dogs rolling in stinky stuff

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:23 pm by ducky

I don’t think I’m the only one who thought it was odd that dogs like to roll in stinky stuff, even feces. This seemed like a bad idea — it would let their prey smell them from afar, right?

I just came up with a hypothesis for why dogs roll in stinky stuff: as defense against other biting animals (including other dogs). If dog A is covered in feces, and dog B bites dog A, then dog B might get sick from the feces. This might discourage dog B from biting dog A.

Yes, it is true that if dog B bites dog A, then dog A could get fecal material in the bloodstream from the bit, but if dog B punctures dog A’s skin, dog A is already in a heap of trouble. We forget, since modern antibiotics are so good at eliminating infections, that infections are A Big Deal. (For example, Calvin Coolidge, Jr. died of an infection from a blister!) So it might be that its use as a deterrent is worth the extra risk of greater infection.

So why don’t cats roll around in stinky stuff? Perhaps because cats fight with their claws, while dogs fight with their mouths. If cat A rolls in feces, and cat B scratches cat A, then cat A is at higher risk for complications, while the feces pose no risk for cat B.

Comments »

  1. jeffp said,

    September 3, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    I’m sorry to say you’re over-thinking this, Ducky.

    Dogs roll in stinky stuff to disguise their scent. Pray (or other dogs) may smell “something stinky” and ignore it, as that kind of smell can be blown by the wind whether it comes from a dog or is just sitting on the ground. That helps hide the dog scent and lets the dog get closer to whatever it’s after – usually food – with less work.

    And the range of stinky stuff dogs will roll in is vast. Our Catahoula once accepted a bit of salmon skin from my mother (who thought it was a tasty treat to offer the dog). Leah gently took it into her mouth, thought for a moment, then dropped it onto the carpet and started the classic “roll the shoulders into this stinky thing” move. Fortunately my wife grabbed her before she got to the floor, or Leah would have ground the fish smell into the carpet forever.

    I can’t explain anything about the behavior of cats, but then again I’m not sure anyone can.

  2. jeffp said,

    September 3, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Ahem. That was supposed to be “prey”, not “pray”. Very different things. *sigh*

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