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Why Do Dogs Roll on Their Backs in the Grass?

Photo of Greyhound Galgo Rolling In The Grass

Have you ever been enjoying a backyard barbecue with your family, and your dog just plops down on the grass and rolls around on his back?

What is that about? Why do dogs do that?

There are actually many reasons why they may do this. One is perhaps to scratch his back since grass blades are a bit prickly to the touch.

Another reason may be to “brush” their backs, using the grass kind of like a hairbrush.

It may be annoying for a dog’s owner when he rolls in the grass because he can get his coat dirty and filled with mud.

So, the more a dog rolls in the grass, the more often you may need to bathe him.


But that’s the “worst” that it gets – rolling in the grass is a completely normal doggie activity.

Keep reading for a deeper explanation as to why some dogs like to roll on their backs in the grass.

The Dog is a (Stinky) Hunter

The desire to roll around in the grass may stem from the dog’s ancestor, the wolf – a natural hunter.

To disguise their own scent from potential predators, wolves would roll around in the grass to hide their “dog smell.”

Scents already present in the grass, like rabbit urine, would then collect on the dog’s fur and make him smell like a rabbit, rather than a dog.

Conversely, wolves would mask their scent to hunt prey. So, if a wolf smelled like a rabbit, another rabbit might not think anything of it…to its own demise.

And finally, wolves would roll around in their prey’s scent as a kind of trophy after they successfully captured their prey.

Just like dogs today still turn around to “gather leaves” before they lay down, rolling in the grass may be something else they do that they do not quite understand.

Scratch that Itch!

It makes perfect sense that a dog might roll in the grass to scratch an itch.

If you’ve ever walked around outside barefoot, then you know how surprisingly sharp grass can be!

Dogs take advantage of that scratch grass to scratch that itch that he just can’t get to on his own.

Photo of Puppy Jack Russel Dog Russell Rolling

However, if he keeps rolling around, you may want to check him out.

Make sure he does not have any ticks, fleas, or a skin condition that might cause him to itch.

Chances are good, though, that he is just enjoying a good back scratch!

Kill that Stench!

Another reason why dogs might roll around in the grass is to rub a stinky smell off their coats.

Even if we don’t smell anything wrong, a dog’s nose is incredibly sensitive. So, he may smell something on his coat that we do not even realize is there.

In fact, wolves even do this when they pick up a new scent they enjoy as a way to get more of it onto their bodies.

A dog may do this if, for instance, they have a less-than-ideal encounter with a skunk.

Dogs also roll around in the grass because they don’t understand that your sense of smell isn’t as strong as theirs.

So, they are trying to share the scent they’ve found with you – not getting that you can’t smell it too.

If he is rolling around in the grass more often directly after a bath – a frustrating sight indeed – it may be that he’s not a fan of the shampoo scent.

Try changing up his shampoo to see if that helps him to stop.

If you try a few and he still does it, you may want to consider switching to an entirely odorless shampoo.

You’re My Obsession

If your dog rolls around in the grass every. single. time. you let him outside, then he may be dealing with some obsessive compulsion.

When you see him about to roll in the grass, try distracting him by playing a game of fetch with him.

Changing his focus should help him eventually conquer his obsessive behavior.

If, however, he suffers from anxiety, you may want to talk to your vet about potential medication that can help him feel more at ease.

Rolling in the Poop

Okay, so while your dog may be rolling around in grass, why the heck would he want to roll around in poop?!

Or worse…on dead animals?

To be honest, dog experts are still trying to figure this out.

The best they can figure is that dogs love to roll around in strong smells – they’re just not sure why.

This may trace back to the whole “masking their scent” thing, but that doesn’t make it any less gross – or any more understandable.

I’ll Just Brush Myself, Thanks

Dogs may use grass as a kind of hairbrush.

When some dogs shed their coats, it feels uncomfortable to have all that dead hair hanging out in their fur.

So, rather than wait for you to brush them, they take matters into their own hands and, well, brush themselves.

A bonus is that, not only does he rub the hair out of his coat, but he also frees up any dirt, debris, or oils that may be bothering him.

So he probably gets up feeling like he just got back from the groomer – and happier that he didn’t have to deal with strangers to feel better!

Not-So-Professional Massage

Dogs may also roll around in the grass as a way to massage their tight or sore muscles.

Did you just take your dog for a long day of hiking or hunting, only for him to come home and roll around in the grass?

You’re probably thinking, haven’t you had enough time outside already?

But this may be his way of massaging his sore muscles after a long and exciting day.

Clowning Around

Your dog may also like to roll around in the grass as a way to entertain you!

If you’ve made a big deal out of him rolling in the grass before, then he may enjoy the fact that he pleased you, and will do it even more!

This is especially true for breeds like the Poodle, who are natural showmen who love to be in the limelight.

But, of course, this is an individual personality trait, so your dog may just naturally love clowning around – and the grass helps him do just that!

You can usually tell the purpose for the roll based on how vigorously he’s doing it. If he rolls slowly from side to side, for instance, this is more about enjoyment than a more urgent back scratch.

Potential Dangers Lurking in the Grass

There are lots of things in the grass that can injure your dog.

There are ticks and fleas, which can cause more problems that you definitely don’t need in your life.

Make sure you keep up on your dog’s flea and tick regimen to prevent him from getting sick if he does get bit by a tick.

Photo of Happy Dog Rolling

This should also prevent parasites from staying on your dog, which can lead to them coming into your house.

Then there are fertilizers and pesticides, which can make your dog sick – and possibly you too, if you pet your dog and do not wash your hands afterwards.

You also need to be careful with any bacteria or viruses that may live in the grass, which can make your dog and everyone in your home sick.

So, while playing in the grass is not terrible for your dog, it does come with some caveats of which you need to be aware.

Bloat

While not at all common, a dog who rolls around in the grass too hard can cause himself to suffer bloat.

Bloat is a serious gastrointestinal condition, also called torsion, which causes the dog’s stomach to become twisted.

You’ll know this is happening because you’ll see your dog’s stomach “bloat” or distend.

In fact, some trainers refrain from teaching dogs the “roll over” command as a precaution to prevent bloat.

Bloat is more likely to happen to larger dogs with deeper chests, but even then, this is not a common problem associated with rolling in the grass.

To be extra careful, though, you can discourage your dog from rolling around in the grass after he just had a large meal.

Artificial Grass

If you are concerned about the parasites, bacteria (and poop!) your dog can roll in, you may want to invest in some artificial grass for him to roll around in.

In fact, some manufacturers create artificial grass specifically for dogs!

However, your dog isn’t stupid, and he may know right off the bat that this is “fake grass” and feel entirely uninterested.

If the appearance or the feel of the grass doesn’t do it, he may feel detracted by the antimicrobial agents manufacturers use to prevent the grass from developing bad odors.

But if your dog solely uses the outside grass as a back scratcher or hairbrush, then you may find he’ll just love it!

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