Ever catch your pup writhing and rolling around in the grass? This behavior could mean a couple of things.
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Just like the question of why chickens cross the road, the answer to why dogs roll in grass may be equally simple. "Because it feels good," says Dr. John Faught, co-founder of Firehouse Animal Health Center, an Austin, Texas-based veterinary hospital group housed in a 100-year-old fire station.

Dog Smiling while Rolling in Grass Outdoors
Credit: Getty Images

"Every dog loves occasionally rolling around on different textures just for the pure joy of it," explains Dr. Faught. In fact, a large part of the way your dog interacts with their environment is through smell and touch. After all, he's not out there sniffing every inch of the backyard for fun, you know. It's a part of how he interacts with his yard or anywhere else he goes.

Is it Normal Behavior?

"Every dog loves occasionally rolling around on different textures just for the pure joy of it," explains Dr. Faught. In fact, a large part of the way your dog interacts with their environment is through smell and touch. After all, they are not out there sniffing every single inch of the backyard for fun, you know. It's a part of how they interact with the yard or anywhere else they happen to go.

What Does it Mean?

  • It means that your dog is relaxed and playful. At that moment, their stress is low, and they don't have a care in the world.
  • They are communicating to other dogs and the humans around them that they are feeling happy.
  • If there is another dog around, they might be communicating that they would like to play with them. Dogs frequently get on their back when wrestling around with each other, and your dog may be indicating that they are open to making a new playmate.

What About Allergies?

They could just be itchy. "We see this in dogs with environmental allergies, which are by far the most common type of allergy we deal with," says Dr. Faught. However, this can actually backfire for allergic dogs. Rolling around outside can be problematic because it may expose them to even more irritants.

If you suspect your dog has allergies because they frequently roll around outside, talk to your veterinarian. "In addition to oral or injectable medications to control allergies, there are a lot of options for wipes, shampoos, and conditioners that can help keep a dog's skin clean and allergen-free," Dr. Faught stresses.

Why Do Dogs Like Stinky Stuff?

Some dogs do like to roll in super stinky stuff, and that's normal too. Veterinarians have a lot of theories about why dogs roll in the remnants of anything smelly.

"We know that some wild predators do the same thing to hide their scent to make them better hunters," says Dr. Faught. Even though most dogs aren't active hunters anymore, they may still be hardwired for the behavior of their ancestors, the wolves.

What's more, it could be another way dogs communicate with one another. They rub themselves in a scent as a message to another dog. "If your dog was a human, it might prefer Chanel No 5, but in real life, it may prefer the scent of rotten leaves or a dead animal," says Dr. Faught. While our nose turns up, your dog's nose may think they are rolling in the finest eau de toilette.

And finally, there's the 'Look what I've found!' theory. According to this idea, your dog may roll in some foul odor to show you and other dogs what they have found—either bragging or warning them to stay away, claiming it as their own. By "wearing the scent" they may command respect from the neighborhood dogs.

Dr. Jed Rogers, the other co-founder of Firehouse Animal Health Center, recalls when he was living in Hawaii with his cocker spaniel Mo. During a formal photoshoot with his companion, Mo managed to find a dead octopus and roll around in it during a break in the picture taking. He had just had professional grooming and was looking great. "We got the photos we needed but holding him post-octopus roll was no fun," says Dr. Rogers. Of course, Mo loved every minute of it.