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The Root of the Behavior
There are most likely two main reasons for this doggie soap behavior. First of all, it goes back to ancient instincts where dogs lived in the wild and is due in part to their amazing sense of smell. A dog knows who belongs in their ‘pack’ or family by their scent. You smell like your soap. In fact, your personal scent is mixed in with the soap you use. So one of the reasons why your pet maybe rolling his face in soap after you leave is due to separation anxiety. The soap smells like you and brings your dog comfort.
The second reason why dogs may roll in soap is because they are trying to mask their own scent. This goes back to their ancestors in the wild, as well, and can even be exhibited in wolves. Dogs will roll in just about any strong scent such as poop, perfume, soap, trash, or any other scent to mask their smell. This is one smelly habit! Some wild animals mask their scents from predators or while they are trying to hunt. It’s like making yourself invisible, sort of like camouflage.
If those two reasons don’t suffice, another reason may be because dogs love the smell of dead things. Many soaps are made with animal fat and sometimes even fish oil. Dogs have an intense sense of smell where they can pick apart the different ingredients much better than we can.
Whether it is instinctual, self-anxiety, or their love for dead things, this definitely is a behavior you want to deter your dog from. Many soaps these days contain chemicals that could be harmful to your pet, cause skin irritations, or give him an upset stomach if eaten. It’s a good idea to figure out what the issue is and find the right training method to deter your pet from rolling their faces or bodies in soap.
Encouraging the Behavior
The easiest solution to stop your dog from rubbing his face on your bar of soap is to keep your bathroom door closed and keep the soap high out of your dog's reach. This may be hard to do if you also have small children at home who like to open and close doors. Dogs are opportunists so if the soap is available to them, they will get into it. So try to keep it out of sight and out of mind.
Another solution is to train your dog to ‘leave it.’ This a great command that all dogs should know. Whenever he leaves the soap alone give him a treat and some positive affirmation.
You can also remedy this situation by buying your pup some scented toys. Toys will often deter your dogs from things they should not get into. There are so many awesome scented toys on the market these days, even bacon and beef scented toys!
If your dog is exhibiting this soap rubbing behavior due to separation anxiety, you may want to give him one of your old shirts, an old sock, or a small blankie with your scent on it. This is comforting to your dog. Your scent will reassure your dog of you and will ease the separation anxiety
Other Solutions and Considerations
Some dogs go as far as to eat soap. This may be due to something missing in their diet. There is actually a disorder called pica where dogs will eat things like rock, dirt, soap and other non food items. If you feel your dog has this disorder contact your vet.
If your dog is still a pet between 6-9 months and is eating soap, this can be from teething. Give him some teething toys.
If your dog has eaten a whole bar of soap carefully monitor him. Feed him a very bland diet of chicken and rice for a couple days. If he exhibits signs of an upset stomach or GI infection take him to see the vet. This is another important reason to keep the soap out of sight and behind closed doors.