Why Do Dogs Roll in the Grass?

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Published: August 31, 2021

Dogs do a lot of really cute things. They also do a lot of gross things. Rolling in the grass can be either or both, depending on the situation.

There are several reasons dogs roll in the grass, but most of them are about scent. Dogs have a strong sense of smell and use it to interact with the world. They can use scent to pick up trails of prey or communicate with other dogs.

So if your dog is rolling in the grass, it may be about picking up a smell, covering a smell, or leaving their scent behind.

Is it Normal for Dogs to Roll in Grass?

Yes, is it completely normal for a dog to roll in the grass. But normal for a dog doesn’t always translate to socially acceptable in the human world. So it really depends on the when and where of your dog’s behavior to decide whether to encourage, ignore, or redirect the behavior.

Why Does My Dog Roll in the Grass?

It may not seem logical for us, but there are many reasons dogs roll in the grass. Sometimes you can figure out why your dog is rolling in the grass by cluing in to their motivations.

Masking Their Scent

Dogs evolved from hunters, and rolling in the grass may be a remnant of that behavior. Dogs may roll in grass to cover up their own scent with whatever they are rolling in.

This could mean rolling around in the dirt and grass, or it could be that another animal recently urinated or defecated in that spot and your dog is trying to pick up that scent. This kind of behavior may have aided wolves while hunting—it would allow them to get closer to their prey without being detected by the prey’s strong sense of smell.

Covering Up a Scent

Similarly, a dog may be trying to cover up their own scent by taking on the odor of the grass. For example, many dogs roll in the grass after being bathed, and this may be an attempt to rid themselves of their clean, freshly shampooed scent. (Just because we like the smell of soap doesn’t mean our dogs do.)

Communication

Dogs communicate through scent. Many dogs (especially males) will leave small urine markings as they go on walks to communicate to other animals that they were there. Another way to leave their scent is to roll in the grass. Where one dog leaves a mark, another may roll to pick up that scent or add their own to the mix.

Scratching an Itch

Dogs can’t reach every part of their body to scratch, so sometimes they roll on their back to relieve an itch. If it’s just an occasional itch, that’s okay, but if it’s frequent or your dog won’t stop scratching and rolling, it could be a sign of a skin problem.

Similarly, dogs who rub their ears on the ground may have an ear infection. If you are concerned your dog may have a skin infection or something else that causes itchy skin and ears, call your veterinarian for an appointment right away.

Because It Feels Good

Some dogs may roll in the grass because they are happy and having fun and it feels good. There’s nothing wrong, and they don’t have a specific motivation; they are just being dogs. It’s kind of like sitting in a massage chair for a few minutes—it’s relaxing, and if the opportunity presents itself, why not?

Should You Stop Your Dog From Rolling in Grass?

The answer is: it depends. If your dog is rolling in the grass because they are happy, then there is no need to stop the behavior. We provide chew toys so our dogs can express their need to gnaw, and this is the same. It’s important to allow dogs to express their normal behaviors as long as it isn’t causing harm.

If your dog is rolling in grass, you should have them on effective flea and tick prevention. Also consider whether the grass may have been treated with herbicides or pesticides, as these can be harmful to your dog.

On the other hand, if your dog seeks out dead animals and poop to roll in, then the behavior should be stopped because it’s unsanitary.

The most effective and humane way to stop a behavior you don’t want is by redirecting your dog to do something else. Using Positive Reinforcement Training (PRT), reward your dog for a behavior you do want them to do by giving them a treat or praise.

When your dog starts rolling, or if they give you signals they are about to start, redirect their attention to something else.

If your dog frequently rolls in the grass, that could be a sign of chronic itchiness from allergies, skin infection, fleas, or something else. Your veterinarian can examine your dog and make sure that any problems are taken care of so your dog can go back to rolling in the grass for pure happiness.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Jovanka_Novakovic