Eating poop (feces) is technically known as coprophagia. This yucky habit is actually not that uncommon among our four-legged friends – especially among younger dogs. However, because coprophagia can lead to gastrointestinal parasites, vomiting and diarrhea, it is important for you to try your best to curb your dog’s poop-eating habit.
Mother dogs eat the feces of their newborn pups. The accumulation of feces around the mother and newborns would obviously lead to an unhealthy environment, so the mother’s poop-eating actually serves a positive function. When the pups start eating solid food and walking well enough to get out of the nest to poop, mom can stop the cleaning duty. But the habit can certainly persist in her, and the hard-wired instinct probably exists in most dogs, ready to be triggered by various life situations
Sometimes, dogs seem attracted to their own feces or feces of other dogs who eat a particular food or are on a particular diet. The type of food that seems to make feces palatable to a particular dog varies from dog to dog. Thus, if your dog is eating his own poop, you might be able to solve the problem by changing his diet. Be sure to make dietary changes gradually. Mix the new food in with the old over a period of several days or weeks to give your dog’s intestines time to adjust and to avoid diarrhea from the change
First, keep your dog’s area clean of feces. This means housetraining your dog and supervising the dog whenever he is in his designated relief area (It is interesting to note that adult dogs who were paper-trained seem more inclined to eat poop than those who learned to defecate only outdoors). Prevention – or at least making it very tough for your dog to access feces – tends to make the habit fade over time.
Second, behavior modification can help get rid of the poop-eating habit. The behavior modification tools you’ll need are a collar or head halter for your dog, a leash, and small treats your dog values highly. Take your leashed dog out to potty with the treats in your pocket. As soon as your dog shows interest in some poop or as soon as his own poop hits the ground, call the dog to you. Use the leash not to jerk your dog, but simply to keep the dog from being able to reach the feces. When your dog does reach you, praise him and give the treat. This mini-training session with the tasty treats usually takes your dog’s mind off the poop and gives him the added bonus of some tasty treats. Go indoors with the dog and come back out without the dog to clean up. By repeating this process every time your dog defecates, you are re-shaping his behavior from paying attention to his “tasty” poop into paying attention to you and the possibility of a delicious and appropriate reward.
Finally, there are few commercial products available at your local pet store that help to deter your dog from feces-eating if his tendency is primarily to eat his own poop or the poop of other dogs in your household. For the most part, these products are simply digestible powders that you sprinkle on your dog’s food causing the feces to have a bad taste. Your dog soon becomes conditioned to think that poop tastes bad. Some people have also sprinkled steak tenderizer or hot sauce on feces to give it a bad taste. In general, however, these commercial products tend to be less effective in ending poop eating than using any combination of the other methods described above.
Why Dogs Eat Poop: 20 Reasons
1. Your dog might be hungry. If your dog doesn’t have access to food, he might eat poop.
2. Some dogs will eat poop to clean up an area like a housekeeper. This is most likely if your dog is confined to a crate or kennel, or when he’s chained up or otherwise restricted. He’s taking care of his space.
3. If your dog likes to carry poop, and then eat it, it could be genetics. Some dogs have instincts to carry stuff in their mouths.
4. Your dog might be eating poop because of parasites or worms. They can suck nutrients out of your dog, driving him to eat poop. It might also leave him extra hungry because of the lack of proper fuel.
5. Your dog might be eating cat poop or other animal poop to get key nutrients and minerals not available in his own food.
6. Some dogs will simply eat poop to pass the time. Dogs will eat poop because they are bored or lonely. It can be a sign of neglect.
7. Your dog might eat poop because he’s anxious, nervous or otherwise upset. Stress will drive animals to do odd things.
8. Some dogs will eat poop to hide the evidence. If you punish your dog for pooping, he might eat it to stop you from getting angry.
9. If your dog has puppies, she might eat puppy poop. This is an instinct to hide the poop from predators. Poop is evidence. Getting ride of it keeps her puppies safe.
10. Some young dogs and puppies will eat poop as a novelty. That is, they’ll eat poop as an experiment. They don’t know better.
11. If your dog watches you pick up poop, he might learn to do the same. This is called allelomimetic behavior. Your dog observes you and learns from you, by putting the poop in his mouth you put poop in a bag.
12. Your dog might see others dogs eating poop. From this, they learn to eat poop too.
13. Many dogs simply like the taste of poop. This obviously doesn’t make sense to dog owners but that’s irrelevant. Some dog like to eat it and that’s that. It’s warm, moist, and very much like what your dog was given as a very young puppy.
14. If your dog food lacks key nutrients, he might eat poop. Your dog is trying to get “food” with nutrients any way possible, even from his own poop.
15. Sometimes dog poop seems like dog food. This can happen when dog food is low quality and includes materials that are easily passed and not absorbed by your dog. When the dog poops, it seems to be very much like the food he just consumed!
16. In some cases, dogs will eat poop if they are given too much food. This is especially true if your dog’s diet is high in fat.
17. Some dogs will eat poop to gain attention. Many dog owners get very upset when their dog eats poop, which means the dog gets attention. This is a wonderful opportunity for your dog to interact with you, although it is because of negative attention.
18. It is possible that some dogs will eat the poop of other, more dominant dogs. Your dog might be more submissive than other dogs, resulting in strange poop eating behavior. This seems to occur more in households with multiple dogs where dominance and submission is a factor. Obviously this doesn’t explain much about dogs eating cat poop or other animal poop.
19. It is possible that your dog wants to eat more than one time per day. If you only feed your dog once per day, and your dog eats poop, it could be an indication they want to eat more frequently.
20. In some cases, your dog will eat poop by accident. Dogs are curious and will try to eat almost anything, including poop. Dogs explore the world through taste and smell, much more than humans.