Why Do Dogs Roll In Dirt? (8 Common Reasons)

Anyone who has ever had a dog knows that they can be a lot of fun. Dogs do all sorts of weird things that can leave us scratching our heads while wondering what they are up to.

Maybe they’re trying to tell us something, maybe they’re just trying to have a little fun, maybe they have an instinct they’re acting on, or maybe they’re just being goofy dogs. No matter what, it’s always important and sometimes entertaining to try and figure out the reason behind their behavior.

Have you ever seen your dog chase her tail, eat grass or drag her blanket around? Every one of these cute and usually harmless behaviors can mean more than one thing.  You need to take into account everything your dog is doing in order to properly interpret what your dog is up to. 

So, what about rolling in the dirt?  Why do dogs roll in dirt? Like most dog behaviors, there isn’t a quick and easy answer.  However, some good explanations can explain why your dog might be rolling in dirt such as:

  • To get rid of unnatural smells on their fur
  • To communicate with other dogs
  • To cool down
  • To scratch an itch
  • To collect scents
  • To cover up their own smell
  • They learned it from watching other dogs
  • To have some fun

Just remember to use everything you can observe of your dog’s behavior when narrowing down which one might apply to your pooch

What Are The Top Reasons Dogs Roll In Dirt?

We’ve briefly scratched the surface of the reasons dogs roll in the dirt.  I like looking a little deeper at all the possible reasons my dogs are up to something.  It lets me get a better understanding of their behavior.

To Ditch Unnatural Scents

Maybe your dog just came home from the groomer, or maybe you needed to use some powerful and fragrant soap to get an awful smell out of your dog’s fur. Whatever the reason, your dog doesn’t smell natural to herself and she wants to get rid of that scent as soon as possible.

As A Form of Communication

Another possibility is that your dog is using rolling in dirt to communicate with other dogs. Dogs’ anal glands at the base of their tails release pheromones. These chemicals can communicate a lot of different things to other dogs, such as fear, happiness, and even reproductive status.

When a dog rubs her paws on something, she’s leaving behind some of her pheromones for other dogs to find. If your dog is rolling in the dirt, she might be trying to leave her scent on something as a form of communication.

To Cool Off

When it’s hot outside and your dog is looking for a way to cool off, rolling in the dirt could be her solution. Rolling in dirt or mud can help your dog regulate her body temperature.

If your dog is panting and looking for a way to cool down, rolling in the dirt could be her way of cooling off.

To relieve itchiness or discomfort

Another possibility is that your dog is trying to relieve some itchiness or other skin discomfort. If your dog has an itch she just can’t quite reach, or an itch that can’t be satisfied, rolling in the dirt might be her way of trying to scratch it.

Dogs have also been known to roll in dirt or mud as a way to soothe irritating skin conditions. If your dog is rolling in the dirt and then seems to temporarily feel better, this could be the reason why.

To Collect Scents

Your dog might, for some reason, want to smell like the scents she is picking up in the dirt.  Maybe she smells something that intrigues her and wants to collect some of that scent on her fur so she can investigate it further.

Unfortunately, to us, whatever your dog is trying to smell like isn’t usually all that pleasant. But, to your dog, it might be the most amazing thing she’s ever smelled. And she needs to smell like it right now!

Mask Her Own Smell

By rolling in something with a stronger scent such as stinky dirt, your dog can help mask her own scent. This might be especially useful if she’s acting on instincts like thinking she’s trying to hide from predators or sneak up on prey.

Learned Behavior

Another possibility is that your dog has simply learned from other dogs that rolling in dirt is something to do. If you’ve ever seen another dog roll in the dirt and wondered what they were up to, your dog might have wondered the same thing.

She might not know exactly why she’s doing it, but she knows that other dogs do it and it must be important. So she figures she should give it a try too.

Rolling in the dirt is a behavior that can be passed down from ‘generation to generation’ of dogs. If your dog’s adopted siblings were known for their love of rolling in the dirt, chances are good that your dog has inherited that behavior.

Just for fun!

Last but not least, your dog might just be doing it for fun. Dogs are known for being goofy and playful, so it’s always possible that your dog is just trying to have a little fun. If there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation, this could be the reason behind your dog’s dirt-rolling behavior.

Why Do Dogs Roll In Dirt After A Bath?

One of the top reasons dogs roll in dirt is to get rid of unnatural smells.  Sure, that chemically scented rose shampoo might smell good to you but,  to your dog, it smells like gross chemicals.

She’s just trying to get rid of that smell as soon as possible.

Unless they did it to themselves for a reason, dogs don’t like to smell like something foreign. To them, it’s just not natural.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why your dog seems to go out of her way to roll in dirt or mud after a bath, now you know! It’s her way of trying to get rid of that unnatural smell as quickly as possible.

Is It Unhealthy Or Bad For Dogs To Roll In Dirt?

Unless there is a health problem your dog has that is aggravated by dirt, or the dirt your dog is rolling in the dirt that is contaminated in some way, then overall, it probably isn’t unhealthy or even bad for your dog to roll in the dirt. 

Having said that, there are some reasons why you probably don’t want your dog to roll in the dirt anyway.

Your Dog Is Dirty All The Time

This is probably the most obvious reason. If your dog is rolling in the dirt all the time, she’s going to be dirty all the time. And that means you’re going to have to bathe her more often than you would if she didn’t roll in the dirt.

Not only is this a hassle for you, but it could also be bad for your dog’s skin. Bathing your dog too often can strip away the natural oils in her skin and lead to irritation, and dryness.

