop without a care in the world.

This rolling behavior—when a dog rubs or rolls their body in a strong-smelling substance—is known as scent rolling. “Dogs will often sniff, then drop the side of their face, shoulder and body into the scent and wriggle back and forth or drag their body across the scent,” says Erin Askeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, Camp Bow Wow’s animal health and behavior expert in Atlanta, Georgia.

And poop isn’t the only stinky thing they may roll in. In fact, Dr. Amy Attas, VMD, founder of mobile veterinary practice City Pets: The House Call Vets in New York City, shares that dogs often enjoy covering themselves in a number of smelly things, including:

  • Feces
  • Animal carcasses
  • Decaying plants, including compost, mulch and fertilizer
  • Urine from dogs, cats and wildlife
  • Other strong-smelling substances, including spoiled food and garbage

It may be weird to us (and pretty gross, TBH), but Dr. Attas says this behavior is typical in both domestic dogs and wild dogs, and it’s often influenced by a dog’s instincts, social structure and individual personality. “While it may seem unpleasant to us, it is a normal part of dog behavior,” she says.

why do dogs roll in poop

Chewy Studios

Reasons Why Dogs Roll in Poop

So, why do dogs roll in stinky stuff? Dr. Attas reiterates that dogs are descendants of wolves, and some experts think that rolling in poop and other smelly things could be an instinctual behavior that dogs inherited from their wild ancestors.

Keeping this in mind, here are a few theories as to why dogs roll in poop.

To Communicate Where They Have Been

The act of rolling around allows them to impart some of their own smell onto the “gross” thing in question. It’s their way of saying to other dogs who may pass by later, “I was here!”

“Dogs mark areas with scent glands around their heads and with their urine which communicate to other dogs that they have been there, “ Dr. Attas says.

To Camouflage Themselves from Other Dogs

Another theory is that dogs roll in poop to help camouflage their own scent from fellow dogs. This theory has roots in the past when wild dogs lived in a hierarchical system with pack mates.

“Dogs can determine another dog’s sex, hormonal state and dominance position by their sense of smell,” Dr. Attas says. “It is hypothesized that covering their natural odor with feces would make their scent information less obvious to others—in this way, individual dogs are less obvious in the pack, which is what I call camouflaging.”

This could then make the individual dog less threatening to other members of the pack, she adds.

To Mask Their Scent from Prey

Dr. Attas explains that dogs may roll in dog poop, and other smelly things, to help mask their scent, “making them less detectable to prey while hunting and less noticeable to potential predators,” she says.

“Prey animals are constantly assessing the environment for signs of predators, often relying on olfactory cues,” Dr. Attas adds. She shares that the scent of a dog would be a signal to flee. “Covering the dog’s scent with feces would be an advantage to the hunter since the prey would not have as much time to run.”

This behavior especially comes in handy in the wild. “[It] could help them blend into their environment and improve their chances of success,” Dr. Attas adds.

Because It Feels Good

Other times, the reason may be as simple as your dog finding pleasure in rolling in smelly things. “Rolling in poop could provide sensory enrichment and be a form of sensory exploration for some dogs,” Dr. Attas explains.

Not our idea of a good time, but we're not dogs!

How to Tell When a Dog Is About to Roll in Poop

If you want to stop or prevent your dog from rolling in poop, the first thing you need to do is identify when it’s about to occur. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot, since Dr. Attas says dogs get very stimulated around potent odors, thanks to their acute sense of smell. Signs include:

  • Becoming more focused, which can be observed in their facial expression
  • Piloerection, which is when the fur on the back of the neck and back stand up
  • Aggressive digging around the area

How to Stop a Dog From Rolling in Poop

A dog rolling in poop might seem inevitable, but there are certain things you can do to help avoid or cut down on this behavior. Here’s what the experts have to say.


It’s always important to keep an eye on your dog while on a walk. However, if your dog likes to roll in poop and other smelly stuff, it’s a good idea to observe them, and their surroundings, even more closely. Be aware if their attention has shifted to a pile of poop, and scan the ground for feces that other animals may have left behind. This will allow you to jump in quickly if they do sniff out poop to roll around in.

Intervene, Redirect and Reward

Sometimes your dog will pull a fast one on you and find poop and other smelly things to roll in even if you’re watching them. If you notice that your dog is making a beeline for poop, step in ASAP so they know this behavior isn’t allowed. “Intervene immediately when they show an interest in feces,” Dr. Attas says.

An easy way to intervene is to redirect their attention to something else. “Redirect their attention to another activity and reward them right away for doing so,” says Dr. Attas. You can do this by carrying treats or one of their favorite toys with you.

Dog training can also help with this. You, or a professional dog trainer, can train your dog to respond to simple commands such as “leave it” and “come back,” which can help you get their attention. Be sure to also keep toys or treats on hand for positive reinforcement.

“It’s less about training them to NOT roll in poop and more about creating good behaviors and cues that can prevent or halt the behavior as needed,” explains Askeland.

Keep Them Leashed

Going off-leash in an area you know is filled with feces is a no-no. Instead, make sure your dog is leashed. By doing so, you can help better guide them to areas free from poo.

How Do You Clean a Dog After Rolling In Poop?

Getting your dog squeaky clean after they’ve rolled in poop can be messy and feel overwhelming, especially if you live in a smaller space.

To help make it easier for yourself, and more comfortable for your dog, Dr. Attas suggests having the following supplies on hand:

  • Waterproof gloves
  • Waterproof apron
  • Dog shampoo
  • Plenty of towels
Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Dog & Cat Shampoo, 16-oz bottle
Frisco Microfiber Towel for Cats and Dogs, 1 count
Sweet Paws Silicone Spa Dog & Cat Bathing & Grooming Gloves, 2 count, Clean Slate

You can also follow this step-by-step guide:

  1. If you have access to an outdoor hose, Dr. Attas recommends first rinsing your dog to try and remove as much of the poop from their fur as possible. “If you must do this indoors, prepare a suitable area—a bathtub or shower—and use a bucket and plastic containers to help rinse the dog,” she says.
  2. After you’ve rinsed your dog, shampoo them with dog-safe shampoo. Dr. Attas recommends shampooing twice using shampoo that doesn’t have a strong scent. “Even though the perfumed fragrance is attractive to us, it will be extremely overwhelming for the dog,” she explains.
  3. Dry off your dog with a towel (or two) and comb their fur to get rid of any knots.

If you need extra tips on how to bathe your dog, be sure to check out our guide on how to bathe your pooch.

Have more questions about your pet's behavior? Get expert advice through Chewy’s Connect With a Vet service, available daily.
A dog rolling in poop may be stressful for pet parents, but this messy behavior is normal. Sometimes they may roll in grass even when there isn’t a pile of stinky stuff around. Learn why dogs roll in grass and if that’s normal, too.
Expert input provided by Dr. Amy Attas, VMD, founder of City Pets: The House Call Vets in New York City, author of Pets and the City: True tales of a Manhattan House Call Veterinarian, and recipient of the Veterinary Medical Association of the City of New York’s Merit Award and Award for Outstanding Service to Veterinary Medicine; and Erin Askeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, an Atlanta, GA-based animal health and behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow. 


By: Brittany NataleUpdated: