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Sometimes, I feel like me and my dogs are totally in sync. I get what they’re thinking and I know that they get what I’m thinking, and we just seem to mesh up better than anyone else.
And then other times they do something so gross or random that I’m left wondering why I ever thought it was a good idea to invite these animals into my home.
Just the other day, my 11-year-old dog, Sofie, started rubbing her face and neck across the carpet.
She was seriously grinding herself up into it. She start by rubbing her face across a spot and then would press her face down and start sliding her face and neck all the way to the edge of the room, where she’d stop, rub her face with her paws, and turn around and do another lap.
She’s never done this before and, while I didn’t really think it was anything to worry about, it did get me wondering, once more, why Sofie was doing this strange behavior.
Why do dogs roll and rub themselves on the carpet?
Dogs will usually roll around on or rub parts of their bodies on carpets and rugs simply to satisfy an itch. They may also be trying to cover up or pick up a scent on the carpet, burning off excess energy, engaging in compulsive behavior, or expressing a gland.
Dogs rubbing themselves on the carpet is rarely something to be worried about, but it may be a symptom of a more pervasive or damaging problem that you should address.
By observing your dog carefully when they rub whatever part of themselves on the carpet, we can come to a better understanding of why they are doing such a seemingly odd behavior.
Once we know why your dog is rolling on the carpet, then we can determine whether it’s just an odd quirk that you should get used to or a more serious issue you’ll need to work out of your dog.
Either way, I have the answers you need, so keep reading to understand more about why dogs may roll and rub themselves on your carpet (and what, if anything, you can do about it).
Reasons Your Dog Rubs Their Face, Neck, Paws, Or Back On The Carpet
With the introduction out of the way, let’s dive into 10 reasons why your dog seems to love rolling on the carpet.
Reason #1 – Itch
This is the most likely reason that your dog is rubbing themselves on the carpet, so let’s start here.
Dog’s anatomies are finely-tuned to make them excel at so many things, but unfortunately for them, scratching their own itches isn’t one of them.
I’m sure you’ve seen your dog twist and contort themselves into all sorts of weird shapes and shakily hoist their foot up to scratch an itch between their eyes.
But there are “blind spots” on all dogs that, if struck by an itch, they simply won’t be able to scratch themselves.
Places your dog may not be able to reach easily include the ridge of their spine along their backs as well as their butts. Dogs with more extreme body types like Pugs or giant breeds like Great Danes or dogs who wear collars in the house may have additional difficulty getting claws to a hard-to-reach itch.
And carpets, made of tough fibers stuck to a hard surface they can really throw their weight into, end up being a perfect back (or butt) scratcher for an itchy dog.
This is why so many dogs will roll around back and forth on their backs on the carpet. And I’m sure you’ve seen the booty-scoot (but more on that later).
So your dog may be rolling on the carpet to satisfy an itch. Itches may be just regular old itches that you can let your dog satisfy, or they may be caused by something more serious.
Reason #2 – Allergies
Dogs that have allergies are likely to get itchy, sometimes painful spots on their skin as their immune system incorrectly responds to stimuli in their environment.
An allergic reaction is a misfire of your dog’s immune system. It’s a misfire because your dog may be reacting to something totally harmless, like a peanut or pollen in the air.
The range of reactions to allergens is huge. It can be so minor that you may not even notice that your dog is having a reaction, or so extreme that the situation quickly becomes life-threatening.
A common reaction, though, is the development of dry, itchy skin. If left untreated, your dog’s hair may even start to fall out, revealing scabby, red, affected skin underneath. If it’s occurring in the ears, it could lead to irritation, infection and even pique the interest of other dogs.
If you have recently changed your dog’s food, brought a new factor into the household (like adopting a cat or getting an air freshener, scented candle, or incense), or even something a simple as the weather changing, your dog may be having an allergic reaction that’s causing them to be extra itchy, leading them to roll around on the carpet.
Reason #3 – Parasites
Similar to allergies, your dog may be rolling around on the floor to satisfy an itch, but the itchiness may be caused by a parasitic infection.
Some common and less common critters that your dog could have picked up that are causing them to be itchy include:
- Mites of all sorts, from chiggers to Mange
- Ringworm (technically a fungus but we’ll count it)
The above are common causes of itchiness in dogs. This itchiness will occur wherever on their bodies that they are infected.
If your dog is rubbing their butt on the floor, it’s possible that they are actually experiencing some discomfort as a result of an internal parasite.
Intestinal parasites can cause aggravated behinds and cause your dog to seemingly scratch their butts on the carpets.
Common internal parasites that may cause this type of itchy, rubbing behavior include:
You may even be able to spot worms in your dog’s poo if you look real closely at it. Another sign your dog may have an internal parasite is very mucousy poos.
