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In this blog I'll discuss some of the reasons your dog might be rolling in fox poop when out on walks or in the back garden, they may even roll in their own. There’s many reasons, some easy to explain, some that go back to the genetics and roots of your dog and some that are just your dog being its weird self. We’ll also delve into if any of these behaviours can cause the dog any harm, and ways to potentially stop this behaviour if you are getting sick of giving your dogs a bath after every walk! 

To Disguise Their Scent

The first reason is likely to do with the genetic roots of your dog. Dogs are descended from wolves and other pack hunting canine species. When species like that are looking to track down some prey they might try and disguise their smell so that the prey doesn’t smell them and identify them as a threat from a long way away. The prey in many cases would be deer and while deer might sniff out a wolf and alert the rest of the herd, they wouldn’t get scared by only a fox in the local area as a fox is no threat to them. Wild dogs have also been known to cover themselves in the stink of a dead carcass to try and hide their smell. You’ll often see wolves in wildlife documentaries looking incredibly dirty for this exact reason. I hope your dog hasn’t done something similar, but I wouldn't put it past some dogs!

 

red haired Woman Holding a fluffy pomeranian

 

 If you’ve seen your dog try and spread his scent on your sofa before you’ll notice they try and get particular parts of their body covered, often the ears and head but not their belly. This might be because that’s where your dogs' pheromones are, which they usually use to mark their territory. It could be that’s exactly what your four legged friend is trying to cover up when they roll in the fox poo!

To Show The Pack There’s A Fox To Hunt

In some cases your dog might be trying to show its pack there's prey around. Although the descendants of wolves are good communicators relative to a lot of the animal world they still can’t communicate anywhere near as well as you and I can. Sometimes the best way to explain something is to show or in this case bring the smell to the pack. If a wolf brings the smell of a fox back to the rest of the pack, they will all recognise the smell as a fox and know there’s a fox to hunt close by. This behaviour is also mirrored in dogs and is called “Scent-rolling”. So if you're annoyed at your dog rolling in poo, bear in mind he might just be showing you where to find your next meal!

They Like The Smell

This might sound strange to me and you because as humans, any poo smells disgusting. But to dogs it can be used to find information about the other dog or animal. Peter Hepper from Queens University Belfast said the following when asked a similar question in this blog: 


For the dog, feces are a source of a huge amount of information. They tell dogs about the individual who deposited the faeces, their dominance status, relatedness, sex and so on. One key function for wild canines is delineation of territory. Dogs defecate around territory boundaries and key paths to mark ownership with feces. Dogs use feces, humans use fences – although admittedly I am unaware of any experiments to test the effectiveness of human feces as boundary markers.”

dachshund sniffing the floor

So dogs are interested in poo like we’d be interested in art! Another addition to this is the reason you perceive a smell as “Bad” is you’ve been taught as much. Humans have a strong repulsion complex when they know things aren’t good for them and in the case of poo it can harbour disease or generally bad bacteria that could harm you, so, it repulses you. Weirdly if you eat a particular food and it makes you ill, you might find yourself finding the smell of that food disgusting for a long time. This of course doesn’t mean you should encourage your dog to roll in fox droppings but it might give you a bit more of an idea of why they don’t see it like we do. 

To add further on your dog's sense of smell vs our own, according to the American Kennel Club, Humans have 5 million smell receptors whereas dogs have 100 million. As you can imagine that means they can paint a much bigger picture from a smell than we can.

To Overpower The Smell In Their Territory

Dogs often want to control the scent in their area, this is known as scent marking. They do this sometimes by urinating on objects or places in their territory. By scent marking, dogs are able to communicate with other dogs and let them know that this is their territory. Scent marking is also a way for dogs to show their dominance over other dogs. Often, the stronger the scent, the more dominant the dog is perceived to be. So, if a dog wants to appear to be more dominant, they may urine mark or rub a smelly surface more frequently or with more force.


When you see your dog Rubbing his body against things, they are probably not just trying to scratch an itch. It's more likely that he's marking his territory by leaving his scent behind. When a dog rubs his body or face against something, he's actually transferring the oils from his fur to the object. This process is called self-anointing, and it's thought to serve several purposes. For one thing, it helps to spread the dog's unique smell around, making it easier for him to find his way back home if he ever gets lost.  Some experts also believe that self-anointing helps dogs to relax and feel comfortable in their environment. 

