You’ve just finished bathing your dog and buffing him shiny. He smells sweeter than buttered biscuits and looks more dapper than Don Draper. As you stand back to admire your canine conversion, he bolts into the backyard and rolls in anything rotten. “Why?!” you scream as you retrieve your repugnant mutt. Why do dogs roll in stinky stuff?
The first thing you should know about the previous scenario is it’s real – rotten-garbage-genuine-reality real. In fact, I’d argue that this scene plays out after nearly every dog bath in the world. Most dog owners plan their “after-bath” moves well in advance and with profound preparation. Doors are bolted, barriers erected and additional human helpers recruited – all in a desperate attempt to retain some canine cleanliness for a little while.
The second fact you need to consider is there’s no “official” reason why dogs immediately engage in “erasing the clean” from their coats. No textbooks proclaiming a specific origin, no research revealing the secret science of stinky-dog-ness. I took an oath never to allow the absence of “official” research to prevent me from speculating on malodorous matters. Prepare to discover the causes, official and otherwise, of why dogs prefer the reek of refuse over the redolence of rinses.
If you’re a fan of “The Walking Dead,” you totally get why dogs roll in stinky stuff. If not, maybe a lesson in post-apocalyptic zombie survival is in order. In the world of “The Walking Dead,” clever survivors figured out if they covered themselves in zombie guts, the zombies ignored them. In fact, this putrid cloak fooled the zombies into thinking humans were zombies.
Apparently, dogs may be behaving much like zombies on “The Walking Dead.” Many behavioral scientists postulate that dogs cover themselves in the scent of feces, rotten carcasses and moldy grasses to conceal themselves from predators or help them sneak upon prey.
Bragging rights may be another good guess why dogs cover themselves in offensive aromas. Some scientists theorize that dogs have an instinct to display the smells of kills to demonstrate dominance. Kind of like, “He who smells worst shall be king.” Don’t want to be ruler of that kingdom.
Finally, a pooch’s perfume preferences may track a different trail than humans’. A noxious, revolting trail, as far as I’m concerned. While people revel in whiffing lavender, musk and rose, dogs may fancy more fetid fragrances. In much the same way some people prefer certain aromatics to complement their unique odor profile, some dogs may like the way dead squirrel smells on them. Who am I to judge?
The bottom line is that stink happens, no matter the reason. I still wash my dogs regularly and treasure bedtimes after bathing. I also lock the door, double-leash and have my entire family standing guard. Just in case.