Almost anyone who has a dog knows about this. While it might seem absolutely disgusting to humans, countless other animals are known to practice coprophagia (eating poop). In fact, some animals would become nutritionally deficient if they didn’t undergo this strange and mysterious behavior.
So, why in the world would any dog want to eat his own feces, and, more to the point, what can you do to stop your dog from doing it?
Why Dogs Eat Poop
There isn’t one overall reason why dogs eat poop. In fact, there are several explanations for this strange behavior! First of all, eating poop is a normal, expected behavior for mothers with newborn pups, with the mother cleaning her pups’ bottoms until about three weeks, and it’s also normal for puppies.
- A mother might eat her puppies’ poop in order to get rid of the scent so predators won’t pick up on it, a protective instinct.
- Dogs sometimes seek extra nutrients not found in their diets.
- Poop eating can result from anxiety.
- Poop eating can result from anxiety.
- Isolation and boredom can lead to poop eating.
- Eating poop may also be an attention seeking behavior.
It’s usually harmless for dogs to eat their own poop. However, the danger comes when they consume the droppings of other animals, which may be contaminated with dangerous parasites, viruses, or bacteria. But, even if the poop eating is completely harmless, it is still an unwanted behavior for most dog owners. So how can we stop it?
1. Improve the Quality of Your Dog’s Diet
Though it isn’t always the reason why dogs might eat their own poop, nutrition can be a big factor. If you are one of the millions of dog owners throughout the world that feed a cheap, low-quality, high-grain based dog food, you might want to consider switching to a high-quality animal protein based dog food.
Some say dogs that eat poop are subconsciously looking for proteins not found in their diets. This makes perfect sense, since some dog owners feed their pets foods that lack the animal proteins a dog needs.
2.Offer Vitamin Supplements with Meals
Vitamin B deficiency in particular is a possible explanation as well. Consult with your dog’s veterinarian to determine if vitamin supplements or a special diet could give your dog what he is lacking.
3. Consider Supplementing with Enzymes
In an attempt to produce cheaply made pet food on a massive scale, many commercial dog foods now contain more carbs and less animal protein. Some dog owners claim to have had success with a meat tenderizer containing the enzyme papain. Ask your veterinarian if this approach may help to curb your dog’s appetite for poop.
4. Clean Dog Droppings Every Day
Perhaps this should have been listed as number one! If you clean your dog’s poop either every day or immediately after he goes to the bathroom, there will be nothing to eat. Though this likely requires watching your dog while he is out, you can purchase a pooper scooper and cleanup bags at any pet store and easily turn them inside out to fit over your hand. If that seems disgusting to some, many pooper scooper brands sell fantastic items to help you!
5. Treat Your Pet’s Anxiety
Does your dog suffer from intense separation anxiety or other types of anxiety when you aren’t home? This can not only lead to poop eating, but it can also contribute to other destructive behaviors. Happy Tail Syndrome is one such example in which a dog will wag his tail so violently it may become injured.
If your dog is suffering from anxiety and eats poop, there is a good chance the two are related. By treating your dog’s anxiety issues, you might be able to get his poop-eating behavior to go away on its own.
6. Work on Your Training
The commands “leave it” and “come” can be very helpful in these situations. One simple yet highly recommended exercise is to teach your dog to come to you for a treat reward as soon as he’s eliminated, preventing the opportunity to eat his droppings.
Of course, you will have to clean up after your pet in order to prevent your dog from eating poop at the next available opportunity. This way, your dog will also get in the habit of running to you in expectation of a tasty treat reward, and all thoughts of poop eating are gone. In fact, this activity will help with potty training in general. Rewarding your pup after he eliminates lets your dog know eliminating outside is a good thing, it’s what his owner wants, and he will receive good things for it.
7. Consider taste Aversion Spray
Spray products are readily available at most pet stores, often used on furniture, and leave a taste that dogs dislike. However, you can also use this handy spray on your dog’s poop.
The idea is to create a negative association with all poop for your dog. After biting into that first bitter clump, your dog will hopefully no longer want anything to do with his waste. Of course, make sure the spray is safe for your dog before buying it!
Stop Poop Eating Easily!
Like many other things, there is always a reason your dog is eating his poop. Getting your dog to stop eating poop is simply a matter of figuring out what that reason is! If the culprit is poor nutrition, simply consider switching to a new dog food or adding supplements. If anxiety is a heavy issue, emphasize treating that. Puppies sometimes eat poop because they have developed the habit, but they will often grow out of it.
My name is Chris, I’m 33 and write about dogs when I’m not playing with my two furry employees of the month, Loki and Volly. As a dog lover, agility trainer, and social media specialist, there is always enough work to do and never a boring day around! After having literally written hundreds of articles, there is still no short supply of knowledge to be gained and I’m surprised with unusual requests every now and then.