Why do Dogs Roll in Dead Animals

Why do Dogs Roll in Dead Animals

Author WDF Staff


A common question we get asked by dog owners is, “Why do dogs roll in dead animals?” The correct answer to this question might come from their history. There were many theories regarding why dogs love rolling in dead animals, and there are three that seem most plausible.

You probably noticed your dog is very interested in things we find repulsive and disgusting. Dogs have noses that are a lot more sensitive than ours, but their brain doesn’t process it the same. They have a wired “disgust” response, but they seem to have a different definition of what qualifies as disgusting. Here are the three possible theories that answer the question, “why do dogs roll in dead animals?”


Before domestication, wild dogs were hunters, but they were also scavengers. Even today, modern-day wolves roll in dead animals or carcasses because it is a survival technique. They use it as a way to let the rest of the pack get familiar with the smell of the carcass. If the pack knows the scent, they can retrace the wolf’s steps and find the carcass.

appenzell-mountain-dog rolling

In times when the prey is scarce in the wild, wild dogs and wolves rely on scavenging. They will actively seek out remains of larger predator’s remains and strip whatever edible part is left on the carcass. It is a vital survival technique that will help the whole pack survive tough times.


The second theory is that dogs, like wolves, are scavengers that want to mark their “prey.” Rolling in dead animals will leave a scent mark, which will let other scavengers know this carcass is taken. It is another primitive survival instinct left with modern-day dogs, and sometimes, their instincts take the better of them. They cannot help themselves, and they need to roll and “claim” the carcass.

golden-retriever rolling

While this theory sounds plausible, it doesn’t explain why dogs love rolling in other nasty stuff. Dogs will gladly sniff something we often cannot even see, and dive on it, head-first. We are the ones that have to deal with the aftermath of the terrible smells.


The last theory says that dogs are “masking” their natural smell. Wild dogs and their ancestors mainly relied on hunting as a primary food source. However, not all hunts were successful. To help their chances, dog’s ancestors, wolves, learned to hunt “downwind.” They learned that approaching the prey opposite of the wind direction will hide their scent, and the prey couldn’t smell them before they got very close.

To make the hunt even more successful, wolves started rolling into dead animals. It was an effective way of “masking” their scent. Even if they approached prey from the wrong direction, their prey couldn’t smell them until it was already too late. This is a theory that could explain a lot of rolling around in smelly stuff.

puppy rolling in grass

In conclusion

There are many theories about why dogs roll in dead animals, and they all have some degrees of plausibility. Dog behaviorists and scientists have not yet defined the exact reason. We can just make sure our dogs listen to our commands, and if you tell them “No,” they will actually avoid rolling into something smelly.

World Dog Finder team

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