Dog Questions
why do dogs roll in poop and fox poo

The Nose Knows: Why Do Dogs Roll in Poop and Fox Poo?

Written by Ryan Gliozzo


Unravel the peculiar behaviour of dogs and their affinity for rolling in poop. Delve into the intriguing reasons behind this canine quirk and gain insights into the instinctual and evolutionary factors that drive this seemingly perplexing habit. Uncover the mysteries behind why our furry friends engage in this peculiar behaviour.
a collie dog rolling in mud

The nose knows: why do dogs roll in poop and fox poo?

Rolling in poop is a puzzling behaviour that many dogs engage in, much to the bewilderment and frustration of their owners.

This article aims to uncover the reasons behind this unusual habit and explore the connection to a dog's ancestral instincts.

By understanding why dogs roll in poop, pet parents can gain insight into their furry friend's behaviour and take steps to prevent it.

Key takeaways:

  • Dogs rolling in poop is an instinctual behaviour rooted in their ancestral habits.

  • Their strong sense of smell drives dogs to explore and interact with odours, including poop.

  • Rolling in poop may serve as a way for dogs to mask their scent and mark their territory.

  • Health risks associated with rolling in poop include the potential transmission of parasites.

  • Training techniques and professional guidance can help discourage dogs from engaging in this behaviour.

Unmasking the mystery: dogs' ancestral habits

a jack russell rolling in poop in grass

A dog’s unique traits, including rolling in poop, can be traced back to their wild ancestors. Wild dogs relied on various survival tactics, such as masking their scent to avoid predators and marking their territory with distinctive odours.

Survival tactics of wild ancestors

The olfactory system of dogs is finely tuned, enabling them to detect and interpret a wide range of scents. The use of scent as a form of communication and defence mechanism was crucial for wild dogs to survive.

Canine ancestors developed survival instincts to navigate their environment and protect themselves from potential threats. One of these tactics was masking their own scent to avoid detection by predators.

By rolling in poop, dogs may be instinctually imitating this ancient behaviour. The strong and pungent odour of faeces can effectively help camouflage their natural scent, making them less noticeable to predators.

Marking territory with a distinct aroma

Territorial marking is another fundamental instinct inherited from canine ancestors. By leaving their scent on objects and surfaces, dogs establish ownership and communicate with other animals in their surroundings.

Rolling in poop could be a way for dogs to acquire a distinct aroma that helps them mark their territory more effectively. The strong odour of faeces can act as a potent identifier, warning other animals to stay away from their claimed space.

So why do dogs roll in fox poo?

a terrier stood in mud

Similarly, dogs rolling in fox poo is also believed to be an instinctual behaviour that harks back to their days as wild hunters. This behaviour is thought to serve a dual purpose. First, by rolling in fox faeces, dogs mask their own scent, making it harder for other animals to detect them, which could be useful for hunting or avoiding predators.

Second, when dogs roll in fox poo, they might be leaving their own scent at the scene, essentially marking their territory or communicating with other animals. This behaviour is similar to how wolves and other canids disguise their scent in the wild.

From repulsive to attractive: the canine sense of smell

a close up of a dogs nose

Dogs possess an incredibly powerful sense of smell, far superior to that of humans. Their canine olfactory system is a marvel of nature, allowing them to detect and interpret a wide range of odours with astounding accuracy.

By understanding the intricacies of a dog's sense of smell, we can gain insight into why certain odours, such as poop or fox poo, may be enticing to them.

Scent plays a crucial role in the communication and social dynamics of dogs, especially within a pack. Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell, which they utilise to establish social bonds and facilitate efficient hunting strategies.

Understanding the significance of scent communication in pack dynamics provides valuable insights into the behaviour of our furry companions.

Interactive smell maps for hunting

When hunting in a pack, dogs rely on scent communication to coordinate their efforts effectively.

They create interactive smell maps, marking specific scents in the environment to communicate important information to fellow pack members.

These maps help the pack navigate and strategize during the hunt, improving their chances of success.

For example:

Dogs may mark specific locations where prey has been spotted, signalling to other members that an area has already been explored.

They may also use scent markings to communicate the direction and speed of the prey, allowing the pack to coordinate their pursuit.

Internal pack alerts through scent

In addition to hunting strategies, scent is used by dogs within a pack to convey internal alerts and information.

