You got your dog some neat toys.
But instead of playing, your dog is rolling on them.
You’re not the only one witnessing this behavior.
Many theories strive to explain it. Some people say it’s a submissive gesture.
But there’s more to it than that.
Keep reading to discover:
- 7 real reasons why your dog rolls on his toys.
- 5 easy tips to unteach your dog from doing it.
- The holdover behaviors from canine ancestors that led to rolling on toys.
- And so much more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog roll on his toys?
- 7 reasons why your dog rolls on his toys
- 5 tips to stop your dog from rolling on his toys
Why does my dog roll on his toys?
Your dog rolls on his toys because they’re scent rolling, or claiming their toys. Rolling on their toys transfers their scent to the items. This is telling other animals that the item is the dog’s property. In some cases, they do it to mask their own scent, or out of playfulness.
7 reasons why your dog rolls on his toys
#1: Your dog is happy
Sometimes, dogs are weird.
They have these unusual behaviors that have their dog parents shaking their heads. But it’s helpful to know the reasons behind these behaviors.
Such as rolling on their toys.
You’ve probably seen your dog or other dogs rolling in poop. Or dead animals and garbage.
One possible explanation is happiness.
Observe them when they’re playing. Sometimes they get on their back and roll with their tongue lolling out.
They look silly but happy at the same time.
So with your dog rolling on a toy, they’re happy.
Look at this doggo rolling on his toy bone:
Reading tip: Why do dogs roll in food?
#2: Scent rolling
In the dogdom, rolling in a smelly object is normal. It’s an instinct.
And dogs have a reason for doing so.
Scent rolling in dogs and wolves is a behavior they do when they come across new scents.
They do that to transfer their own scent to that object. They’re claiming it as theirs (more on this in reason #5).
Also, they scent roll on that item to get its scent. They bring this scent to share with their pack.
This is an opportunity for them to learn about that new scent. Is it a food source? Does it mean a threat to their pack?
At home, the scent of their toys might be new for your dog. Or the scent is something they like.
Several dog parents shared on a forum about observing this on their dogs. One said that her pooch loves rolling on sticks outside.
However, she wasn’t sure whether her dog simply loves her sticks. Or the dog rubs her scent on them to stake her claim.
Another dog parent observed that her dog rolls on tennis balls. The dog does it to tell everyone that the balls are hers.
One dog parent noted that her dog doesn’t roll on all her toys. Just on some items, and only when she’s happy.
So how can you tell your dog is scent rolling?
When doing a scent roll, dogs usually drop their head first to the ground. It’s followed by their shoulders and the rest of their body.
And before you know it, your pooch has their feet in the air. They’re rolling on their toys without care.
#3: Your dog masks their own scent
Many of the actions you see dogs doing today are holdover from their ancestors.
But how about rolling on toys?
It must have originated from wolves rolling in smelly things. They have a particular liking for the poop and carcasses of other animals.
One theory was that wolves do this to disguise themselves. When hunting, a prey will run away if they smell wolves nearby.
But with the smell of poop or dead animals in their fur, they are literally the wolves in sheep’s clothing. So they can get close to the prey undetected.
Poop and dead animals smell so bad to humans. But that doesn’t stop our dogs from rolling in poop any chance they get.
This could be the same reason why they roll on their toys. They want to get the toy’s scent and spread it across their body. That’s how they’d hide their own.
#4: It itches
Have you experienced getting an itch in the middle of your back? You tried reaching the spot with your hand. But you just couldn’t do it.
So you looked around and grabbed the first thing to help you scratch the spot. Ah, relief.
This could be the case with your dog. It itches in some parts of their body that are unreachable.
And rolling on their toys help scratch all the right places.
#5: Your dog stakes their claim on their toys
Dogs and humans have a lot in common. At least when it comes to possessions.
You wouldn’t want to share your comb or hairbrush with anyone, right? I guess we shouldn’t wonder if dogs don’t want to share their favorite bone. Or their stuffed toy.
And while they can’t say, “Keep off my property,” they resort to rubbing on their stuff. Or, in this case, rolling on their toys.
This way, they leave their scent on their property.
There’s one dog parent who shared that her dog rolls on all tennis balls. The parent thought that the dog was marking her toys.
One time they were at the park. Naturally, with all the dogs there, toys would get mixed up.
But her dog knew which tennis ball was hers. And she wanted to play with it.
So if a dog happens to get her ball, she would pick up that dog’s ball. Then she’d wait for him to drop her ball. After which she would drop his and get hers.
#6: It’s all about play
Is there a dog that isn’t playful? It seems like the words “dog” and “play” go hand in hand.
From puppies to old age, dogs are playful. Give them a ball and they’ll be chasing it around.
That’s because it’s in their nature to engage in play. Usually with other dogs.
