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Why do dogs roll on their toys?

Why do dogs roll on their toys?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You've seen it before, but you're probably wondering why do dogs roll on their toys?

Dogs usually roll on their backs to show submissiveness or trust to humans or other dogs, but a dog rolling on their toy could have various different reasons. Some are more innocent, like your dog is just very happy or is trying to get your attention, while others suggest your dog could be obsessing over their toy, which is never a good behavior to allow to continue.

If you're trying to figure out why your dog is rolling on their toys, we've gathered some of the most popular reasons right here. And if you aren't a fan of the toy-rolling, either because it ends up leaving them smelly and gross or because you believe this is a problematic behavior, we've also included some tips on how to stop them from rolling on their toys. 

If you want to keep your dog's toys fresh and clean (and not a breeding ground for bacteria), check out our guide on how to wash dog toys. If you're looking to replace some older toys, or are just in the mood to spoil your canine friend, we've got the best dog toys money can buy.

But let's get back to the issue at hand. Why do dogs roll on their toys?

Why do dogs roll on their toys?

There are quite a few reasons why your dog is rolling on their toy. According to the American Kennel Club, wolves roll in smelly stuff because they find that smell to be particularly interesting, and want to bring that information back to their pack. Others believe they do it to cover their own scent. 

But your dog's toy shouldn't have an especially stinky smell (especially if you're washing it right!) so here are a few reasons why your dog is rolling on their toys. 

1. Your dog is happy or just playing

It really could be that simple! If your dog associates playtime with happiness, they could get very excited and start rolling around on their toy. If you've ever watched your dog excitedly roll around in your bed, you know that these are often some of their happiest moments. Playing with a favorite toy can also be considered a top-tier happy dog moment, so your dog could just be rolling around on top of something that makes them happy. 

2. Your dog is staking claim to that toy

dog rope toys

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As mentioned by the AKC, dogs do roll around to get their scent on things, or to transfer a scent to themselves. If your dog is rolling around on their toy, they may be doing so as a way to mark that toy as their own. If you live in a multi-dog household where a few toys are more coveted than others, your dog is likely rolling on their toy to try and stake a claim to that one in particular. 

3. Your dog has an itch 

Perhaps you have an especially hard plastic toy in the house, or one that has some spiky knobs on it. If that's the case, your dog could be rolling all over their toy in order to scratch a hard-to-reach itch. If you catch your dog rolling on their toy, reach over and give them a scratch - they may thank you for it!

4. Your dog is obsessing over the toy

Dogs can and do engage in obsessive behaviors and can even have obsessive compulsive disorders. If your dog is constantly rolling on a toy, it may not be a big deal, but if they start to get protective over that toy, or seem to do so to a point where they can hurt themselves, they may be anxious, fearful, or resource guarding. If you notice toy rolling has become a bit of a trend in your house, you may want to reach out to your vet who can direct you to a dog behaviorist. 

Again, rolling on their toy may not be a big deal, but you know your dog best, so keep an eye on them and also think about if anything major has changed in the household that could potentially cause obsessive behaviors to emerge. 

5. Your dog wants attention

It could be that your dog wants to play with you or just wants some good rubs and they've discovered that rolling all over their toy is a great way to get your attention. Dogs are smart and understand the power of cause and effect, so if they notice you give them attention everytime they rub on a toy, they'll probably continue to do so!  

Tips to stop your dog from rolling on their toys

Dog with chew toy

(Image credit: Amazon)

If you'd like your dog to stop rolling on their toys, whether it's a sanitary thing or because you believe it's an unhealthy behavior, there's some things you can do to get them to stop.

1. Distract them

If you'd like your dog to stop rolling on their toy, you can always provide a good distraction. This can come in the form of puzzle toys or just some supervised play between you two, which will help enrich them and potentially keep them from returning to toy rolling. 

2. Establish a good recall

A well-trained dog can be recalled at a moment's notice, which means you can get them away from whatever toy they may be rolling on. Recalling is when your dog responds to you calling their name and will come to you. A good recall means your dog will come to your side at any time - even when they're distracted by another animal, food, or a toy.

Establishing a good recall starts with training. You want to make sure that whatever is distracting your dog and bringing them to you is more exciting than what they're focused on, so treats are always a good choice. Call their name, give them a treat, rinse and repeat. Check out some advice on training a rescue dog to help establish a good recall with your dog. 

3. "Leave it"

Similar to having a good recall, the "leave it" command will help stop your dog from rolling on their toys. It means exactly what it sounds like: if you say "leave it" your dog should leave the toy. Make sure you say this when they start rolling, not whenever they're playing with the toy in question, or else they may think you don't want them to play!!

4. Let them roll

You know your dog best. If rolling around on a toy brings them joy and doesn't cause any harm to their health or behavior, then let them roll!

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