Why Dogs Roll On Their Toys…And It's Just As Cute As You Think

They may be man's best friend, but unless you speak dog or have trained your pup to talk with buttons (yes, it is possible!), then you probably spend a lot of time wondering what is going through your dog's head.

For example, how does my dog know what time I'm coming home every day? Or why will my pet only eat food if it's microwaved?

Well, if you're curious why your canine companion likes to roll on its toys, then Newsweek has the answer. We spoke to two experts about this dog phenomenon, and whether it's as adorable as it seems.

French Bulldog rolling around on the grass
A stock photo of a French Bulldog rolling around happily on the grass. Dog behaviorist Ali Smith said dogs rolling on their toys is usually an expression of joy. yhelfman/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Why Do Dogs Roll on Their Toys?

Rolling around on your favorite possessions might seem weird to us humans, but if you catch your pooch doing this, it's a positive sign.

Ali Smith, dog trainer and CEO/founder of Rebarkable, told Newsweek that it's an evolutionary behavior passed down from their wolf ancestors, and that it's "absolutely a happy expression."

"It's satisfying a lot of inner urges," she said. "And those urges tend to be for hunting reasons."

1. To Mark Their Scent

Describing the act as "predatory," Ali Smith said that in the wild, canines would roll in dead animals or feces to disguise themselves from their prey.

"Whilst the toy doesn't smell (at least to us nose-blind humans!), it can also be so hardwired into a dog's make-up," she said.

Dr. Jeff Smith, medical director at Danville Family Vet, agrees that rolling on toys is an evolutionary trait, one that stems from a need to "blend with the environment."

"Dogs will roll on things to leave their scent and mark their territory," he told Newsweek. "But they will roll in things that stink to cover their scent."

As dogs often practice their hunting skills while playing, they can mimic these actions with their toys—minus the smells and entrails.

A small brown dog surrounded by toys
A stock photo of a small brown dog lying on the living room floor surrounded by toys. Sometimes, dogs roll on their toys just because it feels good. TeamDAF/iStock/Getty Images Plus

2. A Sign of Affection

A less gross, but much sweeter reason your dog might roll on objects is to show their appreciation.

"Dogs will roll on their toys in play behavior and as a sign of affection," Jeff Smith said. "My little dog will roll on me in the mornings when she wakes me up."

Your dog might just be rolling on their toys because they like them, but if you reward this behavior, even unintentionally—such as a belly rub when they roll over—then your pet is more likely to continue it.

"After this happens several times, it becomes a cue for the dog to get attention," Smith said. "This is part of the connection we call the 'human-animal bond.'"

In other words, if your dog thinks rolling on their toys will make you happy (which it does, because it's adorable), then they'll do it more often.

3. It Feels Good

Ever had an itch that you're dying to scratch, but that you just can't reach? Well, dogs get that too. Luckily, scratching an itch by rolling on the floor is more socially acceptable for canines than humans.

"They [might be] rolling on it because their ancestors tell them it's a good thing," Ali Smith said. "Or the toy may just give really good scratches."

Siberian Husky puppy rolling on a blanket
A stock photo of a Siberian Husky puppy rolling around on a blanket covered in toys and chewing on a stuffed animal. Rolling on toys is a predatory behavior, dating back to when canines would disguise their smell from prey by rolling on pungent objects. Veronika Viskova/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Can Dogs Rolling on Their Toys Ever Be a Bad Sign?

It's not uncommon for dogs to have a favorite toy, but the reason why they love that one toy over others can vary. But can rolling "or marking" their toys with their scent turn into an obsessive behavior?

"Anything can be a sign of obsessive behavior," said Ali Smith. "However, rolling is not typically associated with obsession.

"But as always, if you suspect it is getting obsessive, please do get in touch with a qualified behaviorist or vet to ensure that it gets checked out."

Do you have funny and adorable videos or pictures of your pet you want to share? We want to see the best ones! Send them in to life@newsweek.com and they could appear on our site.

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