Ask the Trainer | What’s all the poop about in Tahoe?
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. – Dear Carla,
We have a 4-year-old Vizsla named Tucker who constantly rolls in every stinky thing he can find. He has rolled in all kinds of poop, rotten fish and many other incredibly gross things. We have had other dogs who did this occasionally but not to the degree that Tucker does. I’d love to know why he does this and if there is anything we can do to stop him.
Dear Grossed Out,
I too have a dog who loves to roll in poop and other awful things. The target area for her is around the neck area so it’s impossible to grab her collar without getting the poop all over my hands. I’ve made many freezing cold trips home with all the car windows down because the stench is so bad. From a training perspective, there isn’t much you can do besides keeping Tucker on a leash. Whenever my dog does roll in something, I try hard to find the source and cover it with a rock so she can’t do it again on our next walk.
Scientists aren’t sure why dogs love to smell bad, but most of the theories center around their highly developed sense of smell. This is one of those behaviors that is left over from the days when dogs were wild and survived by hunting and living in packs. Even with all the selective breeding of dogs that humans have done, this annoying trait remains across breeds!
One theory I’ve read suggests dogs roll in smelly things to bring the scent back to the pack, telling the others that a food source is near. Dogs do tend to roll in organic materials that could be a potential source of food (and yes, dogs do eat poop). The problem with this theory is there is no solid evidence that dogs or wolves follow their smelly pack mate back out in search of food. A second theory is that dogs are trying to cover an odor with their scent, but again there is little evidence to support this.
According to Stanley Coren, Ph.D, a well-respected animal behavior expert, the explanation that makes the best evolutionary sense is that the animal is trying to disguise his scent from predators. This makes sense, but makes me wonder why my dog consistently chases coyotes when they are her predator.
The bottom line is that we don’t really know why they do it and it is truly disgusting. In the meantime, carry plenty of hand wipes and sanitizer with you on walks.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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