It’s Fun To Get Dirty

Dogs have a natural instinct to jump in mud and get dirty. There are a few reasons for this. First, mud provides dogs with a cool and refreshing way to beat the heat. Dogs also enjoy the sensual experience of feeling the mud squish between their toes. And finally, getting muddy is just plain fun! Dogs love to play and explore, and getting dirty is all part of the adventure. So next time your dog jumps in a muddy puddle, just remember: they’re not being naughty, they’re just enjoying the simple pleasures of life. 

 

Dirty Golden Retriever rolling in wet mud

Dogs are known for their love of getting dirty, whether it’s playing in the mud or rolling in something smelly. But why do they do it? Some people think that it’s because they’re trying to mask their own scent, but that’s not the case. Dogs have a much better sense of smell than we do, so they’re not trying to cover up their own scent. Instead, it’s more likely that they’re simply enjoying the sensations of being dirty.mud and dirt are cool and textured, and they offer a different experience than being clean. For dogs, getting dirty is just another way to have fun.

Is This A Problem?

Really that’s up to you, as the owner. There’s not many health problems that a dog can get from rolling around in fox poo but that doesn’t mean it’s completely without risks either. Parvovirus is a nasty, resilient virus that can survive in faeces, it’s one of the viruses that your dog should be vaccinated from at the vet.  Puppies might not be fully vaccinated yet and might not be trained out of the behaviour of playing with poop so they are at high risk from Parvo vs an adult vaccinated dog. 


In a vaccinated dog this shouldn’t be something to worry about. Obviously from a human standpoint there’s also the fact you don’t want fox poo to be trapsed through the house. The fox poo can be a lot more harmful to people than dogs and it’ll also smell and ruin carpet and furniture. Later on we’ll discuss how you might be able to train your canine against this behaviour to avoid a traumatic bath after every walk. If you’d like a quick way to clean your dog on the move check out Floofs Pet Wipes 

What If They Eat It?

Believe it or not, dogs eating poo is actually quite common. In fact, there's even a name for it: coprophagia. While it may be gross to us humans, dogs seem to find poo quite delicious. Unfortunately, this behaviour can come with some risks. One of the biggest dangers is that dogs can pick up parasites like ringworm from eating fox poo. These parasites can cause serious health problems for your dog, so it's important to be vigilant and discourage them from eating poo. Although it may be tough to break them of this habit, it's ultimately in their best interests. Ringworm is a fungus that can cause skin irritation, hair loss, and crusted lesions. If you think your dog may have ingested fox poo, watch for signs of ringworm and take them to the vet if necessary. In the meantime, practise good hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly after handling your dog.

FAQ:

  1. Why do dogs roll in fox poo?


There are a few different theories about why dogs might roll in fox poo. One is that they're trying to disguise their scent from predators or prey. Another is that they think it's funny or playful. And finally, some people believe that dogs roll in fox poo because they're attracted to the smell.


  1. Why is it bad for dogs to roll in fox poo?


Fox poo can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can make your dog sick. Rolling in it can also cause skin irritation and other health problems.


  1. What can you do to stop your dog from rolling in fox poo?


The best way to stop your dog from rolling in fox poo is to keep them on a leash when they're outside, and to immediately clean them off if they do roll around in it. You can also try training your dog not to roll in this type of poop by using positive reinforcement techniques like treats and praise.

4. Are there other reasons my dog might be rolling on its back?

Yes! Your dog may be marking their own scent on their surrounding, scratching an itch or rolling onto their back for a belly rub!

1 comment

  • Jammy smith
    • Jammy smith
    • June 12, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    Dogs have a strong sense of smell, and they often use scent to communicate and gather information about their surroundings. Rolling in fox poo is a behaviour that may seem unpleasant to us humans, but to dogs, it can serve several purposes.

    One possible explanation is that the strong smell of fox poo masks the dog’s own scent, making it more difficult for prey to detect them. This may have been a useful survival strategy for dogs’ wild ancestors. Additionally, rolling in strong-smelling substances like fox poo may be a way for dogs to communicate with other dogs, as the scent may contain information about the dog’s territory or social status.

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