You’re on a beautiful walk with your pooch.
You then see your dog run away from you.
“What is it?”, you ask yourself.
Did your fur baby just get curious?
Did they find a leaf or maybe a creepy crawly they’ve never seen before?
“Okay, let me just walk towa- oh no… babyboo, stop rolling in there.”
Just before you know it, they’re enjoying themselves tossing and turning in a dead animal carcass.
Why do they do this?
Is this normal and safe for your fur baby?
Read on to learn:
- Why do they do this type of behavior.
- 13 tips to stop dogs from rolling in dead animals.
- The connection between predatory actions and rolling in dead animals.
- And this is just the beginning…
Table of contents
Why do dogs roll in dead animals?
Dogs roll in dead animals because they want to mark it as their property. They do this to put their scent on the carcass and let other animals know to stay away from it. Canines also become better hunters by hiding their scent with that of a dead animal. This keeps them safe from predators.
How to stop dogs from rolling in dead animals? 13 tips
#1: Bring toys on walks
When you are out on a walk, your pooch can find lots of things.
Falling leaves, insects, other dogs, and humans to name a few.
However, there will also be times when they’d find dead animals. The scent is so alluring to them.
Just like how you’d feel passing by a bakery that just took an apple pie out of the oven.
Fresh. Hot. Delicious.
Now imagine smelling that and not even try to get a slice.
That’s how it is with your dogs and dead animals.
It doesn’t sound appealing to us humans but to them, it’s one of the best scents in the world.
One of the things you can do to stop them from interacting with it is by bringing toys.
Especially their favorite ones.
It could be a tennis ball, a stick, or a squeaky toy.
These items tend to be light and easy to stow so it won’t be much of a hassle for you to bring.
It’s also a way to get your dog to have a quick exercise while you’re out.
#2: Stop them right before they roll
Just like removing weeds in your garden, it’s best to stop your dog from rolling in dead animals right when they’re still in the “planning” phase.
Most dogs will have a specific action they do right before they roll in dead animals.
You just need to learn what your pooch does so you’ll know when to interrupt them.
Victoria Schade, CPDT, mentions the following behavior that tells fur parents like you that your dog is about to “get dirty”:
- Incessantly sniffing around a certain area.
- Focusing/staring on a single spot on the ground.
- Doing the “pre-roll” pose i.e. rotating their face to the side and slowly lowering it to the ground.
When you see this behavior, start being cautious.
You can start trying to cut the action by calling their name.
Making noises that usually distract them may also work. These actions include:
- Stomping on the ground.
Remember that the purpose of doing this is to get their attention and not to startle them.
Don’t make your pooch feel like you’re about to hurt them.
If you are nearby and physically removing them from the area is possible, then do so.
Just make sure that you do not yank too hard on their leash if they’re wearing one.
#3: Familiarize the route you’re taking
Especially when you’re planning on hiking on a trail where it’s known to have wildlife.
Try and familiarize yourself with your route first before going out for a hike.
This way, you’ll know which places to avoid.
You can also ask other dog parents which parts of the trail usually have dead animals on the way.
Keeping yourself knowledgeable is key when it comes to stopping your dog from rolling in dead animals.
Here are a few examples of animals you’ll likely find while you’re out:
- Insects and other bugs.
If your route is typically filled with these animals, you should keep an eye out.
Keeping them away from dead animals would also mean you can prevent them:
- Canine leptospirosis.
- Accidentally getting poison (if the dead animal died from poison).
These creatures are typically found on hiking trails and may be found dead by your pooch.
Here you can find a list of smartphone apps that can help you find hiking trails for your fur baby.
#4: Give them the right amount of food
Rolling in dead animals could be a sign that your dog is trying to claim the carcass they found as their food.
According to Claudine Sievert, DVM, this behavior is called scent-marking and is done to keep other creatures away from their “property”.
And in this case, the dead animal that they’re trying to protect might be seen as food.
However, there might be times we forget to track their food and activity levels ratio.
“Huh? What’s that?”
The thing is, the more active your pooch, the more fuel they’ll need to power them through their activities.
You’ll need to be mindful of the amount of food that you’re giving.
It should be proportionate to the following:
- Activity levels.
Note: As an estimate, the AKC suggests the following in feeding your pooch:
- 6-12 weeks: four portions of feed daily.
- 3-6 months: three portions of feed daily.
- 6-12 months: two portions of feed daily.
- 1 year: 1 portion of feed but give it to them in two half proportions daily.
This is especially true for dogs who are bred to work and help there hoomans in the field such as:
- Great Dane.
- Siberian Husky.
- Doberman Pinscher.
These dog breeds usually need a higher amount of food.
According to the AKC, adult canines typically need 1-2 meals per day.
This will also increase depending on their age and weight.
If there are gaps in their diet, they might look for extra food when your pooch is outside.
This might be one reason why they’d scent-mark random dead animals they find.
#5: Bring treats with you
Nutritious treats are a healthy way for your dog to fill their hunger while you’re out on a walk.
It’s crazy how dogs love to eat their treats. They are, after all, small pieces of goodness.
