Dogs are full of strange, quirky behaviors… and let’s be honest, not all of them are endearing. Drinking out of the toilet, digging through the trash, and scooting on their butts are certainly not ideal, but few—if any—habits are more disgusting than eating poop.
Poop-eating behavior (scientifically known as coprophagia) can occur for a variety of reasons, from psychological to physiological. Some dogs eat their own poop, some prefer the poop of other dogs, and others are more intrigued by the feces of other species. Snacking on stools is relatively harmless (aside from the bad breath that follows), but keep in mind that eating any contaminated feces could potentially cause health problems.
While eating poop is a relatively common behavior among canines, that doesn’t mean we’re not totally grossed out by it. There are a few theories about why some dogs eat poop, whether it’s their own or from another animal. Keep in mind that every dog is different, so keep in mind that the reason why one dog eats poop may be completely different from the reason another dog does the same thing.
The easiest explanation behind this not-so-adorable behavior: it tastes good. Dogs have completely different palates than humans, so it’s very possible that your pup simply enjoys the taste of poop.
An easy solution is to keep your yard as poop-free as possible. If you have cats, keep their litter box clean and out of reach. When you go on walks, monitor your dog closely and use commands such as “leave it” and “drop it.” It may also help to provide a toy or treat during bathroom breaks so he has something else to keep him occupied.
You may also want to consider feeding your dog some deterrents, or ingredients that can make his poop less appealing: chamomile, garlic, parsley, papaya, and cottage cheese are just a few examples of foods that some pet owners have had success with.
You’ve likely found your dog eating random things he finds on the ground or digging through your trash from time to time. This is because it’s in your dog’s DNA to scavenge for food, just like his ancestors.
If your pooch lives with a sick or elderly dog with digestive issues, he may eat his companion’s poop as a way to hide evidence of weakness. This is because dogs have an instinct to protect their “pack” from predators by not appearing vulnerable.
Puppies & Nursing Mothers
Eating poop is a common behavior among puppies and nursing mothers. This is because for the first few weeks after birth, mamas tend to clean up their puppies’ poop by eating it. If a pup gets used to smelling feces on his mom’s breath, he may develop a habit of doing the same thing.
As we know, babies (the human kind) love putting just about anything in their mouths as a way to explore. Puppies are the same! Perhaps your pup is interested in eating poop simply because it’s a way to explore the world around him. When this is the reason behind the behavior, it tends to fade by the time he’s around nine months old or so.
If your dog is regularly eating poop, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet to rule out any health concerns that need to be addressed. Common culprits can include parasites, nutritional deficiencies, mental health problems, or any conditions that could lead to an increased appetite. It’s also worth checking if medication side effects could be a reason why your dog eats poop.
Poor digestion could also cause your dog to feast on his feces; if his stools contain undigested food, that’s all the more appealing (to him). Supplements such as PetHonesty’s Digestive Probiotics Chews promote healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, making your pup’s poop much less tempting to eat.
Stress & Anxiety
Poop eating is not unusual behavior in dogs who have spent a lot of time confined in a small space and/or alone for long periods of time. It may be a way to manage boredom or a coping mechanism for anxiety.
Additionally, if a dog has a history of being punished harshly for bathroom accidents, he may learn that eating his poop is a good way to hide the evidence.
It’s normal to feel shocked and disgusted when you catch your dog in the act of eating poop. However, a strong reaction to any behavior inadvertently teaches your dog that this is a good way to get your attention. After all, negative attention is still attention.
If you find your dog eating poop, try to stay calm in order to avoid accidental encouragement.
If attention is the reason for your dog’s behavior, that’s an easy fix: set aside time each day for one-on-one quality time with your pup so you can bond in a healthy way!