[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 12, 2021] ©2021
I’ve written before about some of the curious behaviors of dogs, but ours has taken up an unwelcome new one: rolling in her own poop.
She has always loved to roll in the grass. We have a huge fenced yard and the odds that she would manage to roll in poop seems statistically unlikely, especially as my husband takes her for a long walk in the morning.
No, we feel it is deliberate. We figure she did it once, accidentally, decided it felt really good (we’re not sure why) and now seems to seek poop-rolling opportunities.
It’s bad enough when this fluffy white dog seems to have suddenly turned herself two-tone. But how did she get it in her ears?
And does she then have to run inside and roll around on our bed? The light beige leather sofas in the living room? The white guest room duvet?
As you might guess, a dog covered in poop is a DefCon One Emergency. It doesn’t matter what else you might be doing. It has to stop instantly while one of us grabs her up and quarantines her in a sink before she can inflict any more mayhem in our house.
Invariably, it happens within 48 hours of an expensive grooming. In fact, she’ll still have the little red bows in her head.
Inquiring minds want to know: Is she trying to get rid of the foo-foo-y products in the groomer’s shampoo? Get back to a more natural dog smell? Get in touch with her more primal canine origins? Actually, this last could be likely.
I queried my very dog-knowledgeable neighbor across the street to see if she had any theories about this behavior. Jill replied: “Go for it, Lily!!! That's my girl!!!! Celebrate your inner wolf!!!!! Ahh-whooooooooo.”
A pressing question is why is Lily suddenly doing it now??? She’s 11. She’s a rescue whom we’ve had for four years so we don’t know her early history. We think this bichon-poodle mix might have been a breeder since she hadn’t been spayed. She was turned into the pound by her previous owner and the first thing we noticed was that she had no idea what dog toys were. How to play fetch. How to play tug. In fact, how to play anything.
We’d throw a small ball for her and she’d merely look at us like, “Am I supposed to be doing something with that? If so, I’m not interested.”
Finally, I found her some small round rubber squeaky balls that did pique her interest but not as toys. She would gather them up protectively in a group close to her chest, her paws around them, and lick them affectionately as if they were her pups.
From time-to-time visitors to the house, not realizing that these squeaky balls were offspring and not play things, would pick one up and throw it for her. Lily would be enraged, chasing after it but immediately returning it to the rest of her litter and glowering at the guest.
“You just threw her child,” we’d explain to them. “She’s very sensitive about it.” They were always hugely apologetic.
So maybe she’s just catching up to behaviors that other dogs got to experience at much earlier ages.
In other ways, she demonstrates perfectly normal quirky dog behaviors. She follows us to the bathroom, preferring to come in and supervise, but if locked out, content to hang right outside the door ready to trip us the second we emerge. We’ve had to warn guests to be sure the close the bathroom door tightly or she will barge in ready to provide moral support in whatever function they might be executing.
And of course, like all Southern California dogs, she does not like getting her feet wet. In fact, she is absolutely offended by wet grass or pavement. If it is so much as sprinkling, she will walk out to the end of the front porch, sniff the air, and go back inside with a “Sorry, don’t need to go that badly” look.
But back to the poop issue. In a yard as big as ours, she truly has to seek out a patch of poop to roll in. I decided to research this on repugnantdogbehaviors.com.
Among the evolutionary theories is that since many species of wild dogs were scavengers, they'd be drawn to smells such as rotting carcasses (which would smell not unlike feces.)
Alternatively, they might be trying to mark their territory. Although frankly, there's not much competition for territory in our yard. It's all hers.
And last: apparently, sometimes dogs just get bored. Yup, don't we all. Especially in a pandemic. I guess after a year of no doggie playdates, who wouldn't be tempted to roll in their own poop? I confess the idea has occurred to me too. Maybe once she can start going to dog-friendly restaurants again now that we're back in the orange tier, this behavior will stop.
Our furniture sure hopes so.