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Rolling in poop

When a Shih Tzu Enjoys Rolling in Feces

Overview

Maybe your Shih Tzu rolls around in his or her own feces, that of another dog, or both. Your dog may even play with the poop before rolling in it. In any case, it can be a terrible habit for owners to contend with. While the reasons for rolling in poop are varied, and there is not one consensus from experts about why this is done, there are steps you can take to limit or completely stop this sort of behavior.

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.
10 week old Shih Tzu puppy
Teddy, at 10 weeks old, photo courtesy of Leonie 
A reasons for rolling in their own feces may be:

1. Self-advertising. 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? 
adorable Shih Tzu
Brownie Bear, photo courtesy of Laura Estrada

How to Stop a Shih Tzu from Rolling in Poop

Since the reasons for rolling in feces can vary, to fully resolve this, you’ll want to address as many of these that are applicable. 

1. Spray or neuter. To an owner that did not wish to have this done, it may seem like an extreme measure to take to stop a Shih Tzu from rolls and romps in feces; however, there are many benefits to having a dog fixed, including overall better behavior (less marking, less trying to run away, better listening skills, etc.) and health benefits including decreased risks of some types of cancer. 

2. Stay calm, if it happens. While it’s human instinct to be upset, try to remain calm. If your Shih Tzu rolls in feces due to the heaps of attention that comes along with it, do not allow this goal to be achieved. 
3. Keep the yard clean. Cleaning up poop in the yard prevents people from inadvertently stepping in poop, keeps flies away, and of course prevent a dog from rolling in any piles of it. Just as you pick up your Shih Tzu’s poop while at the park or during walks in the neighborhood, do this at home. 

Attaching a poo bag container to your dog’s leash helps make this convenient. We really like the Earth Rated Leash Dispenser Poop Bags; it is small, but holds 15 bags, and easily attaches to any leash. 
shaved Shih Tzu
Chewie, short for chewbacca (chewie), photo courtesy of Grace
4. Supervise. For reasons including reinforcing housebreaking lessons and limiting danger, a Shih Tzu should always be supervised when outside in yard. Keep your puppy or dog on leash and harness (not collar). Take your place as leader, and control where your Shih Tzu walks and what he does. If your dog starts to sniff a poop pile, interrupt by saying his name and then redirect focus elsewhere. 
5. For rolling in poop while you are not home:

1) Work to create an engaging environment. These steps help with separation anxiety as well.
• Have lots of interactive toys to keep your Shih Tzu busy. This may include those that speak in response to being nosed, like a Talking Babble Ball Toy.
• Or something fun and amusing like the ZippyPaws Spencer the Crinkle Monkey Toy that has crinkle paper inside the limbs, plus a squeaker and a rattle. 
• Leave on a TV (some cable providers offer channels specifically for dogs to enjoy) or have music playing. 

• And leave something yummy within a treat-release toy. Often, a mixture of dry kibble and 100% all-natural peanut butter makes these types of toy tempting. Use one like the Busy Buddy Twist 'n Treat, that lets you adjust the difficulty level for a tempting challenge. 
2) Adjust breakfast time. While there is some crossover, generally speaking what a dog poops out in the morning, is what he ate for dinner. What he poops out while home alone during the day is what he ate for breakfast. 

If you can move breakfast time up by an hour or so, this can result in your dog having a bowel movement an hour later than normal. In other words, a smaller time window for the poop to be deposited and then rolled in while you are not home. 

And, together with the aforementioned elements in place to keep your Shih Tzu occupied, this may resolve the issue.
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