- It connects them to their roots — Even though our domestic pups are far removed from their primal days, their instinct is to mask their scent from prey. Rolling in the grass achieves that end.
- It sparks joy — Grass rolling can express joy and playfulness from your pup, who’s just enjoying their best life with a romp in the field.
- It can indicate allergies — Excessive rolling around can be your dog’s way of trying to scratch its itchy skin, a symptom of skin allergies.
Why do dogs roll in the grass?
There are a variety of possible reasons why our four-legged-friend may roll in the grass, most of which are harmless. When we look at our dogs lounging on plush beds, it’s easy to forget that dogs have natural instincts that help them survive without humans.
Often, dogs roll in the grass in an attempt to mask their scent from potential predators — even if there aren’t any. They may also roll around to leave their dog smell behind, marking their territory. Other times, rolling in the grass is just plain fun and for no apparent reason. It could be an indicator that your dog is happy and enjoying themselves.
Pet-parents may take pause if the rolling is excessive or overly aggressive, as if the dog is trying to scratch an itch. When that happens, you might consider talking to your vet about potential skin allergies or to find any other common reason for the behavior.
Is rolling in the grass normal?
Yes. Whether dogs are just feeling happy, attempting to entice a playmate, or simply giving in to an instinct, rolling in the grass is normal. Even when skin allergies are involved, it’s a normal response to trying to scratch an itch and can help alert pet-parents to a problem.
Dogs can roll in the grass for a variety of reasons. Some do it to get an itch they can't scratch, or it may be a playful display. Others may do it for the smells. Even if it's something that we find off-putting (like the feces or the remains of other animals), some dogs may "apply" the scent in the same way that we wish to wear perfumes and colognes.
4 reasons why dogs roll around in the grass
There are four primary reasons why dogs may rub themselves on grass. The overarching theme is that dogs roll in the grass because they enjoy it. While there may be an instinct coming into play, even acting out of primal urges can be fun in this scenario.
While skin allergies are common in dogs, your pup may also just be scratching an occasional itch. It’s best to gauge the frequency and general behavior of your dog when they roll in the grass so you can determine if there may be a problem. As always, talk with your veterinarian if you’re unsure.
1. Masking their scent
If a dog wanted to throw a predator off their scent, they may roll around in the grass or something else to help disguise it. Dogs in particular rely on their incredibly powerful scent receptors more than any other sense. By rolling around in the grass, they pick up different odors from the soil, vegetation, other animals, or people that have been there. All the different scents combine on their fur to mask their own.
2. Trying to relieve itching
What is more annoying than an itch you can’t scratch? Dogs that suffer from allergy-related itch may experience itchy skin all over, without the luxury of being able to scratch or apply any treatment. If you observe your dog rolling in the grass on their back, this may be an act of resourcefulness. Extended rolling, scooting around or overly aggressive rolling may be a sign that your dog is itchy.
3. Getting your attention
Dogs may use some silly play to get your attention. If you notice your dog flailing around on their back, limbs in the air, rolling to and fro, they’re probably trying to get you to take notice. This may be especially true if you’ve been away for a time and they’re excited to be reunited, or have been in the crate alone and want you to play with them.
4. Enjoying the sensation
Your dog rolling in the grass might just be a fun feel-good. If your dog has been in the crate or indoors and is finally free to run around, they may roll around just to do it. Think of it like a child running on the playground and doing a cartwheel just because it feels good to be playing. Rolling in the grass may also feel like a nice little back rub for your pup.
Is rolling in the grass harmful?
Like any behavior, there are extremes that you should take note of. If you see your dog rolling in the grass for prolonged periods of time or being overly aggressive, it may be something else. Your dog may have picked up the problem from some harmless rolling and romping, which led to the more forceful behavior you may be observing.
Here are a few possible concerns about rolling in the grass.
Your dog is unlikely to be the only animal or insect rolling or moving about in a particular patch of grass. If another animal with a skin infection has been in the grass in a particular spot, rolling around could cause your pooch to pick it up too. Also, if your pup is aggressive with the rolling, they may damage or tear their skin, leaving the door wide open for infection, especially if anything sharp is accidentally dropped in the grass.
Risk of parasites
Unfortunately, dogs can contract several different types of common parasites. Parasites are also prone to grow in animal feces that’s been left out, which can happen when you have a dog on the lawn. Some dog owners may have parasites (like fleas or ticks) in their yard without their knowledge. When a dog rolls around in contaminated soil, they may end up contracting the parasite and getting an infection.
👉To minimize the risk of parasites, always pick up dog feces immediately and dispose of it properly. Parasites grow in old feces, not fresh.
Risk of irritation
Depending on where you are, there could be risks of skin irritation when your dog rolls in the grass. If you see any signs of poison ivy, poison oak, Bermuda grass, Juniper shrubs, or others, move your pup to another location to let them romp. There are certain plants that are highly irritating to a dog’s skin and rolling around in them will lead to discomfort.
Always be careful of foreign objects in the grass that could harm your pup. Be especially diligent if you’ve recently had any work done around your home. Objects like nails, scraps of wood, or glass could be hidden in the yard and hurt your dog as they roll. This is especially true if you’re in a public area or on a hiking trail that has high traffic. You can’t avoid every hazard, but a quick scan and utilizing a leash can be helpful.
When to seek veterinary help
It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog is exhibiting any abnormal behavior that you find strange. Our furry friends can’t communicate with us the way we’d like, so their behavior is the only way to uncover irritations, pain, or discomfort.
How to manage this behavior
More often than not, dogs rolling around in the grass is perfectly fine. Every day, all across the world, dogs joyfully roll around in greenery without incident. There’s a good chance that your dog is happy and enjoying themselves.
Don’t hesitate to bring it up to your vet on your next visit if you have questions or concerns.
Frequently asked questions
Are dogs happy when they roll in the grass?
Yes, rolling in the grass is usually a sign of a dog’s happiness. If your dog is rolling around forcefully or excessively, it could be a sign that their skin is itching.
Why does my dog roll in gross stuff?
Dogs have a natural instinct to mask their scent and rolling around in stinky stuff (like dead animals) may be an attractive option for your dog.
Why do dogs roll in poop?
Although it might make you cringe, sometimes dogs’ noses enjoy the smell of poop (or other smelly things) whether it’s their own or other animal’s. They may also roll in poop to mask their own scent, or mark their territory; a behavior thought to be an ancestral holdover from wolves. And sometimes, they’re proud of their smell, especially if they killed prey.
Why do dogs roll in the snow?
Dogs typically roll around in the snow to have a good time, to enjoy the sensation, to explore, or to get relief from an itch.
How can I stop my dog from rolling in the grass if it’s causing skin irritations?
You can try distracting your dog with a toy, treat, or other method of play when they start rolling in the grass, or prevent rolling by keeping your dog on a leash.