Why dogs roll in smelly things update




From the NY Times 10/10/16

“Why do dogs love to roll around in things that smell repulsive?”

“One theory is that their sense of smell is really a complex motor system related to the brain. And so, Dr. Horowitz said, when Finn alights upon a rotting squirrel corpse in the park, the smell that fires up the olfactory lobe in his brain also travels to the motor cortex and tells him to lean his whole body into the found object of desire.

“There’s no ‘noxious scent’ receptor in the dog’s brain,” she added. “But they do seem particularly interested in rolling in smells that we find somewhere between off-putting and disgusting.”

KB: They are getting closer. There are three questions that need to be addressed.(1) Why are rotting things attractive to dogs? (2) Why do dogs roll in such things? (3) Why don’t other animals roll in smelly things?

First of all, why do humans find such things disgusting? For a civilian, gore is repulsive, but a doctor can become inured, in fact he can look into a horrific wound with interest. And he probably didn’t start medical school with that capacity for detachment, so what’s the difference between the civilian and the doctor, between the medical student with their first cadaver and the experienced surgeon? The doctor has not become desensitized, he’s not immune to the degree of suffering attached to a degree of gore, rather, unlike a civilian and some first year medical students he can find order in all that “energy.” In the human mind rotting flesh is repulsive because it is essence not contained by form. The energetic value is imported directly into the mind without benefit of a filter that the intellect normally confabulates around sensory input. Note that if a dog excretes a nicely formed stool, it’s not so bad, but the alternative is not so nice. Dogs don’t have an intellectual filter to comb over the data and so they never make such distinctions. This is because the animal mind is almost always apprehending the essence of a thing within the form of that thing. So when it gets to the essence unadorned by form it’s not repulsed. If a waiter brings you a plate of food nicely separated by form, that’s nice. If the waiter then mashes it up into a slurry with a fork, that’s repulsive. Such a distinction is lost on a dog, he’ll eat either with equal relish.

Visually the essence of a stimulus is revealed through its deportment and movement, but the most reliable detector of essence is the most primordial one, smell. Visually, essence translates into another body’s center-of-gravity, nasally it is anything that oozes, drips or squirts from its form. In short, energy coming into form is the basis of in-form-ation and essence is the closest thing to pure energy to be found in the material realm and thus much prized by animals.

So when a dog finds oozing blood, fresh snow, rotting flesh, there is no resistance between itself and essence and so it seeks to wallow in that feeling of unity and become grounded.

But why so enthusiastically and with all its legs thrashing against the air and ground? As this article points out, the olfactory lobe is directly connected to the motor cortex. The dog is not “leaning” into the stimulus, he is running with it, just as he would with a playmate and connecting essence to essence (center-of-gravity to center-of-gravity) through synchronized motion.

My theory is that emotion works in the mind the same way motion works in the body. Since moving well towards something one wants or away from something one fears is the basis of a metric of well-being, and since maintaining/optimizing a state of well being is the basis of an organism’s evolution and the behavior of any given individual, objects come to mind, the mental process of objectification, as a function of physical movement, specifically, resistance to said movement. So form is resistance to movement, this is how objects come to mind, how sensory input coalesces into structured images embedded with emotional values. Essence is license for movement. A dog drives his body into and around the spot wherein he feels such emotional energization. He is mapping his “locomotive rhythm” onto a specific spot and literally running in place. And since release from tension by overcoming resistance is the basis of reinforcement, and since a dog’s forequarters are central anatomical region for overcoming resistance, the dog is especially driven to get his shoulders into position and then go belly up. The top of the shoulders is where a dog weights the tension of resistance, thus, wallowing in essence upside down, shoulders rolling and grinding the body into the scent, is the completion of the urge for syncopated motion and relieves the dog from the stresses of the day.

Why only the dog? Dogs don’t roll in such things to mask their scent, to indicate the presence of food, for any rational reason whatsoever. They are simply conforming to the way the most basic part of their animal mind is configured. And because dogs are the base emotional code, i.e. how to turn resistance into information, information being collectivized movement, i.e. how to map one’s locomotive rhythm onto objects of resistance, amplified through the wolf’s evolution as a group hunter and the dog’s domestication as a hunting partner of man, dogs are the animal most able to receive the network signal.


Want to Learn More about Natural Dog Training?

Join the exclusive and interactive group that will allow you to ask questions and take part in discussions with the founder of the Natural Dog Training method, Kevin Behan.

