I remember a trip to the park one time with Lally (this was in the few months when I just had her, before we found Moose). After a fun walk with our human friend Joe and his Bassett hound Cassie, Lally decided to end the adventure by rolling in something. I don’t know what it was but it smelled AWFUL. I dragged her home (it was a long and stinky walk) and carried her into the shower with me, since the apartment didn’t have a bathtub. Lucky for me, Lally only weighs around fifty-five pounds, so I could pick her up and get her scrubbed.
But believe me… it was gross.
My brother’s dogs will roll in the dead, waterlogged worms that come out of the pool filter. That’s gross, too! It’s bad enough that my parents have to keep Lily and Kuma inside while the pool is being cleaned… and get rid of the soggy bugs immediately. I can remember another time that Lily and Kuma came to romp in my grandmother’s big yard. They found an old pile of doggie doo underneath some fallen leaves and proceeded to roll in it. You can’t miss a big brown smear on the neck of a big white dog! My grandmother wouldn’t let us bring the dogs into the house to bathe, so we had to drive them back to my parents’ house. (With the windows open!)
So why do dogs like to roll in gross, stinky, dead things? This behavior is one handed down from wolf ancestors. A dog may roll in manure or other stinkables in order to cover her own scent. This is an old hunting trick — if all the prey can smell is poop, the prey has no idea the hunter is on the way.
A dog may also roll in a dead animal to mark the carcass as their own. Rolling can leave a dog’s scent behind — this is a good way to publicly claim that carcass and keep the other scavengers away.