Young dogs are particularly prone to all of the above parasites because they have less developed immune systems that could make them more susceptible to these insidious parasites.
Reason #4 – Express A Gland
While we’re covering all of the gross reasons, let’s circle back to the booty scoot I mentioned earlier.
If your dog is rubbing their butts on the carpet like these majestic animals, they may be having an issue with their anal glands:
Dogs (and, fun fact, humans, too) have glands around the base of their rectums that secrete a particular mucus that is designed to coat their dookie and help it pass more smoothly on out of them.
These anal glands are constantly building up fluid, and they’re normally fully secreted on its own when your dog poops (which is also why some dogs smell so strongly after going outside).
However, some dogs, especially small dogs, sometimes have issues fully secreting all of the mucous from their glands.
Over time, these glands fill with some pretty disgusting built-up fluid that can become infected and cause massive swelling and even blow out a new hold to relieve the pressure!
It’s pretty uncomfortable, so dogs may end up rolling and scooting their butts around on the carpet in order to agitate and express these glands, relieving the built-up pressure and probably leaving a nasty streak across your floor.
Reason #5 – Leave A Scent
Reason #4 is a pretty utilitarian one; the dog has a full gland and they need to relieve the pressure.
However, dogs have glands all over their bodies, not all for such gross purposes.
Dogs have a ridiculously powerful sense of smell. They use this refined sense of smell for many purposes, one of which is to communicate with others in their pack.
In the wild or in a more natural pack setting, dogs use smell to mark their territory and claim what is theirs.
This is why you’ll often see unfixed male dogs lifting their leg to let out a tiny little bit of pee every 10 feet on a walk. They are trying to leave a little bit of their scent behind so that every other dog knows that they were there and that fire hydrate belongs to them. These dogs get so busy with there urine marking campaign they often get more than little on their own coat.
You have probably (hopefully?) discouraged this type of behavior in your house, but that doesn’t mean that your dog has completely shed these types of protective, marking behaviors.
Rather than lift their leg and pee to leave their scent behind, your dog may roll around on the carpet to leave their scent there to mark that spot as their own.
Or to warn any other dogs, cats, or visitors that this is their spot.
If your dog is constantly rubbing themselves in the exact same spot on the carpet and then they lie down or even sleep there, it’s likely that they are trying to claim that spot as their own.
You may also notice that they are particularly stiff when you approach them when they are there or that they are more reactive to other pets in the house when they are in that particular spot.
Reason #6 – Pick Up A Scent
As I said, dogs have crazy powerful olfactory senses. Those senses have given them a much more nuanced and seemingly strange relationship to smells than people have.
Therefore, saying exactly why a dog “wants” to pick up smells that they encounter is very difficult.
But I do think we can all agree that many, many dogs love rolling around in strong odors, most likely because they want to get that smell on their bodies.
So, picture your dog as a scout in a pack of wild dogs (this may be difficult if you have a derpy Maltese like I do but go with me).
Your dog is alone and they come upon a big old stinky dead animal.
“Dinner!” Your intrepid dog thinks to themselves.
Not having a map or a GPS or even a way of communicating something so complex as directions, your dog once again relies on their sense of smell.
So they roll around in the smell and return home to the pack. The rest of the pack smells it on them and follows the scent trail back to that delicious meal, and your dog is hailed as a hero.
While yes, your dog has their own scents that they produce, it’s entirely possible that they have picked up another scent while out on their adventures and are leaving that behind on your carpet.
Again, you may be able to smell this yourself or not.
You may see this behavior when you are out for a walk and your dog bee-lines to a pile of gross and promptly rubs their neck in it.
In your home and on your carpet, it’s possible that they are doing the same thing, even if you don’t necessarily smell the scent yourself.
A recent or not-so-recent spill may be just what they are looking for. They may rub themselves on that part of the carpet to get that smell on them for…you know, dog reasons.
Or perhaps that spot on the carpet particularly smells like another pet in the house and your dog, wanting to show submission, will rub and roll on the carpet to pick up the scent of that pet.
And let’s not forget we’re talking about your carpet, where you and your family walk around with your bare feet.
Your dog likely smells your family’s scent on the carpet and, being a member of the family, wants to rub around in the smell, leave some of theirs behind, and claim the home as all of yours.
Whatever it is that your carpet smells like to your dog, they may want to smell like it too.
Reason #7 – Submissive Posturing
Consider the particular posture that your dog is taking while they are “rolling around on the carpet.”
Do they look like they are trying to satisfy an itch or are focusing on a smell, or are they kind of just vaguely laying there, sort of wiggling, while they look at you?
If your dog seems extremely aware of you or another person or animal in the room while they are rolling on the floor, they may not actually be rolling around as they are trying to be submissive.