It will also serve as a good distraction for when you see your dog starting to “pre-roll” on a suspicious pile.
You can store it in a bag to keep it away from moisture and other dogs that might grab at it.
“Should I bring different types of treats for my pooch?”
AKC states that dogs only have roughly 1,700 taste buds.
Compared to humans that have around 9,000 taste buds, they don’t perceive taste like we do.
Dogs don’t really get bored with eating the same food every day.
Unlike us humans, we kinda get bored when we eat the same food over and over again.
As established, hunger might be a reason why your pooch rolls in dead animals.
Having treats with you can definitely lower their hunger levels and stay away from bad-smelling carcasses.
Note: It is best if you give your pooch high-value treats. These are ones that your dog considers to be very desirable.
These usually have a strong smell, freeze-dried, and ones that your dog doesn’t get regularly.
Examples of these would be:
- Chicken meat.
#6: Give them a balanced diet
This is closely related to #4 and the importance of feeding your dog the right amount.
However, the quantity of food doesn’t satisfy your pooch when it comes to their diet.
It’s also important to note that they need to have the right amount of nutrients in their meals.
There should be a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and other minerals.
Research even suggests that there has been a number of vets and pet parents who advocate home-prepped meals.
If you do decide to provide your pooch with meals you prep at home, make sure you go to the vet first.
They can conduct a thorough evaluation of your fur baby based on the following:
- Current diet.
- Possible illnesses.
- Feeding management.
What we’re trying to avoid here is malnutrition in our pups.
That’s why we need to have better quality and balanced meals for them.
If you feel like your pooch isn’t getting the right amount of nutrients, here are some symptoms you might want to look out for:
- Dull hair.
- Skin sensitivity.
- Lack of energy.
- Slow physical growth.
- Shedding excessively.
- Poor bowel movement.
- Abrupt change in weight.
#7: Use verbal cues
One way you can tell your dogs to stop rolling in dead animals is by, well, talking to them.
If you tell your pooch commands that you want them to follow, chances are, they’d listen to you.
And not just hear you, but rather comprehend what you’re saying.
Research suggests that dogs do have the ability to understand human words.
A Border Collie named Rico was found to have the skills in correlating 200 words to the object it refers to.
Rico was also able to learn new word-object links and store them in his memory.
The researchers in the study likened this skill to that of an 18-month old baby.
However, the reason why they can do this is still unknown.
They can also read our emotions and understand the feeling we’re trying to convey through our facial expressions.
A study conducted in Italy showed how dogs process our feelings and emotions based on our voices.
Nevertheless, canines still have a certain level of understanding when we talk to them.
And when we’re trying to alter a behavior, it is important to clearly let your dog know what you want to happen.
A few verbal cues you can use to stop your pooch from rolling in dead animals are:
- “Stop that”.
- “Leave it”.
- “Come here”.
As always, incorporate positive reinforcement when you’re training your dog.
When you say the verbal cues and they do follow it, give rewards in the form of treats, pets, or even a simple, “Good boy!” will do.
#8: Keep your yard free from outside creatures
Well, this one is pretty obvious.
You want to stop our dog from rolling in dead animals?
Let’s keep the animals away from them!
Here are some of the creatures that might end up in your yard:
You can start by cleaning up your yard.
Empty your trash bin regularly.
Garbage can attract animals and make them come back for more. Especially if you throw away food in your bin.
You can also try and scare them away.
You can do this by installing lights and sprinklers that turn on when they detect motion.
This will startle unwanted animals that roam around your yard and make them more vigilant.
Another method you can use is putting up a fence and installing chicken wire or a net around your yard.
Just make sure that all these measures aren’t going to hurt the animals.
They probably just stumbled upon your home and are looking for food.
These animals probably didn’t intend to harm you or your dogs.
#9: Keep your pooch on a leash
Leashes can be a good way to control where your dog can go.
Especially when you’re walking around a place that they haven’t been to yet.
It’s natural for them to get curious, sniff around, and find interesting things.
And what do you know, one of these days, they’ll find a dead animal on the side of the road and then…
Off they go and enjoy rolling in it.
If you let them wear a leash, you can gently yank on them if you notice that they’re wandering off.
You’ll also be able to stop them from rolling even if they are at a small distance from you.
I mean, unless you’re The Flash, it’d take you a few seconds to grab your pooch when they’re about to do the roll.
Just make sure that the leash and collar doesn’t hurt your dog.
Check to see if it’s too tight. If it is, you’ll run the risk of injury.
Especially if your dog is an active one. They might pull on it aggressively and cause them to pull a joint.
#10: Give them enough attention
One of the possible reasons why your dog is rolling in dead animals is because they are trying to get your attention.
This might stem from a lack of playtime or exercise and it can affect your dog negatively.
It is a widely known fact that dogs need physical activity to live a holistically healthy life.
It keeps their mental health in tiptop shape when they are able to go out and have some fun under the sun…
Or rain. I mean, your dog enjoys every waking moment as long as you’re there with them, anyway.
By exercise, I don’t mean heavy lifting and crazy cardio routines.
