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Published: Oct 26, 2012

Many dog owners will be familiar with this scenario: You're out enjoying a nice stroll with your canine companion, when suddenly, she takes off and starts rolling in something on the ground. The next thing you know, you have a happy canine who smells terrible. This behavior can be annoying, but it's common among all types of dogs, big and small. Understanding the motive behind this behavior may make it easier to prevent it from happening in the future.

According to Psychology Today, the jury is still out on exactly why dogs like to roll in smelly stuff, but there is one prevailing theory that makes the most sense. It's important to remember that though we may treat them as though they're equal members of the family, canines are still animals, and much of their behavior, including this malodorous tendency, is dictated by instinct.

Dogs are pack animals, and may choose to roll in things like dead animals or even feces in order to disguise their own scent. It might make you sick to your stomach, but your canine may think that by coating herself in rotting fish, she's more likely to be able to sneak up on prey in the wild. Of course, we know that most domestic dogs today do very little hunting, but canines will still act on their evolutionary instinct.

Dr. Stanley Coren, who penned the article for Psychology Today, presents another interesting theory on the matter. He thinks that some canines may roll in pungent things because they enjoy the stimulation they get from the smell. It's a well-known fact that dogs love to sniff, so literally throwing themselves into strong-smelling stuff may be their way of saying, "I like this experience!"

Whatever the reason, pet owners must make sure that this behavior doesn't end up putting their canine at risk. If you see your dog not just rolling in, but eating feces, then you have a more serious problem on your hands. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, dogs who eat feces may be exhibiting medical issues that will require a visit to one of the nearby vet clinics.

Coprophagia in dogs may be a sign that your dog is not getting enough nutrients in her diet. It can also be indicative of thyroid disease, diabetes, or Cushing's disease in dogs, reports VCA.