Though you’ll see dogs playing with other species such as cats, and even cows!
Dogs play for the following reasons:
- Social development.
- Physical development.
- Cognitive development.
Play doesn’t always involve two or more dogs. Some dogs can manage to play on their own. Like this Jack Russell rolling on his bones by himself:
Some dog parents have observed the same behavior with their dogs. One said that her dog rolls on toys when he’s being playful.
Did you know that humans have something to do with dog’s playfulness?
In this study, the authors collected information on 89, 352 dogs from 138 breeds. They wanted to know which of them are the most playful.
The findings showed that it’s the herding and sporting dogs.
Based on the results, the authors believed that play is an important factor in breeding dogs.
And it’s no wonder.
In the case of herding and sporting dogs, they work in close contact with their handlers. These dogs look to these people for guidance.
This means hours and hours of working together to form a lasting relationship. And this is something that can be strengthened through play.
#7: Your dog gets an instant massage
With their toy under them, your dog gets an instant massage.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
As you can see from the video, the dog is having a blast!
The bone is the perfect shape to give your dog some massage while rolling on it. Other flat-shaped toys must also feel good.
One dog parent observed the same from her dog. She said that the pupper loved rolling on her toy. Her dog, she said, must think it’s a massage.
5 tips to stop your dog from rolling on his toys
#1: Teach your dog to “leave it”
Do you approve of your dog rolling on toys? If not, then teach them the “leave it” command.
Here’s to give you an idea:
- Get your dog on a leash in a room with their toys.
- Watch them closely as they play.
- As soon as they’re about to roll on their toys, say “Leave it.”
- Reward your dog every time they turn away from their toy after you say the command. Use special treats for this training. By special, I mean something that you don’t give them often.
Note: Make sure you say the command when they’re about to roll. Right timing is crucial here. Otherwise, your dog might get the wrong idea that you don’t want them to play with their toys.
Once your dog follows the command reliably, train them without a leash.
This “Leave it” command is also very useful in other situations. Such as when stopping your dog from rolling in poop and other disgusting stuff.
#2: Have a good recall
Does your dog not come to you when you call their name? Do they ignore you and roll on their toys anyway?
One effective method to avoid these scenarios is a good recall. This is recommended by Sophia Yin, a vet, and an animal behaviorist.
A recall is calling your dog to come and them responding. When you have a good recall in place, your dog will come to you. Even when there are distractions.
Being more interesting than what occupies their attention. So while training them, have some really yummy treats. Or a toy that always gets them interested.
To start the training, begin at home. If they’re about to roll on their toys, call their name.
Whether you call them or not and they come to you, let them know you’re pleased. Show how happy you are that they come to you. Also, give them a treat or praise.
Eventually, add distractions. Or move to the yard or any fenced-in space.
Note: Don’t call your dog when they’re having a good time playing with friends. Chances are, they won’t come to you.
The best thing to do?
Approach them and show the treat. When they approach you, hold their collar and give them the food.
Training your dog might take a while, so be patient.
#3: Provide a distraction
With a good recall in place, call your dog’s name and say “Come.”
If they come to your side, provide them distractions. Give them puzzle toys to keep them entertained away from rolling.
Or play with them using their toys. This way you get to monitor them closely.
With enrichment activities, your dog will soon forget about rolling on their toys.
#4: Do not punish your dog
Even after years of domestication, some instincts remain in dogs. That’s the case with rolling in stuff. This is normal behavior for them.
So when they roll on their toys, don’t be so quick to raise your voice. It will confuse your dog about what should be or shouldn’t be done.
Besides, there are other ways to change behaviors that don’t get either of you stressed.
But whatever you do, do not punish your dog. Shouting, “COOPER, COME OVER HERE!” will lead to a fearful dog than one who’s willing to do your wishes.
Also, I do not recommend the use of squirt guns or anything that hurts the dog. It’s inhumane.
This study shows that punishment will only lead to higher stress and anxiety levels. The authors studied 92 dogs divided into 3 groups:
- Group Mixed – 22 dogs.
- Group Reward – 42 dogs.
- Group aversive – 28 dogs.
Here’s what the study found:
Dogs trained using aversive methods (such as punishment) have poorer welfare.
Another study has similar findings. The author reviewed studies on training methods for dogs.
The author found that the use of punishment leads to negative effects on a dog’s physical and mental wellbeing.
#5: Let dogs play
Dog parents decide what’s best for their babies. It’s your preference that matters, after all.
I respect those who see nothing wrong with dogs rolling on their toys. If this is you, then by all means let your dog do it.
But still, watch over your dog. While rolling on toys seems harmless enough, they might roll in other stuff as well. Such as poop and dead animals.
Should that happen, go back to the tips here to help you stop this behavior.