He just seems so happy, and you hate that you’re so, well, not. You’ve just finished bathing your dog. All that matted hair is untangled and smooth. His coat is soft. He smells wonderful, and he looks like a million bucks…until you open the back door to go out onto the deck for an afternoon lemonade. All of a sudden, you happen to glance out into the field, and you hang your head and sigh…all that work right down the drain. Now you’re on a mission to find out why your dog rolls around in the dirt and what you can do to stop him.

Why does my dog roll around in dirt?

Not all dogs exhibit this behavior, but the ones that do take great pride in it. They do it to the very best of their ability. They hold their heads high and expect you to praise them. You, on the other hand, are finding it hard not to lose your religion. Not this again, you are thinking to yourself — why? Here are some potential reasons for your dog rolling around in the dirt.

He is simply trying to preserve his natural dog (wolf) scent.

We are nuts about vanilla and chamomile, but dogs, not so much. Dogs are quite comfortable smelling like plain old dogs.

He is masking his scent for the hunt.

Dogs, descendants of wolves, inherently have hunting instincts and know how to mask their scent, so that they can sneak up on their prey.

He may have more than one reason for rolling around in prey.

Rolling around in prey is instinctual for dogs. For them, it’s a blast, and it can accomplish more than one thing.

He is just marking his prey.

Dogs will mark their prey, so that, when other animals come along, they will know whose the prey is. They don’t want the other animals to have any question who it belongs to.

He is communicating information about the prey to the pack.

The wild wolves passed down this instinct. The dog rolls around in the prey so that he covers himself with its scent. He can then take the smell back to the pack, who can then decide whether to go and partake of it.

He may crave your reaction.

It could be the case that your dog has learned that he gets rewarded for rolling around in the dirt. If you tend to give your dog things such as toys, treats or extra attention, when he does it, he will likely do it more in order to get more rewards. Instead, it would help to try to reward your dog when it does not roll in dirt but he normally would.

He is trying to earn your praise.

When a dog rolls around in the dirt, especially prey, he thinks he is doing something wonderful and praise-worthy. He will not understand if you just outright get angry at him, because it is an instinct, not a decision.

He will take any attention he can get.

OK, it can be a decision, but it most usually is not. In a small percentage of cases, though, it is thought that dogs do it because to trigger our reactions.

How to stop my dog from rolling around in dirt?

As a first recommendation, just don’t stop him. This is just your dog’s instinctual behavior, handed down from his wolf ancestors. He isn’t doing it just to spite you. What is it really hurting anyway? If you are determined to stop him from having fun, though, then, here are a few things you might try to help curb his unwanted actions.

Do not punish him.

Don’t punish him. It won’t help, but it will make matters worse. At most, say no firmly and remove him from the temptation, but it must be done the instant he starts to get down into the dirt.

Use negative association for good.

A negative association is usually considered to be a bad thing, but in this case, you can use negative associations to break this habit. Here are a few examples.

Use a spray bottle with water.

The instant he starts to get down into the dirt, spray him in the face with water, and firmly, tell him no.

Use a citronella collar.

This works like the spray bottle, but it’s much easier, as you can do it from a distance. The instant your dog starts to get down into the dirt, push the button. The collar sprays citronella. What’s the secret? Dogs despise citronella.

Anything he really hates.

Use anything he really hates, and introduce it every time he starts to get down into the dirt — that instant. If you do not do it right at that minute, he will not understand what to associate the negative repercussion with.

Use fragrance-free shampoo.

There are lots of fragrance-free shampoos on the market. This could possibly do the trick.

Why does my dog roll around in mud?

Rolling around in the mud is even worse, to you, than rolling around in the dirt, but to your dog, the mud is truly where it’s at. Mud is his wheelhouse. He gets downright giddy when he can roll around and play in the mud, and this is probably why.

He finds the mud cooling and comfortable.

On a hot day, mud can go a long way toward cooling a dog. Lying in it works, but rolling all around in it making sure you’re covered in it, if you’re a dog, is like the best thing ever, and you wish you could share the experience with your human. Oh, wait, she already does that at the spa.

He may be acting out of instinct.

His wolf-like instinct is to camouflage his scent so that he can sneak up on his prey. Mud is the perfect medium for this.

Why does my dog lie in dirt?

Your dog could have one of a number of possible reasons for lying in the dirt. I mean, doesn’t it look relaxing to you? Let’s look at a few reasons why your dog may want to lie in the dirt.

He could be cooling off.

It doesn’t work quite as well as rolling in the mud, but lying in the dirt is cooler for your dog than, say, lying on the deck.

He could be bored.

Maybe your dog has nothing to do, and until something comes along, this looks like as good a place as any because it’s cool.

He could be trying to relax.

Maybe he is stressed or anxious, and he is trying to relax and take it easy. You know — chill, since it is cool and all.

Why does my dog roll in dirt after a bath?

Dogs just love rolling in the dirt after a bath, or especially in the mud. It can be quite frustrating. You spent an hour or more working on him, your back is killing you, and he goes and rolls in the dirt. Why? Why? Why? The reason is probably quite basic.

He could be drying off.

It is hard to get a dog completely dry. You cannot attain it with towels and trying to blow-dry a dog takes forever. You can’t use too much heat or get the dryer too close. Dogs may like to swim, but they don’t really care to stay wet. We are all familiar with the proverbial “wet shake” where the dog shakes all the excess water off his coat onto you, the walls, and whatever else happens to be in the room. Maybe he is simply trying to perform a doggie-dry-off. I mean the dirt does soak up the water.

He could just be all riled up.

Dogs get all excited when they get bathed but can’t move. Maybe it’s just a matter of your dog finally being able to cut loose and do what he wants with all that excess energy, and we all know what dogs want to do. You got that right! They want to roll in the dirt!

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.