Why do dogs roll in fox poop and how to stop it

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Rachel Rodgers
26th Sep 2023
4 mins read
Although we humans might wonder why dogs roll in fox poop, to them it’s pretty natural. No one knows exactly why dogs do it, but the theory is that it’s an old instinct to cover their smell, a form of communication, or they just like doing it. As for how to stop it, read on for tips!
Have you ever been out walking with your dog when all of a sudden they dive onto the grass and start rolling around in something smelly? And not just any smell. It’s the noxious, nose-wrinkling aroma of fox poop. We humans hate the smell, and cleanup afterwards, but most dogs seem to love it. So why do our furry friends do it?

Why do dogs roll in fox poo?

No one really knows why dogs roll in fox poo. However, there are three main theories behind the weird habit. These are, 
  • It’s an old instinct from their wild ancestors
  • It’s a way of communicating (There's two theories here!)
  • Dogs just like the smell of fox poop

It’s because of old instinct

Dogs have evolved from wolves, who might have rolled in poo and other strong scents to mask their own scent. This could have helped them to sneak up on prey. It could also have helped them to avoid predators when they were pups. It's unclear why, but domestic dogs may still have this instinct.

It’s a way of communicating

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and they use scent to gather information about their environment. By rolling in poo, they might be trying to "share" information about the scent or the animal it came from with other dogs. They could be rolling in it to carry the smell back home with them for anyone there to sniff and learn from it, like a stinky messenger.

Your dog's leaving their scent

Dog's have a natural instinct for them to mark their territory and leave traces of their scent in places. It's known as marking, and involves urinating on or rolling on objects to establish a scent and communicate with other dogs. It is common for dogs to engage in this behaviour, especially when another dog has already marked its territory. This behaviour is often believed to be a way for dogs to communicate and inform other animals that a particular area belongs to them. It could also be seen as a form of communication among dogs, signalling that one dog has already investigated and identified an intriguing scent in the surrounding area.

Dogs like strong smells

Probably the most likely reason why dogs roll in fox poo, is just because they enjoy the behaviour or the smell. Dogs have a much stronger and more sophisticated sense of smell than us humans. It’s possible that some smells that we find unpleasant, like fox poo, might actually be interesting or even pleasant to dogs. Maybe it’s like doggy perfume!

Why do dogs like to roll in fox poo?

Again, there's no definite answer why dogs like fox poo or rolling in it. However since fox poo has a pretty unmistakable stink, it's possible dogs like the smell. That and dog's don't seem to discriminate when it comes to poo. Many pups are interested in all kinds of poo whether it's their own, another dogs, cat, fox, or something else entirely.

What to do if your dog rolled in fox poo

If your dog rolls in fox poo, here's a step-by-step guide on what to do.
  1. Don't punish them.
    It might be gross, but remember, it's a natural behaviour for dogs. Don't punish your dog for it because they won't understand why they're being told off.
  2. Clean up.
    Once you're back home, it's bath time. Use a dog-friendly shampoo to clean your dog's fur, and you can buy fox poo shampoo that’s designed to get rid of the smell. Remember to wash all the areas your dog might have rolled on, including their neck and sides.
  3. Give them a groom.
    Give them a brush or a comb to make sure there isn’t any dirt or poop particles left in their fur after the bath.
  4. Use a pet-safe deodoriser.
    If the smell persists, you might want to use a pet-safe deodoriser. They can help to neutralise bad odours and you can but them in most pet shops.
  5. Do some routine prevention.
    Fox poop can carry bacteria and parasites that could make your dog sick. Make sure you keep up with preventative care like worming to keep your pup safe.
  6. Check with a vet.
    If your pet develops any symptoms of ill health after rolling in fox poo, be sure to check in with your vet. A particular one to look out for is itching or fur loss, as in rare cases dogs can pick up mange from rolling in areas foxes frequent.

How to stop a dog rolling in fox poo

To stop your dog rolling in fox poo, you’ll have to practice prevention and try some training. By preventing your pup from going near poo, you should be able to stop them from rolling in it. Then some training will help if you ever need to distract them or get them to stop.
  1. Prevention at home.
    Check your garden regularly and clean up any fox poo before your dog has a chance to roll in it.
  2. Prevention on walks.
    When on walks, keep an eye out for any fox poo. If you’re worried, you can keep your dog on the lead to have better control and guide them away from anything.
  3. Distract and redirect them.
    If you notice your dog about to roll in poo during a walk, try to distract them with a toy, treat, or cue, and then guide them away from the spot. You can also pop them back on the lead to guide them away.
  4. Teach them “leave”.
    Training your dog a cue like “leave” can teach your dog to stop doing something, which is handy for avoiding situations like your dog rolling in fox poo.
  5. Chat with an expert.
    If you’re not sure how to stop your dog rolling in fox poo, you can talk to a certified dog trainer. They’ll offer you practical tips and personalised advice to help you and your pup with the behaviour.


Why do dogs roll in fox poo? Like most doggy behaviours we humans find a bit strange, gross, or even frustrating, it’s perfectly natural for dogs. We’re not sure exactly what makes them do it, but it’s probably because they like the smell, or they just enjoy rolling in things. 
You’ll have to teach your dog what to you expect them to do if you’re near poo. Prevention is vital though. Simply keeping the garden clean or guiding your dog away from poop on walks is all you need to stop them from rolling in the stinky stuff.

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