As a dog owner, there are few moments more precious than seeing your dog rush out onto a green expanse, flop onto their back, and excitedly roll and flail as they connect with the earth.
While this can be such a wholesome and ridiculously cute sight to witness, there are also times when it is frustrating or just plain unacceptable. At times, it can feel like they know how to pick the worst possible moments to roll and somehow find the most disgusting substances to go rolling in.
My family dog, Breena, is very afraid of getting in the bathtub so we usually take her to a groomer. At the beginning of the pandemic, when the groomer was closed down, Breena was in desperate need of a bath. We spent a long time coaxing her into the tub and making sure she was fully comfortable so we could get her all fresh and clean.
It was only a couple of hours later when she made a grand escape out the front door. By the time we caught up with her she was covered in an unappealing slimy green substance…. later to be confirmed: Goose poop! It’s as if they’re doing it on purpose… and in some instances, they are!
So, why do dogs roll in the grass? Let’s take a look at why your dog is rolling, when to be concerned, and how to help stop the behavior if that is what is best for you and your pup.
There are many reasons why your dog may want to take a good roll in the green, and a lot of it has to do with smells.
While rolling in the grass looks pretty silly from our human perspective, there are many understandable evolutionary reasons why rolling in the grass makes perfect sense. Dogs perceive the world much more heavily through smell than sight. When they pass a spot on the grass where another dog has taken a roll, they can smell that that dog has been there. If your dog decides to take a roll in the same spot, they will leave their scent for the next furry friend who comes by.
This chain of communication through smells allows your dog to know who has been where and when. This allows your dog to connect with other dogs in the area even if they aren’t in the same space at the same time.
In the times before domestication, your dog’s ancestors had to hunt down their food in the forest to be able to eat. They used many special tactics to catch their prey. Being a creature of smells, dogs would commonly roll on the earth to mask their scent and take on the smell of their surroundings. This allowed them to get much closer to their prey before they would be noticed. Nowadays, many dogs roll to get rid of their smell and take on the scents of the smelliest natural things they can find.
When we use soaps on our dogs that have smells that we as humans prefer over let’s say, goose poop, our pups don’t always agree. That’s why they often choose the moments right after we have cleaned them to get as gross and dirty as they possibly can.
If your dog has a habit of rolling at inappropriate times or in inappropriate places, and you would like to work on curbing their behavior, start by taking notice of what behaviors lead up to them rolling. Identify what they do right before they roll. Bring some treats with you (or any other method of positive reinforcement that works for your pup) and when you see that they are about to roll, redirect their attention with a different command.
If they sit and stay instead of rolling, reward them. While this may not stop all of their rolling immediately, if you keep up with this training practice over time, your dog will learn that it is unacceptable to go rolling wherever and whenever they want. Hopefully, you can avoid some gross situations.
Is It Bad If Your Dog Rolls In The Grass?
While there is usually nothing wrong with letting your dogs enjoy themselves by taking a good roll, there are certain times when this behavior could indicate something is wrong. If you’ve noticed your dog rolling not just outside, but also inside, or if they are rubbing their ears on the ground, or they are doing something abnormal from what you are used to, this is a good time to contact your vet. Rolling can sometimes be how they itch a scratch and could be a sign of an infection if they are rolling a lot or more than usual.
In most cases, there’s nothing wrong with letting our dogs go rolling in the grass. It’s cute to watch and very fun for them to enjoy. It can be very frustrating if your dog has a habit of rolling in questionable substances, but when we have some empathy and take the time to understand where these behaviors are stemming from, we can better understand our dogs and work with them to put an end to this behavior.