Join over 65 Natural Dog trainers and owners, discussing hundreds of dog training topics with photos and videos!

We will cover such topics as natural puppy rearing, and how to properly develop your dog's drive and use it to create an emotional bond and achieve obedience as a result.

Create Your Account Today!

Published October 14, 2016 by Kevin Behan
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “Why dogs roll in smelly things update”

  1. b... says:

    This is great. This is especially poignant: “Note that if a dog excretes a nicely formed stool, it’s not so bad, but the alternative is not so nice.”

    Your post makes me think of how in my experience, the more accustomed I get to being present or in-the-moment, the less attached I am to form (e.g., beliefs as a container/form for ideas or information) and seemingly the higher my capacity for chaos or new-ness and thus for learning. I feel more flexible and the energy/essence of people or environments feels energizing rather than intimidating. It feels more conductive at a higher rate-of-change.

  2. John cassidy says:

    What’s the defining point between a dog consuming an object and rolling in it , a dog will eat sheep /cattle / rabbit / horse waste but will roll in fox excrement, at the same time ignoring canine waste after smelling it ,
    obviously there is a prey / predator balance in each

    I had questioned the current wisdom of a predator masking its identity since childhood when our jack Russel would roll on top of a recently deceased spider on the kitchen floor she had killed, never made sense, looking at it from an attraction stand point make everything much clearer

  3. Kevin Behan says:

    Great question that would yield much from a studied consideration.
    I would say that these are very close on a continuum but a distinction I think is that if a dog consumes it, then he’s trying to connect internally, to restore or amp up an internal sense of flow. Whereas if he rolls in it, then it’s more likely he’s trying to connect with external world. For example worked with a very fearful dog who would just flat line and couldn’t induce him to make any contact with me and strangers were at risk of being bit if they mistook his passive demeanor for approachability. A woman rides her horse down my lane and leaves an offering. I walked the dog to it and sure enough he started to roll in it excitedly and worked himself into a state of ecstasy. Soon he was engaging me in all the core exercises and began to connect with strangers. This pure prey essence allowed him to feel connected with external world that had him feeling so compressed and shut down.
    I think this distinction makes sense in light of your examples. Dog that eats dung feels connected to these prey animals because it’s so easy for dog to feel the body of such animals and consuming their essence accentuates the feeling of connection. Dog excrement on the other hand is a mirror block in that there is a recognition of “self” according to some biochemical standard discernible by gut and immune system. Whereas fox is intense charge, a predator, but biochemically not as close to the “self” and can be attacked. The fox represents an intense ungrounded energy. My dogs once encountered scat of a large wild cat, probably a transient cougar, and were intensely interested but showed no interest in rolling in it. I wonder what cat hunting hounds would do with same? Also I would imagine that there could be a range of responses depending on the emotional tone of the dog, which could vary. One day a dog might roll in some dung that another day he might eat. Perhaps this would reflect the internal/external distinction I’m positing above.

  4. Regarding – the eat/roll-in/smell-with-intense-interest continuum, isn’t it just a reaction in the dog to the pure escalation of resistance?

    For example, if as I dog I smell scat #1, feel the preyful pull and feel good in the gut with no resistance, I directly move to it eat.

    Then perhaps if I smell scat #2, feel a small amount of resistance, a small tension accrues in my gut and shoulders, then rather than directly eating it I deform my body around the mildly resistant essence (roll upside down) and locomote until shoulders and gut feel good.

    Then perhaps up the scale to #3, if I smell scat with a yet another small increase in resistance, I am pulled to smell it, to feel how I might move around it, but don’t feel the opening, in many ways perhaps I’ve acquired charge that I can’t ground quite yet.

    Another very real possibility I think is that the familiarity of dog scat in a rich preyful environment makes it so that compared to all the other rich stimuli I don’t feel knocked off balance by it. It is only a small “nudge” not a real knocking-over that causes me to want to complete the motion by ingesting or locomtoe-via-rolling-in.

  5. Kevin Behan says:

    I think I see your point. The more the dog is attracted to the essence, the more he perceives resistance to the fact of his escalating attraction. Little by little the entire body becomes enveloped in that experience as the perception of essence continually guides the escalating state of attraction. I think at the peak state the physical memory of interacting with a litter mate is conjured up as a defacto or ersatz object for the rising Drive level. Good analysis.

Leave a Reply

Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
%d bloggers like this: