The other day, my husband and I had a photoshoot with Rooney out on this beautiful trail and beach in Northern California. We were walking along, enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery and then I look down to see Rooney rolling around in deer poop.
Mind you, we had yet to take a single photo. Although I wasn’t looking forward to a smelly dog on the ride home, Rooney looked like he was having the time of his life.
When I worked at the veterinary hospital, it was very common for us to have patients who visited the kitty litter box for snacks, or insisted on eating poop while hiking. Pet parents would be baffled. I received this question more than once, “Why does my dog like poop?”
Turns out, eating and rolling around in poop are two of the many “animal instincts” that tend to baffle pet parents. So today I would like to discuss the reasonings behind such behavior.
Rolling in Poop
While there are many theories as to why your dog would feel the need to roll around in poop, or other stinky items along trails, the one that seems to be most supported is an ancestral animal instinct.
While most dog breeds today look as far from their wolf ancestors as possible, many individual dogs still have, and express, many wild instincts. Rolling around in, or rubbing their necks on poop is one of these instincts.
Prior to hunts, wolves would roll around in dead animal carcasses or poop from plant-eating animals to mask their scent. The ability to cover up their scent made their attempts at getting closer to the prey prior to the attack much easier.
Other theories regarding this behavior support the idea that wolves used to roll in particular scents in order to report back to their pack where they have been.
What Can You Do as a Pet Parent?
The truth is, not much. Your dog enjoys this behavior, and it will be hard for them to overcome their instincts.
In order to avoid the behavior in the first place, I would try not to use shampoos and conditioners with strong scents or perfumes. While these scents may smell great to us, your dog may think the smell is strong and try to mask it by rolling around in poop.
Once your dog is already rolling in the poop, I would try to distract them with a high-reward treat.
Lastly, I would make sure to keep a seat cover in your car and some towels for such trail mishaps.
The medical term for such behavior is coprophagy. Both horses and rabbits practice coprophagy on a regular basis and need to in order to meet their nutritional requirements.
While dogs aren’t classified as a species that should practice coprophagy, you will meet the occasional dog who eats poop regularly. Unfortunately, for pet parents, the list of reasons as to why dogs take part in this behavior is long. According to Vetstreet, here are some reasons why dogs eat poop:
- Removing evidence to avoid punishment or acknowledgment from other predators
- Your dog likes to keep their territory clean
- Poor diet and nutrition
- He or she thinks it’s fun
- Your dog might be hungry or bored
- They may actually think it smells good
Okay, so the idea is you may have no clue as to why your dog wants to eat poop, and now you have no idea what to do to make it stop.
What Can You Do as a Pet Parent?
The first thing you need to do is take your dog to the veterinarian. While some of the reasons for eating poop have more to do with behavior, you want to make sure it isn’t due to poor diet or nutrition.
It is important to know that there is a plethora of vitamins and supplements that claim they can help your dog get over this behavior. That being said, I wouldn’t try anything without first asking your veterinarian about this issue.
I hope you found this information helpful, and I hope your future days with your dog are a little less smelly.
Rachel Sheppard is the author and founder of My Kid Has Paws. She is a Social Media Manager, blogger, corgi mom, animal lover, volunteer, graduate student, and shoe collector.
After graduating from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science & Management, she worked as a Veterinary Assistant for 3 years. Her daily interactions with pet parents inspired her to start her blog focused on pet health, pet rescue, and pet products. She has a true enthusiasm for veterinary medicine and animal science, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences with pet parents.