Canine behaviour explained - Rolling around in the grass

Canine behaviour explained - Rolling around in the grass

There are a whole gamut of dog behaviours that obviously seem perfectly normal to our canine companions, but that make very little sense to the people observing them! Alongside of behaviours such as eating grass, digging holes, and spending a long time getting their beds just so before settling down to sleep, another very popular dog behaviour that often leads to their owners scratching their heads is rolling around in the grass, which many dogs are very enthusiastic about and quite entertaining to watch!

Rolling around in the grass is not a problem or unnatural behaviour for dogs and is not something that you should seek to curb, despite the fact that it may leave your dog in rather a mess with hard-to-shift grass stains on their coats, particularly for light coloured dogs like the Golden retriever or Bolognese breeds!

In this article, we will provide a few insights into the motivations behind dogs rolling in the grass, and what it means. Read on to learn more!

The origins of the behaviour

Like many seemingly inexplicable canine behaviours, rolling around in the grass has an evolutionary reason behind it, and is inherited from the wolf side of our domestic dog’s heritage.

Wolves today also display this same behaviour, and it is related to exposure to unusual scents, and transmitting information about them back to other areas of their pack.

As we all know, the olfactory senses of both wolves and dogs are very acute and highly developed, and both wolves and dogs use scent to communicate with each other, and pass on information.

When a wolf (or dog) comes into contact with an unusual smell in the wild, be that of another animal or something else, they are apt to sniff at the scent and then immerse themselves in it by rolling around in it, attempting to impregnate their fur with the smell, particularly around their necks and faces. Then, when they return to the rest of their pack, the other pack members will sniff the returning member to check out the scent, and in the wild, may even potentially follow the origin of the smell back to the location it was found in to check it out!

Masking smells

While rolling around in the grass may be done to pick up a particular scent that we as humans cannot detect with our less-sensitive noses, dogs may also roll around in grass to remove a certain scent from their coat, or try to mask it.

This is why rolling in the grass is often the first thing that your dog will want to do after a bath, generally much to your annoyance! While having a sweetly scented, clean dog may be more palatable to our human senses, to your dog’s more sensitive nose, the smell or perfumed shampoos and other grooming products can be very strong and alien to them, hence their attempts to remove it.

This also serves an evolutionary purpose too, as smelling anomalous to the surrounding environment and the things that occur naturally within it may potentially mark your dog out-in your dog’s mind-as something new and unusual, and hence, make them a target for predators.


Rolling in the grass is not usually a problem behaviour or one that indicates a problem, but if your dog is obsessive about rolling around in the grass and seems to spend a lot of time doing it very determinedly, the may be rolling about to try to relieve itching of their skin or coat. A continual, ongoing itch is referred to as pruritus, and this may be indicative of a problem with the coat or skin, so it is worth getting your dog checked out by your vet to make sure that nothing is amiss.

Is rolling in the grass safe?

As a common, everyday canine behaviour, rolling around in the grass itself is not unnatural, harmful or indicative of a behavioural problem or anomaly. Grass itself is completely safe for your dog and not toxic or dangerous, but there may potentially be hidden dangers within the grass that can pose a threat to your dog.

Ticks often lie in wait in long grass, and so it is a good idea to check your whole dog’s body over thoroughly for ticks after a walk, particularly during tick season.

Added to this, many homes’ lawns may be impregnated with fertilizers or pesticides, which can poison your dog through their skin, or become ingested when your dog grooms themselves and licks it off. For this reason, it is important to take care over the type of products that you use on your own lawn at home, and to try to restrict your dog’s rolling around to fields and dog parks, rather than managed gardens that may use pesticides and other products on the grass.

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