Every year like clockwork, when the weather begins to get warm your dog inevitably begins to get more energized. But along with that seemingly boundless energy also comes the unavoidable rainy weather and an awful lot of mud. Usually, this isn't a major issue, except for the mess that your dog can bring into your house. But while dogs have been doing this for quite a long time, there are a few reasons you might want to keep your dog away from this seasonal mud bath! In the guide below, we go into the pros and cons of this complex animal behavior.
The Root of the Behavior
One of the strongest theories to date is that dogs in the distant past may have used mud to conceal themselves from natural enemies. This is no doubt connected to behaviors that have evolved along with your canine over generations. A defensive gesture such as this isn't normally a cause for alarm. However, it could sometimes be an indicator that your dog sees prey, and is getting prepared to hunt. Keep this in mind when taking your dog for long walks or extended hikes. Another possibility that has been talked about by animal behaviorists is that this is a way for your dog to dry himself. If you've ever given your dog a bath then you know that it's almost impossible to get him dry on your own. This could very well be a way that your canine companion dries himself off, or at least expedites the process. If you've seen this behavior primarily after bath time, you can rest assured that this is probably why they're diving into the dirt.
A third distinct cause for rolling in the mud is that your dog is trying to cover up an unwanted scent. Your dog's nose is so much more sensitive than yours, and if he feels like he can't shake a particular odor he goes into full-on dirt rolling mode. This is yet another behavior that is inevitably linked to your dog's DNA. In fact, research has all but proven that this was a regular practice engaged in by ancient canines for both hunting and safety. An additional reason your dog might enjoy rolling around in the mud is that he probably likes to eat it. Yes, you heard that right. Your dog may be eating dirt. If you can discern that your dog is consuming dirt or mud, it might be indicative of anxiety or some sort of compulsive disorder. Doctor Jean Dodds, a doctor of veterinary medicine thinks that this might actually be indicative of the start of deep mental health issues for your dog.
Encouraging the Behavior
This behavior is usually quite fine, and shouldn't be cause for alarm. Dogs can just as often be rolling around in the mud because they're having fun as they can be due to stress. A lot of natural behaviors stem from dogs embracing their inner instincts and doing what they enjoy, and rolling in the mud is about as natural as it gets for some breeds. If your dog is eating the dirt rather than just rolling in it, this should be something to look at more closely. A dog that is experiencing separation anxiety or suffering from some sort of compulsive disorder is only going to continue these negative types of behaviors unchecked if not properly treated. In addition to this, the dirt or mud they are consuming could have additional pieces of debris in it that could get lodged in your dog's mouth or throat. In more recent years, behavioral services for canines have become much more readily available to aid you in helping your dog get past these issues. Yet another cause for concern might be if your dog is doing this out of a need to defend itself. If the behavior frequently occurs in your own backyard, it's possible that unwanted wildlife is getting within your dog's perceived territory. If you don't have a fenced in area, always make sure to keep an eye on your dog when letting him out. If you have small children, then this behavior could keep them safe.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs are always going to enjoy engaging in behaviors that are natural for them. As an owner, it's more the mess caused from muddy paws that you'll have to worry about. Keep something like a plastic runner around the areas where your dog is most likely to spread mud if you’re looking for a great way to keep things tidy. A great idea is to keep a garden hose handy for the summer months, so you can spray off your dog’s paws before he even comes inside. If you're truly concerned about your dog consuming and rolling around in dirt, the very first place to ask about his habits is at the vet's office. At the very least, these professionals will help point you in the direction of someone who can more closely analyze your dog's various behaviors.
So, what can you truly discern from your dog's mud rolling? Turns out, quite a bit! And while occasionally this can be a cause for concern, it's generally just a problem when he makes a mess. But when it comes to your dog's mud habits, you should always be prepared to get your hands dirty!