Why a Shih Tzu Rolls in Poop
This is a common, long established canine behavior. Yet, there are only theories about why dogs do this. While some reasons may hold more weight than others, none of these can be completely ruled out, as they all make sense in some way, at least to dogs.
Reasons for rolling in the feces of other dogs may include:
1. To mask their own scent.
This sort of behavior is linked to a dog’s ‘pack’ behavior. And, while it may seem that a toy dog like the Shih Tzu should not hold much of this sort of deep instinct, all the behavior of dogs regardless of breed, is dictated by canine rules.
To say that any toy dog, inside dog, or lap dog will not behave in any
canine way is essentially saying that they are not a canine. So, this is something that has to remain on the table as a possibility.
Rolling in the feces of other animals is a valid method of a dog masking his scent, and this has benefits (at least in regard to pack dog behavior) of not announcing a dog’s presence to prey and to bring the scent of the prey back to the pack.
2. To mark the poop with their own scent.
While this may seem like a bit of a reach, some animal behavior experts suggest that a dog may roll in the feces of another dog or animal to leave their scent on it and override the existing scent. If a Shih Tzu does this within the yard, this may be as a way of claiming territory.
Teddy, at 10 weeks old, photo courtesy of Leonie
A reasons for rolling in their own feces may be:
All dogs have a ‘calling card’. Their scent glands (anal glands) hold a fluid that via chemical process lets other dogs know their gender, health status, mood, and level of interest to interact (when face to face, or butt to butt, we should say).
Some dogs, and particularly intact dogs with strong mating urges, may feel that they want to advertise themselves in a stronger way than just their scent glands. One way to do this is to roll in their own feces, thus spreading their scent over their entire body.
Reasons for rolling in any sort of feces may include:
1. The dog is fascinated with the smell.
While this is a common theory, it can be off-putting to Shih Tzu owners who put time and effort into keeping their puppy or dog nice and tidy. The coat is healthy, hairs are soft and shiny, and your Shih Tzu smells great. Why on earth would your dog ruin that by thinking that poop smells better than the Lilly flower or warm vanilla cookie coat spray
that you’ve spritzed on?
Well, it is suggested that this all correlates to a dog’s incredible sense of smell. While we humans rely mainly on our sense of sight, sense of smell is a dog’s top focus. Canines have 250 to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to our 5 to 6 million. For this reason, dogs are captivated by all sorts of smells. They interpret scents and odors
in ways that we cannot even imagine.
2. It feels good.
This seems odd, but is an accepted suggestion. And, while pressing the body into both feces and grass could, hypothetically, feel good to a dog, this may actually not be related to the poop. A Shih Tzu may enjoy lying down on grass and wiggling around on it. If there are feces on the grass, getting it on the coat is just an unfortunate consequence of enjoy a nice ‘grass massage’.
3. Attention seeking behavior.
What do you do when your Shih Tzu plays with or rolls in poop? Do you let out an ‘Oh my God!’ and rush over? Most likely. Do you hover over your dog to inspect just how bad the damage is? Probably. And then, do you give a nice bubbly bath
and clean your puppy or dog all off? We hope so.
While those are all expected reactions, and giving a bath is required, they all have one thing in common: The Shih Tzu gets tons of attention! What dog doesn’t want that?