By interpreting the scents left behind by other pack members, dogs gain valuable insights into the overall well-being and status of their companions. This contributes to the cohesion and social bonding within the pack.

Some examples of internal pack alerts through scent include:

  • Marks left by an alpha dog signalling dominance and position within the pack hierarchy.

  • Chemical cues in urine and other bodily secretions provide information about reproductive status and readiness to mate.

  • Scent cues indicating fear, stress, or aggression, allowing the pack to respond and offer support if needed.

Overall, scent communication plays a vital role in the social behaviour and dynamics of dogs.

By utilising their highly developed sense of smell, dogs establish social bonds, coordinate hunting strategies, and communicate essential information within their packs.

Understanding these aspects of scent communication allows us to appreciate and better comprehend the intricate world of canine social interactions.

Why dogs roll in poop and the health risks involved

a terrier with a muddy face

Rolling in poop poses certain health risks to dogs, primarily due to the presence of parasites in faecal matter. Dogs that engage in this behaviour are at a higher risk of contracting parasitic infections, which can have detrimental effects on their health.

Parasitic dangers in faecal matter

Faecal matter can contain various types of parasites, including intestinal worms and other harmful microorganisms. When dogs roll in poop, these parasites can come into contact with their fur, skin, and even their mouths if they lick themselves afterwards.

This can lead to the transmission of parasitic infections, causing a range of health issues such as:

  • Intestinal worms, including roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms

  • Protozoa such as Giardia and Coccidia

Bacterial infections like Salmonella and Campylobacter
These parasites can wreak havoc on a dog's digestive system, immune system, and overall well-being.

It is essential for pet owners to understand the potential dangers associated with dogs rolling in poop and take preventive measures to protect their furry companions.

Cleaning up

a labrador having an outdoor bath

When it comes to cleaning up after your dog has rolled in poop, there are a few efficient tips that can make the process easier. Firstly, it is advisable to wear gloves while handling the soiled areas to protect yourself from any potential pathogens.

Use disposable bags or a pooper scooper to pick up the poop, ensuring that you properly seal and dispose of it. For any remnants or stains on your dog's fur, consider using pet-safe wipes or a gentle shampoo to cleanse the area.

While it is important to discourage dogs from rolling in poop, it is equally important to strike a balance between their natural instincts and maintaining hygiene.

Regular grooming is crucial to ensure your dog's coat remains clean and free from any lingering odours. Taking the time to understand and fulfil your dog's needs for sensory exploration can help prevent them from seeking out alternative odour sources.

By implementing these clean-up tips and embracing your dog's natural instincts while maintaining hygiene, you can create a harmonious and enjoyable living environment for both you and your furry friend.

Remember, with patience, consistency, and understanding, you can successfully navigate this peculiar behaviour and continue to build a strong and loving bond with your canine companion.

Preventing health issues stemming from poop rolling
Proper hygiene practices can play a crucial role in minimising the health risks associated with dogs rolling in poop.

Here are some preventive measures that pet owners can implement:

  • Keep your dog on a regular deworming schedule recommended by their veterinarian to prevent intestinal parasites.

  • Immediately clean up and dispose of your dog's faeces to minimise the chances of them rolling in it.

  • Teach your dog the "leave it" command to discourage them from approaching or rolling in faeces while on walks.

  • Offer a diversion or distraction when you notice your dog showing interest in poop, redirecting their attention to a more positive activity.

  • Regularly bathe and groom your dog to maintain good hygiene and remove any potential parasites or bacteria that may be present on their fur.

  • Ensure your dog's environment is clean and free from faecal matter, especially in areas where they spend most of their time.

  • Consult with your veterinarian for additional preventive measures and guidance tailored to your dog's specific needs.

By adopting these hygiene practices and taking preventive measures, pet owners can significantly reduce the health risks associated with dogs rolling in poop. It is crucial to prioritise your dog's well-being and maintain a clean and safe environment for them.

Techniques to discourage poop rolling in dogs

a dog rolling on his back

The power of positive reinforcement

Discouraging dogs from rolling in poop requires consistent training and positive reinforcement. By using these techniques, you can effectively modify your dog's traits and discourage them from engaging in this undesirable habit.

Positive reinforcement focuses on rewarding desired actions, such as ignoring poop or responding to commands, rather than punishing unwanted behaviours. It’s better to be kind and positive, than loud and harsh to our furry friends.

