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Dog owners know that their pets can show some odd behaviors. Among these is a dog’s willingness and desire to roll in the grass. This act appears odd to us. But to some dogs, rolling in the grass seems to be extremely exciting. So, why do dogs roll in the grass?

It appears that there may be a few answers to this. Some are based on science and a dog’s natural instincts. Others are looser theories that attempt to explain this phenomenon.

In this article, we will look at some of the reasons why dogs roll around in the grass. As you will soon many of these reasons are related to a keen sense of smell.

The Importance of a Dog’s Sense of Smell

Dogs are a bit different from us in the way they interact with the world. Like us, they have five senses that receive input from their surroundings. What varies is the level of sensitivity in these senses.

A dog’s ability to hear, feel touch, and taste are similar to ours. The main differences lie in sight and smell. Dogs are less able to keep objects in focus with their eyes. So, when it comes to sight, humans often have the advantage. Smell is an entirely different story.

A dog’s sense of smell can be 100,000 times stronger than a human’s. This finely tuned sense allows dogs to pick out individual odors we would never notice. What makes this possible is the high volume of olfactory receptors in a dog’s nasal cavity. While we have a few million, dogs tend to have billions of these receptors.

This acute sense of smell changes how dogs gain meaning from the world around them. But how does a strong sense of smell factor into a dog’s desire to roll in the grass?

Masking Their Scent

Being able to smell so well, dogs are aware of their own scent. They are also cognizant of whether other animals can smell them.

Much like dogs, many other animals rely on smell for vital information. Many prey animals will bolt at the slightest sound or scent of a potentially threatening animal. In many scenarios, that threatening predator is some form of canine.

Rolling in the grass appears to be an inherited behavior from wolves. Wolves are prey animals that use stealth as they hunt. They try to get as close to their prey as possible before they attack. This gives them the best chance of success.

Rolling in the grass is a way to hide a wolf’s natural odor. After covering the scent of their coat, a wolf will have a much easier time approaching prey. Most modern dogs are just pets and won’t do much hunting in their lives. Nonetheless, it looks like they have maintained their pre-hunting practice of rolling in the grass. 

Changing Their Scent

There are many products on the market that are intended to help your dog’s coat. Each product has an individual purpose. Some are simply shampoos or conditioners. Others can help your dog’s skin and fur in the following ways:

  • Relieving itches
  • Treating dandruff
  • Removing ice tangles

Despite different uses, these products often share one key similarity. More often than not they come with a distinct fragrance. For some products, like cologne for dogs, the scent is the main feature.

These scents are pleasing to us and are often subtle to our relatively dull senses of smell. But have you considered if your dog enjoys these smells?

A dog may dislike its coat-supporting products. The fact that dogs can smell so well only makes this matter worse. To counter a smell they don’t like, a dog will simply replace it with a smell they do like.

Rolling in the grass is an effective way for a dog to change the aroma of its coat. Notice if your dog rolls in the grass right after a shampoo or other coat treatment. If they do, you may have found their motivation.

Adopting a New Scent

Sometimes, rolling in the grass is not about picking up the scent of the grass itself. Often there are other pungent odors in the grass that attract dogs. Many owners know these strong smells can come from the following, less than pleasant, sources.

  • Animal feces
  • Animal urine
  • Dead animal carcasses

What would cause a dog to want to adopt these smells? The best explanation seems to be communication. When dogs roll in a scent, they can share that scent with another member of their pack.

Both dogs and wolves tend to focus on getting strong smells on their faces and necks. These smells can be evidence of an animal worth following. Sharing these scents with pack members can be the first lead in their next successful hunt.

Other Reasons Dogs Roll in Grass

Smell is not the only reason that a dog will roll around in the grass. There are some more obvious physical advantages to doing this. Often dogs will roll in the grass to relieve an unseen annoyance.

For example, a dog might roll vigorously in the grass because they want to:

  • Relieve an itch
  • Massage tight muscles
  • Loosen dead hair to facilitate shedding
  • Reduce irritation from a flea infestation

Those are just a few reasons a dog might use rolling in the grass as a form of physical relief. It is not hard to imagine that the texture of grass is quite appealing to dogs in these scenarios.

Just make sure to keep a close eye on your dog’s coat. If you start asking yourself, “why do dogs roll in the grass?”  it could be the sign of a new flea problem. This is something you will want to treat as soon as you can.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that dogs love to roll in the grass. But the reason behind this activity can be hard to discern. Why do dogs roll around in the grass? It may be an innate way to manage scents. It might be a form of physical relief. But still, there may be an even simpler explanation. Some dogs may roll in the grass just because it is a fun way to play.

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