Why do dogs roll in fox poo?

Experts aren’t totally sure about the reason behind this behaviour but there are three main possibilities why dogs roll in fox poo.

Masking their natural scent

Before dogs lived in domestic situations, they had to rely on hunting skills to survive. Masking their own aromas and smelling like other types of predators may have given them an advantage. Another theory is that dogs might avoid becoming prey if they conceal their own smell.

Certainly, in domestic situations, dogs don’t have any natural predators. But if you go back in time, bears, wolves and big cats would have been dangerous to dogs. By rolling in fox faeces, dogs mask their own scent and protect themselves from being detected by other animals that may want to eat them.

It is also possible that by rolling in fox poo, your dog is telling other animals passing by that they have been there by leaving their own scent at the scene. It could be a way of your dog marking their territory.

Dog perfume

The smell of fox poo is repulsive to us, but dogs have a completely different sense of smell and a very sensitive nose. The scent of fox faeces is very alluring. Some dogs prefer to roll in equally disgusting things, like decaying corpses.

Communicating with the pack

This theory relates to behaviour from a time when dogs were wild and lived in packs. When hunting, dogs might have rolled in fox faeces to communicate to their pack members where they have been. Pack members would have been able to follow the trail to the source of the smell. This would be very useful, especially to lead the pack back to the site of the prey.

The risk of rolling in dog poo

One of the main issues with your dog rolling in dog poo is the likelihood of them picking up parasites. Foxes carry intestinal worms; lungworms, roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms. These parasites can cause your dog serious health issues. While you are probably diligent with your worming routine, you shouldn’t rely on this for infection prevention. Try to prevent your dog from rolling in fox poo, so they are not at risk.

How to stop your dog rolling in fox poo

It’s not the most straightforward training exercise to teach your dog not to roll in fox faeces, particularly if they are off lead. Some dogs can become fixated on covering themselves in smelly stuff, which makes training tricky.

You’ll need to teach your dog the ‘leave’ command. The aim of training dogs ‘leave’ is that you can use it when you are out walking. You can use the leave command if you see your dog scoping out something noxious to roll in. It also works if you don’t want them to pick something up, eat something they avoid or roll in bad smells.

If you aren’t sure how to teach your dog the ‘leave’ command, join a local dog training class. It’s a very useful command to have in your repertoire.

Fox poo removal

Prevention is better than the cure! But, if you can’t stop your dog rolling in fox poo, you will need to get rid of it. Warning: getting rid of the smell isn’t always simple.

Firstly, grab yourself a pair of rubber gloves. Remove as much poo as possible using kitchen roll.

Give your dog a shower or bath. Use warm water and give your dog’s coat a good scrub. You may need to repeat the process. Several good dog shampoos on the market are designed specifically to eliminate fox poo smells.

Another method you could try, if a specialist shampoo doesn’t help, is rubbing the area of the smell with tomato ketchup before bathing. A chemical in tomatoes helps neutralise foul odours and some owners swear it.

It’s best not to let your dog roll in fox poo in the first place rather than trying to remove it! Work on your training techniques and keep a close eye on your dog when you are out and about. But, as all dog owners know, it’s not always easy. Make sure you have a bottle of special shampoo and some rubber gloves in your dog cupboard ready when you need them!

With a Kennel Club Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.