There is a lot to be said about how dogs engage with each other socially and how they use body language to communicate – way more than I can go into detail here. Here’s a helpful video that goes over some of the most common submissive signals in dogs:
They list 6 behaviors of a submissive dog:
- Showing the belly
- Licking their lips
- Showing their teeth
- Tucking the tail in
- Turning away from you
When your dog is rolling around on the carpet, it’s highly likely that they are engaging in at least one if not all 6 of the above behaviors as well.
What may seem like silly, playful rolling around may actually be a sign that your dog feels threatened and that they need to be submissive.
Reason #8 – Energy Outlet
If you have a highly energetic dog, then this section definitely applies to you.
Your dog may have a lot of pent-up energy at the end of the day if they aren’t getting enough exercise.
Or they may just have a case of the zoomies even if you do get your dog out for a good stretch of heart-pumping physical activity.
And since most people don’t just let their dogs run amok in the house whenever the dog gets the urge, your dog likely struggles to contain all of their excitement.
Rolling around on the carpet is a low-impact way for your dog to burn up excessive energy inside of the house.
Think of this behavior kind of like a dog chasing their tail or viciously thrashing around their favorite toy. It’s just fun!
Rolling around on the carpet is a fun way for your dog to get their wiggles out without destroying your house or getting themselves in trouble.
Reason #9 – Compulsive Behavior
I mentioned that rolling around on the carpet may be a harmless outlet for your dog’s excessive energy, kind of like chasing their tail.
Sure, chasing their tail around once or twice might just be a silly little game for them, but doing so frequently or constantly may actually be a compulsive behavior for your dog. The same is true for rolling around on the carpet.
Compulsive or displacement behaviors in dogs are not uncommon, especially in herding dogs. These dogs are more likely to suffer from a lack of exercise, routine, and stimulation, though determining why a dog develops a compulsive behavior ventures into the grey area of dog psychology.
If your dog refuses to stop rolling around on the carpet or does it for extended periods (as in much longer than they usually engage in other activities), their carpet rolling may be a compulsive behavior.
We call it “compulsive” because they simply cannot stop themselves from doing it.
Your dog may be engaging in other compulsive behaviors as well. Look for some of these other signs of compulsive behaviors in your dog to help determine if they are rolling out of compulsion:
- Licking or sucking their paws, legs, tails, or flanks
- Constant or rhythmic barking
- Fly biting or chasing/looking at objects that are not there
- Freezing or staring
- Excessive drinking
- Tonguing the air
- Chewing on objects
Reason #10 – Uncomfortable
A dog who has begun spending a lot of time laying or rolling on their back may actually be experiencing some internal discomfort.
Just like a person who has an injury may find laying in a particular position to be the only form of relief, your dog may be experiencing some sort of injury or ailment that rolling on the carpet helps to relieve.
You may be able to recall an injury or a moment when your dog seemed to have become in pain, or it may be some sort of chronic or internal issue that only a veterinarian will be able to identify.
How To Get Your Dog To Stop Rubbing On The Carpet
Obviously, some of the reasons listed above are extremely serious medical or behavior issues that need to be addressed immediately.
However, some other reasons that your dog is rolling around on the carpet may just be fine to ignore.
Keep in mind that your dog may not be rolling around on the carpet for any one reason above but actually a couple of even a few reasons all combined together.
So refer back to the above list of reasons as to why your dog may be rolling or rubbing themselves against the carpet before you decide whether or not to intervene.
If you decide that you need to address your dog’s rolling on the carpet, read on for some helpful tips on how to curb this behavior.
Step #1 – Veterinarian
Your dog should be going to regular vet visits at least once every year. If you have one coming up, it may be worth moving the date up sooner than later so you can get professional advice from a trained medical professional before you start trying other methods.
Your vet should be able to immediately identify or rule out any of the physical reasons that your dog is rolling around on the carpet.
Allergies, skin issues, parasites, and gland expressions will be immediately obvious on the surface. While it’s possible to do gland expressions yourself at home, it’s rather difficult to do correctly, especially if you have a smaller dog.
And your vet will be able to do blood tests and other internal examinations to ensure that your dog doesn’t have anything internal causing them discomfort.
Identifying the behavioral reasons will be more difficult for them in one single office visit, but they can help give you advice on what to look for at home in order to help identify the root cause of your dog’s excessive carpet rolling.
And it’s always best to bring in your veterinarian as early as possible so you receive all the support and information you can while you try to decode this odd behavior.
Step #2 – Hygiene and Maintenance
Most healthy dogs only need a bath about once every couple of months or until they get too dirty for their owner’s comfort. Unless you have a particular reason to wash your dog, baths actually have very few positive effects on your dog.
Many owners who believe that their dog has skin issues do the exact wrong thing and give their dog more frequent baths with concentrated dog shampoos.
