We’ve all seen dogs dive right into a pile of trash, or roll head-first into dirty leaves, muddy puddles, and even manure. What on earth possesses them to do this, especially when they’ve just had a bath? Though canines often confound and confuse us, we are still held captive by their charm. Here are some of the main theories as to why dogs love rolling around in odorous areas.

Theories About Why Dogs Roll in Smelly Places

1. One theory is that dogs do this because their skin is agitated by parasites. Fleas, ticks and mites cause their skin to feel itchy and uncomfortable. So what we might consider to be a mass of nastiness, your dog might see pokey twigs, and rough edges that would reach parts of his body that claws and teeth can’t being relief to. Rolling in a garbage pile might smell horrendous, but your dog could simply be looking to scratch those itches by rolling around on plastic cartons and cans.

2. Another idea is that rolling in manure and the like is an instinctive move. Wild dogs and wolves disguise their own scent when hunting, by masking it with rolling in animal waste, carcasses and any other rank smells to keep prey from sensing their approach. For example, if a deer were to be downwind of something that smelled like it’s droppings, or the coat of another deer, he would not be alarmed at all. By covering his own scent, the wolf would then be able to sneak up on the deer and attack before the majestic beast had a chance to flee.

3. Some believe that dogs also have the stop-drop-and-roll tendency when they are around disgusting things, because it is a way of telling a story with scent. Canines are highly olfactory creatures, and a dog carrying foreign smells tells a story of the adventures he’s been on, the things he has seen and been exposed to. The theory is that this kind of behavior is nothing more than a putrid opportunity for bragging rights and status amongst dogs.

4. A final suggestion is that dogs might roll around in mire to accomplish the same thing that cats do when they lick and groom themselves. Felines groom themselves to remove the scent of humans. Licking their fur helps them smell more familiar, and less like humans and their homes. Dogs might not appreciate the strong lilac shampoo that you use for their bi-monthly bath, as their noses are much stronger than ours, making something that smells fresh to us actually be unbearable in their estimation. Rolling in grass piles, leaves or dirt might help remove some of the powerful, ultra-sweet scent from their fur and replace it with a more nature aroma.

What To Do About this Behavior

Accept the idea that rolling around this way is part of your dog’s natural instincts, and for the most part it cannot be helped. Each dog is different, and some have worst tendencies than others, and may target a pile of dog feces at the park, while others simply like romping in leaf piles. Either way, if you cat the dog committing the offense, clap loudly, shout “NO” or do something else to interrupt him. Keep puppy wipes with you, so you can whisk away anything that might be unsanitary until you have a chance to clean your pet later. Additionally, switch your pet shampoo so something unscented, and see if the rolling stops. If you are worried there might be a skin infection or parasite present, take your dog to the vet and get a treatment!