Have you ever noticed your pup rolling around on their toys when they play? Why do dogs like rolling on top of things?

dog rolling around in the grass

Have you ever been playing with your dog—indoors or outdoors—and suddenly they just roll over onto their back? Sometimes it’s to roll over onto a toy. Sometimes it’s just to roll over and present their belly.

Some dogs will run around in the yard, and then decide to roll in something gross—like animal poop, or even a dead animal. YUCK! Why in the world would a dog do something like this?

Everything dogs do—that we think is odd, confusing, weird, or gross—makes total sense to them! We just have to figure out what they are trying to communicate with it. Let’s see if we can’t figure some of this out.

dog rolling around

Why do dogs roll on their back when playing?

Let’s start with why dogs roll on their back while playing… and we’ll talk about them rolling onto toys and gross things later on.

Science.org fills us in on some new research found about dogs rolling on their back. “In a new study, researchers analyzed the behaviors that accompanied rolling as dogs played with other dogs and came to the conclusion that rolling is actually a combat tactic, not a sign of surrender.”

Weird, huh? I always thought it was out of submission—as did most of us. But we see more of this conclusion from Scientific American as well. “When two dogs are playing, rollovers most often facilitate play. For example, a dog on its back often engages in playful sparring with another dog, delivering or avoiding neck bites, or engaging in open-mouth lunges.”

It’s not that your pup is wanting to stop or surrender. But rather, rolling on their back during play is to help facilitate and continue the playtime.

dog rolling around outside

Why do dogs roll in poop?

Have you ever had this problem? You let your pup outside to run and play, and all of a sudden… OH NO! They’re rolling around in some kind of animal poop. What the heck? Why would your dog do this? Well, this is actually quite common.

So if dogs roll on their back when playing, then why do they roll in poop? Is that a part of playtime in their minds? Or something else? Let’s see what the experts have to say.

PetMD tells us that it’s extremely common for dogs to roll feces from other animals. And that wild dogs like wolves and foxes even do this. So this is something that is instinctual for dogs to do. Not that it’s what we would like for them to do.

Three main reasons dogs roll in poop:

Ok, this may gross you out. But hopefully it helps you understand your pup a little more. Here are the 3 main reasons your dog would roll in poop. Want to figure out how to stop this from happening? Keep reading below!

1. Your dog likes the smell of the poop.

As gross as this sounds, dogs actually seem to like the smell of other animal’s feces. The same idea applies when a dog rolls on a dead animal. They are looking for the strongest smelling thing.

2. Your dog is trying to cover up their own scent.

When hunting for their prey, wild dogs will roll in the scent of another animal to hide their own scent. So the prey can’t smell their predator coming.

3. Your dog is trying to bring back the scent to let you know where they’ve been.

Pack dogs will do this to let the rest of their pack know where they’ve been. “This allows the other members of the pack to follow the trail back to the source and to any food that was found nearby.”

How do I stop my dog from rolling in poop?

The main question isn't why? It's how. How can I stop my dog from rolling in poop and animal carcases? This is hard to do because it’s instinctually ingrained into your pup. If your dog is on-leash, you can lead them away from the gross thing more easily.

But a helpful way to train your dog is to teach them to “leave it.” This is a helpful command for many different scenarios. Whether it’s telling them to walk away from the animal poop, or to not bother something in your house... like your plate of food, or a full trash can.

And as always, use positive reinforcement to teach them this, and any new command. Reward them with treats and plenty of praise. And little by little, they will learn.

dog rolling around

Why do dogs roll on top of their toys?

There are some different theories about why a dog would roll on their toys.

  • It could be because they are trying to facilitate play, like we mentioned above.
  • Or it could be because they want the scent of the toy on them, just like with the poop scenario. Or to even transfer their own scent onto the toy.
  • Your dog might be rolling on their toys to hide or hord them, out of possessiveness.
  • It might even be to help your dog scratch an itch, or because they like the way the toy feels on their back.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com.

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