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Sometimes my occasionally timid dog comes in from the backyard with extreme confidence, jumps up next to us, and we simply want to vomit due to the incredibly new and violently horrible stench he has somehow discovered and rolled himself in.

I do my best to clean the area where he's rolled once I can locate it. The source of the stench has been anything from:

  • his poop
  • poop of other dogs
  • dead frogs or lizards
  • dead worms
  • stinky area of the lawn that might have once been poop/frogs/lizards/worms
  • mystery stench source

He tends to do this either immediately after his first bathing (requiring a second, and at least one time a third, bathing), or if it has been a long while since a bathing, which indicates it is time for his first bathing.

Why is he torturing us like this?

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This comes from their ancestors, wolves.

enter image description here

The reason varies however, depending on the stench.

Usually rolling in faeces of animals is to disguise their scent, thus being able to sneak upon their prey undetected.

In the case of carcasses, this is basically a way of claiming it, kind of a "look what I got" towards other dogs.

There are other cases however, where your dog just actually likes the smell, so is trying to rub themselves in it so they smell the same.

Weirdly enough, my Bichon does this with orange skittles(!!!). Every time we present her with half of one, she rolls her neck in it and proceeds to play with it. That's basically because she likes the smell, not because she's trying to confuse her prey smelling of Skittles (albeit a great disguise).

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    Just to be nitpicky, wolves would be the ancestors, not the descendants, but dogs are not descended from wolves, rather both animals are descended from a common, extinct ancestor – ThomasH Oct 10 '13 at 21:50
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    @ThomasH Yeah thanks I meant ancestors. Nah they are descended from Wolves, see here (the first domesticated dog was a Grey Wolf) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_the_domestic_dog – mattytommo Oct 10 '13 at 21:53
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    @mattytommo I stand corrected, and so does John Bradshaw. In defence of dogs is a terrific book but it seems that it's wrong (out of date) on that account. – ThomasH Oct 10 '13 at 22:33
  • @ThomasH I disagree with your last sentence. It is all self consistent: dogs are descended from Wolves, but of course not the wolves we can see today. However todays's wolves are closer to the "original" wolf than are today's dogs. That's what Bradshaw describe in his book[s] and that's compatible with Wikipedia. – Cedric H. Mar 17 '14 at 16:11
  • Nevertheless, apart from the nice picture, this answer is uselessly referring to wolves. It doesn't contribute anything to the actual reason. What if I change the first sentence "This comes from their ancestors, wolves." into "Because they are dogs"? – Cedric H. Mar 17 '14 at 16:13

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