Your Dog Rolls In Dirt That Makes Her Stink

Even if your dog doesn’t roll in the dirt all the time, she might roll in something that makes her stink. And even if your dog doesn’t mind, it still won’t be pleasant for you.

Your Dog Might Pick Up Fleas Or Ticks

Depending on where you live, there is always the possibility that your dog could pick up fleas or ticks when she’s rolling in the dirt. These are both things that can cause health issues for your dog, and they’re both a pain to get rid of.

So, even though it’s not necessarily unhealthy for your dog to roll in the dirt, this is still a good reason to try to stop her from doing it.

Skin Problems

Just like us, some dogs have more sensitive skin that is easy to irritate.   If your dog is one of these dogs, rolling in the dirt can cause skin problems.

Dogs with sensitive skin might get dry and itchy from rolling in the dirt. If they’re allergic to something that’s in the dirt, it could even cause rashes or hives.

So, if your dog has skin issues, it’s probably best to keep her from rolling in the dirt and talk to your vet if you can’t get your good girl to stop.

Contaminated Dirt

There is also the possibility that the dirt your dog is rolling in is contaminated with something that could make her sick.

For example, if there are chemicals or pesticides in the dirt, they could cause health problems for your dog.

How To Stop Dogs From Rolling In The Dirt

if you’re tired of constantly bathing your dog because she loves rolling in the dirt, it might be time to find a way to stop her from doing it.

The best way to do this is to figure out why your dog is rolling in the dirt in the first place, and then find a way to address that underlying issue.

The next best solution is training your dog to not roll in the dirt.  There are several ways to do this and some helpful aids as well.

The No Command

When you’re training your dog, one of the most valuable commands you can teach her is the ‘No’ command.  This is a command that you can use to stop your dog from doing just about anything.

If you catch your dog in the act of rolling in the dirt, simply say ‘No’ in a stern voice.

Make sure you don’t shout, you don’t want your dog to associate a basic command with you being angry. 

Citronella Collar or Spray Bottle

When dogs are focused on an activity it can be very hard to break through to them.  If your dog gets so into rolling in the dirt that firmly saying ‘No’ or even calling their name doesn’t break their attention it might be time for an additional step.

Of course, you want to remain a humane owner, so rather than resorting to hitting your dog you can try a citronella collar or a spray bottle filled with water.

Whenever they start to focus on rolling in the dirt give them a light spritz from the water bottle or have the collar emit a burst of citronella. 

Remember to never use a spray bottle or citronella has punishment, rather it is to break your dog’s concentration on rolling in the dirt so you can use the ‘No’ command or something else to get your dog to stop.

Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement training can be very effective when done correctly.  You’ll need to get your timing right, so your dog knows why she is being praised.

When your dog doesn’t roll in the dirt, make sure to give them lots of praise and attention. This will help them to associate not rolling in dirt with something they want, which is your attention.

You can also use treats as a form of positive reinforcement.  Whenever your dog resists the urge to roll in the dirt, make sure to give them a treat. 

This will help them to associate not rolling in the dirt with something they want, which is a tasty treat.

Keep Your Dog Leashed

Hopefully, this isn’t needed as a permanent solution, but rather something you can do while your dog is learning your dislike of her rolling in the dirt. 

By keeping your dog on a leash, you can make sure that she doesn’t have the opportunity to roll in the dirt.  This will also give you more control over her if she does try to go for a roll.

Exercise Your Dog

A tired dog is a good dog.  If your dog is getting enough exercise, she will be less likely to want to roll in the dirt.

Make sure that you’re taking your dog on regular walks and runs, and playing with her often.  This will help to tire her out so that she’s less likely to want to engage in behaviors that you don’t approve of.

This also applies to mental stimulation.  While some dogs need much more than others, usually a good toy is enough entertainment to mentally stimulate most dogs.

Final Thoughts: Why Does My Dog Roll In The Dirt?

Dogs might roll in the dirt for many reasons, including to get rid of unnatural scents, to communicate with other dogs, to cool off, to relieve itchiness or discomfort, to collect scents, to mask their smell, or simply for fun. Each dog might have a different reason for rolling in the dirt, so it’s important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior.

If your dog is rolling in the dirt right after a bath, she is likely trying to get rid of unnatural smells such as the fragrance from the shampoo you used on her.

Overall, it’s probably not bad or unhealthy for your dog to roll in the dirt. There are some reasons why you might not want her to do it, such as if she becomes dirty and smelly, or if she picks up fleas or ticks.

Generally speaking, rolling around in the dirt is not going to cause any long-term health problems for your pup. However, if you’re ever unsure about the health of your dog, you can always ask your veterinarian for help.

If you want your dog to stop rolling in the dirt, there are a handful of effective methods to get them to stop:

  • Use the ‘No Command’
  • Use a citronella collar or spray bottle to break your dog’s concentration
  • Train with positive reinforcement
  • Keep your dog on a leash
  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of physical and mental exercise

For all the moments of frustration that they may cause, dogs are still one of the best pets around. There are several reasons dogs might roll in the dirt.  As a responsible dog owner, it is up to you to figure out why your dog behaves this way.

Once you have discovered the reason, you can decide whether or not you want to put a stop to it.  There are many ways to train your dog to behave in the manner you want her to.  Just be sure to never resort to inhumane methods of training.

If none of the methods listed here help you train your dog to quit rolling in the dirt, you may wish to consult with a professional dog trainer or behavior specialist.

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