Why Dogs Eat Poop and How to Stop It

why dogs eat poop

Have you ever wondered why dogs eat poop, and do you wish they would just stop because you find it disgusting?  

Poop eating, or coprophagia, can be a dog eating his own or poop of other animals. No matter what we think of it, it is not such an unnatural thing for them to do. 

It can happen at any age so the information presented here will be helpful, no matter how old your dog is. If it’s a sudden thing then see your vet. I always recommend a visit in cases of changes in behavior, to rule out any medical problems.

Possible explanations for eating poop

Your dog may have been reprimanded for eating poop in the past, and quickly learned it’s a good way to get attention. For many dogs, especially neglected ones, negative attention is still attention.

Puppies learn about the world around them by putting things in their mouth, and that includes poop. Some grow out of this phase, others don’t. Keep an eye out, clean up immediately, and give him toys to chew on.

Dogs see you picking up poop, so may try to copy what you’re doing.

Sadly some dogs get punished for making a mess, even having their noses rubbed in it. He may eat the poop next time to avoid this kind of treatment.

A mother may eat her puppies’ poop to get rid of the scent, keeping them safe from predators.

Your dog finds it something pleasurable to do.

If a dog isn’t getting enough food, or the right diet, he may start looking elsewhere. Poop might be the perfect supplement for his nutrient deficiency.

A good source of protein.

Many dogs do it for attention, even if they’re being scolded. Attention is attention.

Puppy mill dogs are at high risk because of hunger, being weaned too young, or sitting in a tiny crate for weeks, months or years with nothing to do.

Before domestication, dogs were wild and fed off the waste of other animals. This could be a leftover from dog history.

Learned behavior from other dogs.

If a dog’s living area is not kept clean, he may do his own housekeeping.

Some evidence suggests a dog’s digestive system isn’t suited to modern diets, and poop replenishes enzymes needed to better digest food.

In a multi dog household, submissive dogs may sometimes eat the poop of the more dominant ones.

Boredom and loneliness may make it a fun pastime. Is your dog getting enough physical exercise, and mental stimulation?

If a dog in a multi dog household gets sick, a healthy dog may sometimes eat the poop of the sick one. It is thought to be instinctual, hiding the sick dog from predators.

Cat food is higher in fat and protein than dog food, so is their poop, making it a tasty treat.

Some dogs don’t produce enough digestive enzymes, and will eat the poop of other animals to supplement. Rabbit poop being one of the best sources.

Being in a stressful situation, like a shelter for instance.

Are there health consequences?

Dogs don’t tend to get ill from eating poop, but it is possible for them to pick up a parasite.

Prevention/Solutions

Pick up after the dog

Keep him on a leash in a public area

Keep the litter box clean

Move the litter box out of the dog’s reach or block access, leaving a large enough opening for the cat, but not the dog.

Give your dog plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom. Bored dogs can develop behaviors and habits that others don’t.

Improve your dog’s diet.

Teach him “leave it”

Apparently adding a bit of pineapple to your dog’s food can make poop taste unpleasant. Consult with your vet to make sure it’s suitable for your dog’s diet.

In some stubborn cases, people may resort to methods such as spraying the dog with water, using citronella collars or shaking a can of coins to stop him.  Aside from having to get the timing right to actually have an effect, they can be unpleasant and frightening.

Because eating poop can be very rewarding to your dog, it’s worth trying to offer something he will find even more rewarding, hot dogs, chicken…. Something he doesn’t typically get.

Don’t make a huge deal out of dragging him away, or yelling at him when you see him about to indulge. Doing that may cause him think it’s something special, and go after it even more.

Why dogs eat poop – conclusion

I hope you have a better understanding of the possible reasons why dogs eat poop, and the recommendations for how to stop and prevent it will prove beneficial. 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Gina Gonzalez

    Hi Hindy, Our senior dog got parasites twice recently from eating the cat poop of stray cats hanging out in our backyard. Apparently cat poop is a delicacy! It was frightening because he is going on 14 years old and has a heart murmur. We had the toughest time getting the cats to stay out of our yard because we live in a neighborhood where people around us feed them. We love cats, but we need our dog to be safe so after trying various safe methods that failed, we finally bought a fake owl that has a moving head with glowing eyes. It has worked well. I think my pooch misses the cats though because now they are not around to chase.:) ~Gina

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Gina, some dogs just love the taste of cat poop, and especially if it’s from strays, it’s almost impossible to keep them out and control your dog’s access. Clever to buy that owl, I haven’t heard anyone else try that trick before, I’m definitely going to keep it in mind. I do think it’s wonderful that your neighbours are kind enough to help care for the cats.

      Reply

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