Mastering the 'leave' command

Teaching your dog the 'leave' command is an essential tool in preventing poop rolling. This command encourages your dog to leave items alone, including poop. Start by giving the command when your dog is near poop, offering a treat or praise when they comply.

Consistently practising the 'leave' command in different environments will reinforce the training and discourage them from engaging in the instinctual behaviour of rolling in poop.

Joining dog training classes for better control

Enrolling your dog in professional training classes can be highly beneficial in discouraging poop rolling and improving overall obedience. Professional dog trainers have the knowledge and experience to guide you in implementing effective training techniques suited to your dog's behaviour.

These classes provide a structured environment that focuses on behaviour modification and positive reinforcement.

Through expert guidance and socialisation opportunities, you can gain better control over your dog's actions and prevent them from rolling in poop.

Waggel members get free behaviour consultations with our resident expert, Junior. Not a member? Get a quote
here to enjoy this and other fantastic benefits.


a dog rolling in the sun

In conclusion, understanding the reasons behind why dogs roll in poop allows pet parents to approach the behaviour with more empathy and knowledge. It is important to remember that this behaviour is deeply rooted in their ancestral instincts and is not meant to be defiant or disobedient.

By acknowledging this, pet parents can take steps to prevent their furry friends from engaging in this behaviour and maintain a clean and hygienic environment.

If your dog exhibits other behaviours like scratching the carpet, you can explore our article
'Why Do Dogs Scratch Carpet?' to better understand and address those habits.

Curious about how dogs perceive the world in terms of colour? Discover more in our article ‘
Can Dogs See Colour?’.

For more information on dealing with common dog behaviours and questions, check out our article ‘
Why Do Dogs Moult?’.
We are experts at answering all the more pertinent questions here at Waggel, especially if you're wondering if human foods are safe for your dog!

Check out our article
'Can Dogs Eat Cucumbers?' for more information. You can also explore our article 'Can Dogs Eat White Chocolate?' for more advice and information on foods suitable for dogs.

If you're curious about other questions such as which foods and fruits dogs can safely eat then you can find out in our article
‘Can Dogs Eat Strawberries?’.

If you're concerned about other unusual eating habits in your dog, such as stone consumption, our article
‘Why Is My Dog Eating Stones?’ can help.


Why do dogs roll in poop and fox poo?

Dogs rolling in poop and fox poo can be attributed to their instinctual behaviour and sense of smell. Rolling in these strong-smelling substances may be a way for dogs to mask their own scent, imitate the behaviours of their wild ancestors, or mark their territory.

What are some survival tactics of dogs' wild ancestors?

Dogs' wild ancestors utilised various survival tactics, including masking their scent to avoid detection by predators and marking their territory with distinctive odours. Rolling in poop may be an instinctual way for dogs to imitate these ancient habits.

How does a dog's sense of smell play a role in rolling in poop?

Dogs possess a highly developed sense of smell, far more powerful than that of humans. They interpret different scents using their olfactory system. Certain odours, such as poop or fox poo, may be enticing to dogs due to their strong scent and natural instincts.

How does scent play a role in social behaviour among dogs?

Scent is a vital form of communication among dogs, particularly within a pack setting. Dogs use scent to create interactive smell maps for hunting and to convey internal pack alerts. Scent plays a crucial role in establishing social bonds and facilitating efficient hunting techniques.

What are the potential health risks of dogs rolling in poop?

Rolling in poop poses health risks to dogs, primarily due to the presence of parasites in faecal matter. This action can lead to the transmission of intestinal worms and other parasites. Proper hygiene practices, such as regular grooming and cleaning, can help prevent these health issues.

How can I discourage my dog from rolling in poop?

Discouraging dogs from rolling in poop requires consistent training and positive reinforcement. Techniques such as using tasty treats, teaching the "leave" command, and enrolling in professional dog training classes can help modify this behaviour and provide better control over your dog's actions.

How can I efficiently clean up after my dog has rolled in poop?

Cleaning up after a dog has rolled in poop can be a messy situation. Using warm water, pet wipes, or canine-friendly shampoo can help remove the strong smell from your dog's fur.

It's important to maintain proper hygiene practices to ensure a healthy and happy coexistence between you and your furry companion.

If you're dealing with specific health issues or skin problems in your dog, like interdigital cysts, consider reading our article on
Interdigital Cysts in Dogs for guidance.

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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