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Why do dogs roll?
If you are a dog owner, you have probably wondered about that eternal question—why in the world does my dog roll in something really disgusting when he is off the leash and running free?I run my dogs every morning in some woods near my home. (Okay, they run and I walk.) But while we are on our morning run, one of those dogs—“AJ”—insists on rolling in something every day before going home. His “selfie” is attached. It does not seem to matter to him what he rolls in, as long as it is wet and filthy. And he is always grinning after he does his daily roll. He clearly enjoys what he is doing.
So to solve this eternal question as to why dogs roll, I turned to the dog experts. And guess what? They are not really sure either. Oh, there are plenty of theories but none of them really seem logical when you analyze them. Most of these theories are premised on the notion that dogs are instinctively acting out the behavior of their canine ancestors from 40,000 years ago. One popular theory, for example, is that they are trying to cover their own scent so that they can sneak up on some other animal and kill it. Really? Does your dog—you know, the one who just got his nails trimmed at the doggie salon—routinely roll in something dead and then spend the rest of the day stalking antelope?
Another theory is that your mutt rolls in something dead and then comes home, hoping that his pack (you and the rest of the family) will follow him back to feast on the cadaver as a communal gesture. Really? So following him back for a feast has become a family tradition you say? Interesting, but again, not a convincing theory.
I am no expert but I have been around dogs all my life. Maybe the most logical explanation for rolling is that our modern day dogs are really more like our children than prehistoric wolves. You know how some kids love to “push their mom’s button”? And how they absolutely love seeing momma going off the rails when that “button” gets pushed? That behavior–on the part of the kid and not momma–is referred to by the child psychologists as “seeking negative attention”. And don’t act like you have no idea what I am talking about. We have all done it and perhaps later in life than we care to admit.
So when your mutt comes home with something really green and shinny on his fur, and momma is freaking out as he strolls into the living room, check out his expression: he has a very subtle smile, doesn’t he? He is finally getting some attention, and even if it is negative attention, he is loving it.
I rest my case.
• Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.