Remember that scene from “Beethoven” where George Newton comes home and finds his dog and home covered in mud? There are muddy paw prints up the stairs, down the hall, and the Newtons’ bed is destroyed. Kind of a worst-case scenario for any pet parent. 

Not only can a muddy dog make a mess in your home, but experts also note that a dog covered in mud can be exposed to certain health risks. So why do dogs roll in the mud, and how can you get your pup clean after doing it? Find out here.

Why Do Dogs Roll in Mud?

Dog rolling in the mud

Dogs seem to gravitate toward getting dirty naturally. 

“Digging is a natural behavior for dogs, and playing in the mud could easily be seen as water digging,” says Dr. Crista Coppola, a certified dog behaviorist. “Dogs are great at finding rewarding activities for themselves, and playing in the mud is probably very reinforcing for some dogs.”

Coppola says that playing and rolling in mud could also help a dog cool off in warm weather, and rolling in mud may have a soothing effect on a dog’s irritated skin. 

No specific dog breed is more prone to getting muddy, but dogs who enjoy swimming and digging in dirt may wind up being muddy more often. 

You’ll want to note if your dog is eating dirt or mud, as that can indicate anemia. If your dog regularly tries to eat dirt or mud, they should be seen by a veterinarian.

Muddy Dog Problems

For the most part, a muddy dog is probably more likely to pose a problem for you and your furniture, but there are some health issues to be aware of that could result from muck and mud:

  • Skin issues. A consistently muddy dog will need to be bathed more often, which may cause skin dryness or irritation, says Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, director of Kingsgate Animal Hospital in Lubbock, Texas. 
  • Risk of developing parasites. Parasites, such as coccidia and giardia, are found often in wet areas, Coppola says
  • Contact with bacteria or chemicals. Dogs that play in mud may be exposed to leptospirosis, chemicals, or other harmful bacteria. They should never be allowed to drink from puddles, Coppola says. 

Dogs with long hair may be especially susceptible to skin issues if caked-on mud is left in their coats. “Mats and skin infections are an issue, and any mud on a dog should be washed off as soon as possible,” Whittenburg says.

Muddy Dog: Quick Cleaning Tips

Muddy dog standing out in the puddle mud

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To quickly remove mud and dirt without having to bathe your dog, use a wet washcloth with a small amount of dog shampoo to scrub mud and dirt off of them gently, says Noel Saunders, head groomer and manager of Trifecta Kennels. “Alternatively, you can use pet-friendly wipes for dogs with a short coat.” 

Here are a couple other products to consider to keep your home clean:

Dog Gone Smart Dirty Dog Doormat

Done Gone Smart Dirty Doormat

This paw mat is great to keep in the garage or entryway. The microfiber material helps absorb mud, dirt and water when your dog steps on it. It’s easy to clean and can be tossed into the washing machine after getting soiled. 

Paw Plunger

Paw Plunger

This is an excellent gadget for cleaning muddy dog paws. To use, add warm water to the top row of bristles, guide your dog’s paw into the cup and allow the soft bristles of the built-in brush to wipe away mud, dirt and debris. You can keep it in your garage and bring it with you while traveling.

Keep dogs with muddy paws outdoors until you have adequately cleaned them to keep your home clean. Thoroughly wiping a dog off before they come into the home can prevent muddy paw prints from being tracked across your floors and carpets and protect your furniture from stains.

How to Bathe a Muddy Dog

If your dog is genuinely muddy, he’ll need more than a quick wipe of his paws. “When bathing your pet at home, massage the coat with your fingers to help get the mud out of their fur,” says Saunders. “If that doesn’t work, you may need to contact a professional groomer who has stronger products and techniques to do the job.” 

He recommends these products for at-home bathing:

Fresh ‘N Clean Moisturizing Shampoo

PetAg Fresh n Clean Scented Dog Shampoo

This is great for detangling knots and has a long-lasting scent to keep your dog’s coat smelling fresh. 

Bark Logic Lavender Leave-In Conditioner

BarkLogic - Leave in Spray Conditioner - Detangler Spray for Dogs & Puppies

This contains aloe, chamomile, and lavender – all of which help condition, refresh, deodorize and protect your dog’s coat.

Fresh ‘N Clean Oatmeal Shampoo

PetAg Fresh 'n Clean Oatmeal 'n Baking Soda Dog Shampoo

This is a great choice for dogs with dry or sensitive skin. 

If your pet has mud all over his body, carry or lead him right to the bathtub before he has a chance to run through your home. A little quick action can keep your home—and your dog—safe. 

How to Stop a Dog From Playing in the Mud

Dog standing out in the forest

As for how to keep your dog from playing in the mud? 

“As with many behaviors that are more of a problem for the owner than for the dog, management and prevention are key,” says Coppola. She suggests blocking access to muddy areas in your yard and keeping your dog away from playing unsupervised. 

“Additionally, provide other non-mud enrichment opportunities for the dog to help keep him mentally and physically enriched,” she adds.