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The Stink Roll

The COVID-19 pandemic stinks mega-bad and eliminating it is not going to be easy. To acknowledge my distaste for COVID’s current and future crappy impacts, today’s Second Chance Pet Column is about other stinky things. The kind that dogs love to gleefully writhe around upon and comes in the form of a strikingly strong odoriferous animal carcass or excrement of unknown origin. People often wonder why we canines choose maximally offensive odors to smear all over our bodies, today I have a few answers…

Let’s start with the “scientific theories” out there beginning with that the behavior is an evolutionary residue from dogs’ days as wild predators. Wolves still display this behavior so some scientists feel it could be designed to assist with hunting by camouflaging a dog’s own predator scent in an effort to more effectively sneak up on prey, who are less likely to be frightened or suspicious of a hairy thing coated with the smell of their own poop.

But the fact that most prey animals are highly visual, and use sight and sound to be on alert for predators makes this theory less palatable. The need for the stealth approach is further reduced by the fact that wolves chase down prey rather than ambush it. Next…

Another theory is that rolling around in feces or atop a carcass is a way to share valuable information with our pack. At the very least, it advertises one’s ability to access a valuable resource, which can make for an attractive mate. “Perfume de Rotting Flesh”, it’s hot.

But another theory is that the rolling behavior might be to distribute our scent onto the stinky item, as a way of claiming ownership perhaps. This too seems a largely ineffective method compared to marking the valued item with our urine or feces, so I suggest flushing this theory. We aren’t that dumb.

So here is what I can tell you, this behavior is hard-wired in our DNA, it gives us a rush and probably triggers that lovely dopie-something neurotransmitter we all share related to reward and pleasure. Whatever important evolutionary function rolling in stink served has likely vanished but what remains today is that it feels good to be belly up, legs flailing, body lurching side to side, tongue hanging out, snorting in delight – pure ecstasy my friends. 

I recognize people are revolted by our smell afterwards and the “I don’t have time for this!” post-aromatic removal bathing ritual and would pay generously for a way to eliminate (pun intended) the behavior. Other than keeping your dog on a short leash (pun intended), practicing a strong recall or “leave it” with your dog is the next best approach, as detailed in past Pet Columns found on the Second Chance website (see below).

Teaching these tools through positive reinforcement can also keep your dog from true danger, like fast moving vehicles, so hopefully this Pet Column will inspire you to begin home-schooling your dog. It is a great activity to work on these days as you continue to responsibly remain “safer-at-home”.

About me.

My name is Radar, a charming year and a half-young, Borhoula (Catahoula/Border Collie mix). I am super sweet, intelligent, active, playful and well behaved, in other words the perfect family member/outdoor adventure buddy. I enjoy playing with other dogs but cats would not appreciate me. Call to learn more!

Second Chance Humane Society has been serving Ouray, Montrose & San Miguel Counties for 26 years. Call 970.626.2273 or visit adoptmountainpets.org to learn how you can receive emergency food or medical services, adopt, volunteer, foster, or donate to our programs and services. Let us know what challenges you are facing in keeping your pets as part of your families.






Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops service San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 970-626-2273 to report a lost pet or to learn about adopting a homeless pet and the SCHS spay/neuter, volunteer, feral cat or other programs. View our shelter pets and services at adoptmountainpets.org.

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