Why does my dog roll around on her toys? My dogs love to play, goof around, and come up with all kinds of antics. It’s part of their charm and what makes dogs… dogs. But sometimes my pup will take it a bit too far as she rolls on her toys or on smelly objects. Any owner knows the annoyance that arises when this happens. Especially when the toy is noisy and you just want some rest and relaxation! In this article, I’ll take a closer look at why our pets do this, and if it’s possible to stop!
- Why does my dog roll around on her toys?
- Attention seeking
- Itchy skin
- Leave her scent
- Claiming the toys
- Why does my dog lie on smelly objects?
- How to stop this behavior
Why Does My Dog Roll Around on Her Toys?
Have you been away from your dog for a while and when you come back she welcomes you with the most fantastic dance and song you’ve ever had? She will jump up and down, roll around, then back on her feet to jump on your shoulders and lick you with pure joy. Out of all these actions, the rolling around part is quite fascinating. Mostly because it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the routine.
But you’ll also notice your dog rolling around quite a lot. Mostly during playtime when her toys are all over the place. She’ll go from chewing on a toy to lying over it and rolling on her back or rubbing her side against it. As it turns out, your dog rolling around on her toys, treats, or any other object is a complex behavior. The reasons for this unusual behavior can be summed up as follows.
We all express our happiness in different ways. Your dog, it seems, has unlimited reserves of dopamine, the happiness hormone, and she is not shy to express this happiness in different ways! One of those ways is to roll around in a goofy way crushing her treats or toys under the weight of her body. This can also happen even when you’re not watching. She’s not just putting on a show for you. Your dog is really happy.
Rolling around can also be a ruse to get your attention. This will only happen when you’re around. The difference between happy rolling around and look-at-me rolling around is that the latter is less joyous and a little too showy. You’re busy with your phone or watching the game on TV and she wants you to give her your time for a change.
So the rolling around is a tad more dramatic and might be noisy. If you still won’t pay attention to her, she’ll get to her feet and outright bark at you. There’s only so much ignoring your dog can take from you.
Having an itch can be another reason your dog is rolling around on her back or her sides. Despite being lithe and having a supple body, there are spots on the dog’s body that she just can’t reach. Her back, neck, front legs, chest, and sides are some of those areas where she can’t scratch. When one or more of those spots get itchy, she has no other choice but to roll on them and give them a hearty rub.
Leave Her Scent
Each dog has a unique scent, and animals use that scent to know a lot about each other. You can think of your dog’s scent as her calling card. Any other dog can tell her gender, her mood, and whether she’s ovulating or not from the scent she leaves behind. This is an instinctive behavior that all animals indulge in, especially when they seek the companionship of their kind.
When your dog is feeling stressed, anxious, or afraid, she’ll roll on her back. It’s a submissive position that animals assume when confronted with danger or asking for mercy. But here, your dog is using it to relieve her anxiety or cope with feelings she’s not comfortable with.
Claiming the Toys
This is rare, but when your dog becomes too attached to a toy or a set of toys, she will roll over them as a way to lay claim on them. She’s trying to show everyone else, you included, that these toys are hers now. The dog will make these claims when there are other pets in the house and the competition over the toys is rather fierce.
Why Does My Dog Roll Around on Smelly Objects?
It’s not also unusual, although quite uncharacteristic, for your dog to look for smelly objects and roll all over them. If rolling around on her toys and treats seems harmless, smelly objects are a bridge too far. A smelly toy, an old rag, or a pile of compost. These are the favorite targets for her to rub against repeatedly. It won’t be easy to get that smell off their hair. Here are three reasons our dogs do this:
1. Her Body Smells
If your dog is not happy with the way her body smells, she’ll try to cover that body odor with any other smell. And when it comes to odors, your dog’s nose is less discerning. She won’t care whether the smell she’s rubbing all over her body is a good one or an awful one.
This behavior goes back to the ancestors of the dog. Wolves on the hunt would camouflage their own scent by rubbing against a dead animal or rotting plants. This allowed them to approach their prey without giving themselves away with their wolf smell.
If your puppy has been to the groomer, they’re most likely covered with all kinds of perfumes from the shampoo and powder. These are not natural canine odors and she’ll get rid of them by rubbing against something that stinks but at least smells natural to her.
How to Stop My Dog from Rolling on her Toys?
When the rolling around gets out of hand, you need to step in and teach your dog that what she’s doing is not right. Here are a few ways you can achieve this. Patience is required here.
Teach Leave It
Teach your dog this command when she’s about to roll on her toys. When she responds to your command, reward her with a special treat. Eventually, she’ll learn to give up this behavior.
Your dog might be bored or restless, so offer them a more interesting distraction than the toys. Treats, belly rubs, or playing catch are all good distractions.
Having a good recall is a good foundation for training the dog. A good recall is when your dog responds to your calling their name. Reward them when they respond quickly. Then it will become easier to make them stop rolling around on the toys.
Let Her Roll!
Rolling around on toys is not always a bad behavior. If you don’t have a problem with it, let her roll to her heart’s content.
Why Does My Dog Roll Around on her Toys? A Summary
Your dog likes to roll around on her toys to express happiness, get her scent on the toys, or just to scratch an itch she can’t reach with her tongue or paws. Sometimes she will roll around as a sign of anxiety or to get your attention. For the most part, it’s a harmless behavior that you don’t need to worry about!
Learning About Other Doggy Behaviors
- Why does my dog bark all the time?
- Can I use smells to control where my dog pees?
- Do dogs like hiding under the bed?
- Are female or male dogs more aggressive?
- Will my dog break an egg if I give her one?
- Kiss, O. (et al), ‘Behavioral and Neurophysiological Correlates of Dogs’ Individual Sensitivities to Being Observed by their Owners While Performing a Repetitive Fetching Task’, Frontiers in Psychology (2020)
- Westgarth, C. (et al), ‘Dog Behavior on Walks and the Effect of Use of the Leash’, Applied Animal Behavior Science (2010)
- Horn, L. (et al), ‘The Importance of a Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs – Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task’, Plos One (2013)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website