Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ask Toto #44

Dear Toto,

I am exasperated with my dog.  I love Ben to death, but he insists on finding every stinky thing in the yard possible, and then rolling around in it.  Since he has s white coat, this is truly disgusting on a scent AND aesthetic level.  Why on earth would any dog want to do this and what can I do?

--  Fed up in Bishop, California

Hi Fed Up!

I guess we’re on kind of a stinky theme this month, are we?  Okay fine.  No problem.

I admit, this is one of the grosser things that dogs do.  And no, it doesn’t make sense to humans.  But you know, there’s plenty of things that humans do that make no sense to dogs.  Like waxing.

BUT! The common scientific explanation for why dogs like to roll around in stinky things is because back when dogs were wild and roamed in packs and were considered more as hunters than cute cuddly things that you sit on the couch with, rolling around in a stinky mess would help hide our natural scent from the things that we were tracking. So our prey would catch a whiff, and think “Hey, that sure smells awful over there. Thank God it’s not a dog,” and they’d relax and then we’d POUNCE, and the chase is on.

Those days are long behind us, but the instinct is still ingrained within our DNA.  Nowadays when we do it, it’s more like, “Oh my GOSH!  Can you believe this pile of mess I found!?  Nobody’s gonna believe this!  I’d better roll around in it and take it back to show everyone so they too can be amazed at the utter STENCH OF THIS STUFF!”

In other words, it’s the human equivalent of a frat boy calling his brothers into the bathroom to look at the amazing poop he just took.

Yep, it’s gross.  But seriously, can you BELIEVE THIS THING!

P.S., when you google the phrase, “Why do dogs roll around in dead animals, this picture of Russell Brand also came up. Which is hilarious to me, so I had to include it.  CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS THING!?”

Thanks for the question!

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ask Toto #43

Dear Toto,

Why do dogs sniff their butts?  Am I supposed to sniff the butt of any new person I meet?

-- Curious six year old in Iowa.

Hi Curious!

Oh, my gosh NO!  Do NOT sniff the butt of ANYBODY, new person or old person.  HUMANS DO NOT DO THAT!

This is a particularly interesting instinct that dogs do with dogs.

Look at it this way – Dogs can’t shake hands, right?  I mean, yes, they can shake hands with you if they’re sitting and you give them the command to “Shake hands.”  But dogs can’t shake hands with each other.  Because we’ve got four paws, which paws would we shake with, and the other dogs is wondering the same thing because with four paws per dog, you end up with a mathmathetical paw mess in no time.

So when dogs sniff butts, it’s the dog way of shaking hands.  Yes, I know it seems gross to humans. 

But a dog’s brain has a bigger capacity for smells.  We’ve already talked about our amazing super sensitive sniffer noses.  But a large percent of our brains (possibly the same percent that humans use to remember all the TV shows and movies they’ve seen) are devoted to recognizing and understanding smells (also why we bury bones, because we’re the ones that can find them buried under dirt thanks to our super sense of smell.)  So just how you can remember the first time you saw Wizard Of Oz with ME, we can remember the dogs we’ve met by smelling their butts.  The dog’s butt is our first impression – by smelling it, we can get a sense of who they are, if they’re a nice dog or an aloof one, if they’re not feeling great that day, and a whole bunch of other things.

So yes, of course it’s weird.  No, humans shouldn’t do it.  But that’s just one of the things that makes dogs dogs.

thanks for the question!

Ask Toto A Question runs twice a month until the questions run out.  Don't let that happen!  Send Toto your queries at