Why Do Dogs Roll In Dead Animals?

No matter how beautiful and loving dogs are, they have a long list of unusual and disgusting habits which are often stomach-turning.

From eating their own poop to tracking down and rolling in dead and decaying animals while on a walk, there are lots of behaviors that dogs have which are frankly vile. 

There is one thing that drives your dog to be attracted to dead animals, and that is their sense of smell. Smell is your dog’s most dominant sense, and it is far superior to a human’s. So, instead of being disgusted by the smell of a dead animal, our dogs are interested.

Thankfully, these disgusting behaviors can be easily explained away once you understand the way that dogs operate and the way that their minds work. Once you know the reason behind this behavior, suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad.

In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at why dogs roll in dead animals, and also why they tend to roll in other disgusting things like this. So, if you want to find out more about why dogs behave the way that they do, then keep on reading.

Why Do Dogs Roll In Dead Animals?

Why are Dogs attracted to Dead Animals?

There is one thing that drives your dog to be attracted to dead animals, and that is their sense of smell. Smell is your dog’s most dominant sense, and it is far superior to a human’s.

So, instead of being disgusted by the smell of a dead animal, our dogs are interested.

Why Do Dogs Roll in Dead Animals and Other Stinky Stuff?

We do not know for certain why dogs choose to roll in dead animals, and other stinky stuff. But, there are some theories for this, let’s take a look at them in more detail.

For Fun

Some dog psychologists believe our dogs roll in dead animals for fun. This is likely to be the case if you have trained your dog that rolling in dead animals is a bad behavior.

Just like children, when dogs get bored they tend to act out of character. So, for some fun, your pup might choose to roll in a dead animal, or something else that is stinky, to switch their day up.

Get Information

It is also thought that dogs might roll in dead animals to gather information for the pack. This is an innate action in our dogs, and it also occurs in dogs.

So, when your dog smells a dead animal, they may decide to roll in it, so that they can collect the scent of that animal. When they return to “the pack”, the other pack members can then smell this, and learn more animals that could be in their territory.

Covers their Scent

Alternatively, your dog might roll in a dead animal to mask their own scent. This is likely another behavior that has been inherited from their wolf ancestors. When a dog rolls in a dead animal, their natural scent is masked by the scent of that dead animal.

This allows your dog to go unnoticed, and makes them more stealthy, ready for when they have to hunt. Of course, domestic dogs do not hunt, but covering their scent is still an innate behavior of theirs.


However, some dog psychologists argue that dogs roll in dead animals to mark the creature as their own. Dogs produce a natural scent, so when your dog rubs their body or head against the dead creature, they are transferring their scent onto it.

There isn’t much science behind this theory because we don’t actually know that much about pheromones in dogs, but this theory does make sense, so this could be the reason our dogs exhibit this behavior.

Cry for Attention

It has been argued that your dog could also exhibit this behavior if they are trying to tell you that something is wrong.

As dog owners, we are taught that any out-of-character behavior could be a sign that something is wrong with your dog. So, your dog might decide to roll in a dead animal if they are suffering from a hidden illness, or if they are experiencing stress/anxiety.

Loves the Smell

But, ultimately, your dog could just be rolling in a dead animal because they enjoy the smell of it. Dogs have a very different sense of smell to humans, and their sense of smell is a lot more intricate.

So, while we are disgusted by the smell of rotting animals, our dogs might just love the smell, and that is why they behave in this way.

Is It Dangerous?

Even though it isn’t good behavior, it isn’t necessarily dangerous for your dog to roll over a dead animal.

There is an element of risk because you do not know how that creature died (i.e., it could have been poisoned or had rabies), but most of the time there is no need to worry.

How Do I Stop My Dog from Rolling in Dead Animals?

No dog owner enjoys their pet rolling in dead animals, which is why there are lots of ways for you to stop this behavior. Let’s take a look at what these are.

Make a Loud Noise

If you are looking for a method that will get immediate results, it is best to make a loud noise as soon as your dog goes near the dead animal. The loud noise will startle your dog, drawing their attention back to you, and away from the dead animal. But, this method will only work if you act quickly and remain vigilant at all times.

Name Recognition

One of the best ways to combat this behavior is to use your dog’s name. It is always good to train your dog to come back to you when you call their name. This is because there is an endless list of situations where this command could come in handy.

One of these situations could be when your animal is about to roll in a dead creature. Simply call their name, and if they know this command well, your dog should return straight to your side, having completely forgotten about the dead creature.


Similarly to using name recognition, you could also use recall to train your dog to avoid dead animals. Some people choose not to use their dog’s name as the recall command, instead they might use “here!” or “heel”.

No matter what command you have used to train your dog to return to your side, this command should prove effective when used to prevent your dog from rolling in stinky stuff.

Teach Your Dog to “Leave It”

Likewise, you could also train your dog a command specifically to stop this behavior. One of the most common commands used for this is “leave it!”.

To train this, you will need to be vigilant, because you will have to say this command as soon as your dog spots the dead animal. When they listen to you, reward them with a treat, and repeat until they have learned the command, and will do it without requiring a treat at the end.

Be Vigilant

Finally, the best way to avoid this behavior is to simply avoid areas where you know there are dead animals.

If you have walked your dog down a road and spotted roadkill on one walk, it is best to avoid this area for a couple of days until the carcass has been removed. If you cannot avoid the dead creature, then simply put your dog on his leash until you have passed it.

What do you do if your Dog Rolls in a Dead Animal?

The first time your dog rolls in a dead animal can be quite scary, but as any experienced dog owner will tell you, it isn’t the end of the world. It is likely that your dog will do this at least a couple of times in their lifetime. So, here is what to do when it happens.


Once you have got your dog home, the first thing that you need to do is take a brush and begin to run it through their fur. In particular, slicker brushes are great for this, because they are designed for getting knots out of your dog fur.

It is best to brush your dog all over to calm them down, but pay particular attention to the area where they rolled. This is important because you will be able to get a lot of the stuff out of their fur by simply brushing it.


After you have brushed out as much of the dirt and flesh as possible, you will then have to bathe your dog. Run water all over your dog’s fur, then apply a deodorizing shampoo to their fur, ensuring that the affected area is completely saturated. Rub the shampoo into their fur, ensuring that it suds up in the same way human shampoo does.


Once the shampoo has bubbled up nicely, it is time to rinse it from your dog’s fur. You should do this with clean, warm water. Rinsing is the most crucial part of washing your dog because you have to make sure that no shampoo remains on your dog’s fur.


If you couldn’t stop your dog from rolling in the dead creature, and as a result they are very dirty, you might have to repeat the entire process. So, if your dog’s fur is still dirty, or smelly, after you have rinsed them, simply reapply the shampoo to their fur and then rinse it.


In short, there are lots of reasons why dogs roll in dead animals. It is partly to transfer their scent onto the dead animal, but it is also to get the smell of the dead animal onto their fur.

A dog’s nose operates very differently to yours, so what we think smells disgusting, smells nice to them. This is why your dog rolls in dead creatures. But, thankfully, this is a behavior that you can train out of them.