All dog owners dread this statement: Oh my god….my dog just ate poop.  After the initial shock the question is: Why Does My Dog Eat Poop!!  What do I do? The thought of this sends shivers down our spine, even from the best of us dog lovers.  The medical term for eating poop is Coprophagy.  Now doesn’t that make you feel better?  Probably not.  No matter how we try to wrap our brain around it, a dog eating poop just grosses most of us out.

Why does my dog eat poop?
Here are some of the top reasons your dog may eat poop.

  1. Dogs are born to eat poop: Yes, you read this right.  Dogs are born to be scavengers, living off of anything in their environment to survive.  When food is scarce, dogs instinctually scavenge for any nutrients they can find.  A mother with newborns will eat her puppies’ poop.  She does this for a number of reasons.  To stimulate the puppies to eliminate, to keep her den clean and to hide the smell of poop from predators.
  2. Your dog may have a medical issue: This is very important:  when your dog eats poop, take them to a veterinarian right away to eliminate any medical reasons for eating poop.  Some possibilities include a malabsorption problem, deficient in nutrients, parasites, diabetes, pancreatic problems, just to name a few.  It is really important that you rule all of these possibilities out.
  3. Your dog may be anxious: Sometimes your dog eats poop because they feel anxious.  Do you use punishment when housetraining?  If you do, they will eat their poop after they have an accident so that they do not get punished.
  4. Your dog may be seeking attention: Some dogs will eat poop to elicit attention from you.  When they want attention, it does not matter if they get positive attention or negative attention.  When you see your dog eating poop, if you yell at them and making a big deal out of it, you are giving them attention.
  5. Is your dog from a puppy mill?: Sometimes dogs from puppy mills will eat their own poop because they are bored.  Or it could be because of long term crating.   They are pooping and eating in the same place and do not know the difference.  It could also be because they are not fed enough of the right sorts of food, and their scavenger instinct kicks in.
  6. Eating dog poop may be a learned behavior: Doggie see, doggie do — Some dogs will pick this up by watching other dogs eating poop.

How do I get my dog to stop eating poop?
Why your dog eats poop can be for a number of reasons.  Be sure to bring your dog to the veterinarian to rule out any medical issues.  If they come back with a clean bill of health then it is most likely a behavioral issue.  Some important things to remember in attempting to stop your dog from eating poop are:

  1. Keep the Area Clean:  Be sure to keep the area where your dog eliminates clean of any poop so there is nothing for them to get.   Monitor your dog when outside.  Clean up poop immediately after they defecate.  If you need to have your dog on a leash to monitor them, then that is what you should do.
  2. Feed a well-balanced diet:  You may need to change the food that you are feeding your dog.  If it is not a well-balanced diet, this may be one of the causes of eating poop.  Food with lots of filler actually smells the same after being eaten. Also be sure to feed your dog enough. If they are not being fed enough and are hungry this may cause them to eat their poop.  If you are feeding once a day, change this to two meals a day.
  3. Exercise and Stimulate:  You want to be sure to give your dog enough exercise and find things that will stimulate them.  Dogs will eat their poop out of boredom.  After a good walk, maybe some really nice toys to play with and a good chew bone.
  4. Train them:  Be sure to train your dog with a command that will re-direct them if they are heading to eat the poop.  Some will use the word “Leave it”.  Be sure to give a positive reinforcement when they do.  A nice little treat, toy and praise.
  5. Add a deterrent: There are a lot of products that you can buy in a pet store that may help in making the poop very unappetizing for your pet.  These are really a trial and error.  You will need to try several to see what would work best for your pet.  There are also a lot of natural remedies that you can try.  You will have to try them to see if any of them would work for your dog.

Eating poop can be a hard habit to break in a dog.  Just remember, do not be discouraged.  Following and executing a good plan and creating distance between episodes will help you on the road to breaking this habit.
Has your dog eaten poop? Have you had any success making them stop? We would love to hear what you have done to stop your dog from eating poop.