Oftentimes, this excessive washing ends up stripping all the oils from your dog’s skin and hair, leaving their skin dry and their fur itchy. Which, of course, causes them to itch, scratch, and roll more.
If you do need to give your dog a bath, try just skipping the shampoo entirely and just giving them a water bath. You can get your dog just as clean by using water and a slicker brush like this one.
Or, if they are very dirty, consider picking up a gentle puppy shampoo like this one by Bark2Basics. You’ll still wash away the dirt and some of the oil but you won’t completely strip them of their natural oils.
Excessively dry skin can be treated at home by applying Coconut Oil (yes, plain old coconut oil) to your dog’s skin and letting it soak for about 5 minutes before washing it off. Not only is coconut oil inexpensive and hydrating for your dog’s skin and hair but it also has antimicrobial properties that can help treat the effects of skin irritations like ringworm and other rashes.
Speaking of ringworm and parasites, your dog should at least be on a monthly treatment for fleas. Fleas are truly insidious and your dog, furniture, carpets, home, children, and other pets will all thank you for getting ahead of a flea infestation.
Many monthly flea treatments also treat ticks. This may not be necessary if you and your dog live in a city and rarely venture into areas where there may be ticks, but just know that anywhere there are other animals (dogs, squirrels, rats, raccoons, deer), are all places that are likely to have ticks.
Step #3 – Clean The Carpet
Once you’re sure that your dog is clean and you’ve set up a routine to ensure that they stay clean, the next step is to ensure that your carpet is clean.
Remember, dogs have a crazy sense of smell, so a simple scrub with soap and water may not be enough to remove the scent entirely.
Enzyme cleaners like this one do more than just remove stains and mask odors; they contain enzymes that eat the odor-causing bacteria in organic messes.
So the smell of things like body oil, pee, poo, and general rot will actually be removed from your carpet.
By removing whatever scent that your dog loves from that spot, you should be able to effectively deter them, at least for a while as you continue to untrain this behavior.
Step #4 – Deter With Products
If your dog just loves the lingering smell of that plate of spaghetti you dropped on the carpet a few months ago, a thorough deep clean may be all that you need to stop your dog from rubbing themselves on the carpet.
But if your dog is doing so compulsively or has created a habit of rolling around on the carpet, you’ll need to up your game by enlisting some additional resources.
Bitter Apple Spray is a great deterrent for dogs. It’s primarily marketed as a product you spray directly on your dog to stop them from scratching themselves, so you know that it’s a safe product to use around your house.
And it’s also great to spray on furniture to deter teething puppies as well as on your carpet to deter sniffing, rolling dogs.
If you’re a tech person like me, consider picking up either a dog training collar or one of these nifty Ultrasonic dog training….wands? It emits different frequencies and can be used to help stop your dog from rolling around on the carpet with minimal effort on your part.
Step #5 – Deter With Training
It may seem kind of obvious to some, but very simple obedience and “trick” training can come in very handy when trying to stop your dog from rolling on your carpet.
Teach your dog “No,” “Stop,” or “Leave it,” and make sure that you are 100% consistent about enforcing the command.
Without taking the time upfront to teach your dog some of these basic commands, your cries of “No!” when the roll on the carpet may not only be unhelpful, but they may make their submission or rolling behaviors even worse.
By giving them tools to communicate with you and teaching them what these words mean by using lots of positive reinforcement and consistency, you can ask your dog to do so much more for you.
Step #6 – Redirect Behavior
If your dog is itchy, uncomfortable, or just likes to roll around on their backs, rather than stopping them from doing the thing that they love, instead, try redirecting their rolling around behavior or excess energy.
The best and easiest way to do this is to give them a place where they are allowed to do whatever they want, and then let them do it!
This mat for dogs is made of carpet material, so it’d be an easy transition for them to go from carpet to rug. You can even start by placing the mat over their favorite spot of carpet and eventually move it to a new location of your liking.
If you have a small, itchy dog, you may be able to get away with getting them a scratching post! I know most of them are made for cats but look at this indoor corner adapter scratcher thing for cats on Amazon. There’s no good reason that a small dog couldn’t figure out how to scratch their backs with it.
If it’s a pent-up energy problem, consider getting them a super durable toy like this Kong that they can thrash out their excess energy with.
For the thinking do, a treat puzzle like this one by Nina Ottoson is a great way to spend time thinking and hunting for treats, using up all their brainpower in a positive way.
Step #7 – Exercise
And finally, if your dog is rolling around on the carpet a ton at the end of the day, they clearly still have the energy left over to do it.
Get your dog out there! Walk them at least but run with them if you can- if you can keep up that is!
Take them to a dog park and have a great time watching them run and socialize with other dogs.
If you work during the day, consider getting a dog walker or enrolling them in doggie daycare. Even if you can only afford to get them out once or twice a week, they will tremendously benefit from the extra exercise.