Unless your pooch is competing in the Mr. Doglympia, then they have to beat Arnold Poochzenegger.
Kidding aside, here are a few exercises you can do to keep your dog healthy and feel loved:
- Tug of war (with you).
- Go out on a run with them.
- Running up and down the stairs
You can also keep things interesting by letting them meet other dogs.
A quick walk to the park where other fur parents go can be healthy for your pooch.
Doggie cafes will also be a good option.
PBS Pet Travel ranks these following cafes to be some of the best ones for dogs in the U.S.:
- Lost Dog Café in Virginia.
- Rollover Café Wells in Maine
- Lobster Bar Sea Grille in Florida.
- Baked & Wired in Washington DC.
- Boris and Horton in New York City.
- Tin Shed Garden Café in Portland, Oregon.
You can also ask other fur fellow fur parents which ones are the best within your area.
#11: Watch out for other dogs teaching them
Another way your dogs learn how to do certain behaviors is by watching other dogs.
Or other dogs teach it to them.
Some parent dogs have been observed teaching their babies how to use the stairs.
Other canines even show their siblings how to sit down for treats. Just watch this video:
However, there are actions that come naturally to them.
Examples involve behaviors that have been passed down through their genetic structure.
It can be either be:
- Barking at unknown humans
- Chewing on objects (ever had holes in your slippers?).
The abovementioned are only to name a few.
Rolling in dead animals can either be brought by their DNA or passed down by older dogs by showing them.
Getting stinky by rolling in carcasses is an evolutionary skill that ancient dogs and wolves did in the wild.
Rolling in dead animals, poop, and other smelly objects is a behavior observed in wolves.
They do this so they can mask their scent when hunting. If their prey smells their scent, it might run away.
However, if they cover up in, say, the droppings of other prey, their target will think they’re safe.
It’s a survival skill that may have been passed down from wolves and wild dogs to the modern-day domesticated pooch in your home.
Who knew they used to be skilled hunters, right?
Now whether this behavior is purely being transferred through DNA or a skill taught to them by older dogs, it’s still better to be watchful.
After all, dogs can pick up habits that they see from their surroundings.
#12: Stop using too much perfume
Another reason dogs roll in dead animals is that they are trying to smell like something appealing to them.
Why, you ask?
They may have smelled something they didn’t like earlier.
Most humans do this.
If you walk into your room and it smells funky and weird, you pick up an air freshener. Then bomb the whole place with freshness.
Or maybe even whip out your perfume and spray it all over.
This could also be the case in dogs.
You may not know it, but dogs perceive smell differently from humans.
What smells good to them might be pungent for you.
And your $1,000 bottle of perfume might not smell that great to them.
Dogs’ noses are very sensitive.
They can pick up smells from longer distances compared to humans.
According to Stephanie Gibeault, a dog’s smelling section in their brain is 40 times larger than ours.
Imagine being able to smell that good.
Airport security won’t need K9 units anymore – everyone in the departure area will just know someone’s bringing illegal items.
And because of their incredible noses, items such as perfumes might be too strong for them.
Here are other smells that dogs hate:
- Nail polish.
- Cleaning products containing ammonia.
If they frequently smell these, they might roll in dead animals to cover the scent.
So as much as possible, keep them away from these items and if you must use them, make sure your dog is at a distance.
Which is sometimes hard to do because your pooch might love to go with you to the bathroom.
Unless you wanna wash the smell of a dead squirrel off their necks.
#13: Train them
You can’t always be there with them when they’re roaming around.
And if you can’t see them, who would tell them that rolling in dead animals isn’t okay?
Their training will.
Here are a few training techniques you can implement to help your dog resist the urge to crave smelling like death:
Using a clicker
- Go out for a walk and go to the usual spots where your pooch finds dead animals to roll in.
- Let them roam around and discover the carcass.
- When they do find it and start to investigate, cut them off by saying verbal cues like “Come here”.
- If they leave the dead animal and come to you, click your clicker and give them a treat.
- Let them roam around again.
- Repeat the process of cutting them off and saying verbal cues to stop.
- Always click and give treats to reinforce the behavior.
Training within your vicinity
You’ll need to find a dead animal within areas near you. If you can’t, a pile of poop can work.
If you stumble upon one of these things in one of your walks, you can just bring your dog to the area to start training them.
Here’s what you do:
- Walk your dog on a leash. This way you can direct their movements.
- Purposely get them near the dead animal then lead them away. Make them notice the smelly object.
- Once they start investigating the carcass, gently interrupt them by saying, “leave it” or “stop that”.
- If they do stop sniffing around or staring at it, reward them. It could either be with treats, pets, or praise.
- Repeat these steps without a leash until they learn to leave the dead animal without the treat.
Training your pooch to alter behavior that comes naturally to them can be time-consuming.
Persistence is key when it comes to teaching moments like these.
And always remember, never resort to violence and hurting your pooch in the process.
Remember, dogs aren’t born to understand English.
They learn and follow human instructions by reading our emotions.
Sometimes they also use our facial cues to know what we want.
Note: According to the AKC, having a consistent training routine with your dog and sticking with it is key to altering unwanted behavior.