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Why do dogs roll in fox poo

Mar 06, 2024


Why do dogs roll in fox poo and other smelly delights?


Thanks to one of ours for the inspiration to write this....smelly smelly Khaleesi.

This manky, annoying and somewhat odd behaviour isn’t just a behaviour our pets enjoy but is common among all canines showing that it’s a completely natural behaviour they have exhibited throughout their evolution.


Let’s have a look at the reasons behind this behaviour, how it’s benefited our dogs and how it now fits into their everyday lives.


Evolution’s part in this Dog Behaviour


The most common theory for why dogs roll in poo and other delightfully stinky substances, comes from their evolutionary past. Before we domesticated them, dogs were wild hunters (and some today still are), relying on their stealth and cunning to catch prey.


Rolling in the faeces of other animals, or just strong-smelling substances, would mask their scent, making it easier for them to sneak up on prey without detection.


This would suggest a survival behaviour that’s lasted the test of time, surviving thousands of years of evolution, and is still here in our modern, domesticated dogs.




Scent plays an enormous part in our dog’s lives, and it’s their primary mode of communication.


By rolling in fox poo, dogs may be trying to tell other dogs something. They could be marking their territory or even indicating to other animals a recent encounter or adventure.


When a dog covers itself in a strong, distinct scent, it might be using this odour as a way of "talking" to other dogs, sharing their experiences in a way that humans might share stories.


Instinct and Predatory Behaviour


Rolling in strong smells also links back to a dog’s instinctual predatory behaviours.


As mentioned above, in the wild, predators may mask their scent to blend into their environment, giving them a strategic advantage over their prey.


While this seems unnecessary for a pet dog, it's simply a hardwired behaviour that links our dog’s current behaviour back to their ancestral hunting practices.


A Sense of Pleasure and Self-Expression


Some believe that dogs might simply enjoy rolling in fox poo (other smelly messes are also available). Remember that look of delight your dog gave you after getting all stenched up.


The strong, pungent smell could maybe excite their senses in a way that humans can't understand.


This allows the dog to indulge it’s natural instincts and preferences that they wouldn’t ordinarily do in a domestic setting.


Coping with this Behaviour as a Pet Owner


Dealing with a dog that has rolled in fox poo can be a challenge, Our Khaleesi did it the other day, sheesh! She was stinky.


Understanding this dog behaviour can give us some peace of mind, although doesn’t stop it being a nuisance.


Managing this behaviour involves a mix of training, supervision, and sometimes, resigned acceptance.


Training your dog to respond to commands like "leave it" can help prevent them from rolling in undesirable substances if you catch their intentions in time. Or keeping dogs on a lead in areas where they're likely to sniff out fox poo and providing them with plenty of other olfactory stimulation (like scent work), can help curb the behaviour.


To finish up


This behaviour has it’s roots in our dogs wild ancestors, serving various purposes from camouflage to communication. We’ll never fully appreciate 100% this behaviour but having a good understanding of the instinctual and evolutionary reasons behind this behaviour can help us approach it with patience and understanding.