Why Do Dogs Roll In The Grass?

Instinct is usually what causes dogs to roll in the grass and may have its roots in hunting prey, which is why dogs roll in other things, too.

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Dogs Roll in Grass Due to Scent

Rolling in grass is all about scent – either covering it up, adding scent, or picking it up to himself. Dogs’ noses are up to 50 times more sensitive than ours, depending on the breed, so they can smell lots of gross things that they think are perfect for rolling.

An older study with wolves, published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology, found that wolves were most likely to rub in an odor not usually in the wolf’s environment or a familiar scent that is slightly different. And, not surprisingly, they found that some wolves seemed to roll in scents believed to have a strong aversion or attraction.

Your dog’s hunting instinct makes him roll in the grass, makes him roll where another animal has urinated or defecated, and makes him roll in a dead animal. It is speculated that rolling covers up his own scent so he can get closer to prey before they sense him.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Rolls in Grass?

Rolling is also a way to communicate with other pack members (including you!), telling them he’s nearby or to stay away from this area because it’s his.

And remember too that what smells good to us usually doesn’t smell good to them – and vice versa. So don’t be surprised when, as soon as you bathe your dog in that expensive, sweet-smelling shampoo, the first thing he does is roll in the grass or something else that stinks. That may well be because he thinks that he smells horrible!

Now, rolling can be a sign that something’s wrong, that he has fleas, an allergy, or a skin irritation. That’s when you have to note the rest of his behavior:

  • Does his rolling look manic?
  • Is he scratching where he rolls?
  • Is the skin red or irritated?

This behavior will help you decide if you should investigate further and maybe call the veterinarian.

And sometimes your dog rolls just because it feels good and makes him happy. And that’s just as natural as rolling in something due to scent.

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John Strassburger was the editor of The Chronicle of the Horse from 1986-2006 and worked for the magazine as a special correspondent until 2010. He was then training editor for the Horse Journal until 2017. He has been the owner and trainer at Phoenix Farm in Santa Rosa, Calif., since 2006. He is a graduate A from the U.S. Pony Clubs and has competed in eventing to the three-star level. He has owned about a dozen dogs since he was a teenager and now owns a Doberman Pinscher named Boreas and a Livestock Guardian Dog named Isis. He is married and has a 13-year-old son.