Chances are, if you're reading this article, you have a dog who eats its own poop. It's gross, embarrassing, and can be difficult to talk about, but we have good news—you aren't alone. Lots of dogs eat their poop. Technically called coprophagia, there are several reasons why a dog might exhibit this behavior. We'll get to those in a minute.
But first, let's talk about why you really don't want your dog to eat poop — and why you should do what you can to help break the dirty habit. Eating poop can transmit gastrointestinal worms to your pup, it may cause GI upset, and it disrupts the pet-human bond. Do you want to get a kiss from a poop-eating dog? Probably not! So read on to learn more about why dogs eat poop in the first place and how you can help them stop.
Why do dogs eat their own poop?
Coprophagia in dogs is relatively common and happens for either a behavioral or medical reason. You'll want to take your dog to the vet for a check-up if they are eating their poop to rule out medical causes. There are a variety of health issues that could cause a dog to eat its own poop, including:
- lack of digestive enzyme
- nutrient-deficient diet
When it comes to behavior issues, there are also several reasons why dogs could be eating their own poop:
- imitation: If you add a new dog to your family and your current dog eats its poop, the new dog could pick up on the behavior and try it, too.
- ingrained behavior: Imitation isn't the only reason, though. Nursing moms sometimes will eat stool to keep the area clean for their puppies.
- stress or boredom: If your dog is left at home all day, they may try eating their poop and it might become a habit. If you aren't home during the day, try to make sure your pet has the opportunity to get some mid-day exercise with a dog walker.
- the scavenger instinct: It sounds disgusting to us, but for dogs, poop is just one more interesting thing they can scavenge and put in their mouths.
- attention-seeking behavior: If your dog isn't getting enough attention, it might take extreme measures — yes, like eating its poop — in an effort to draw you back to them.
How can I stop my dog from eating its poop?
If you suspect, or if a vet has confirmed, that your dog is eating poop because of a medical reason, talk with the vet about the steps you can take to prevent further incidents.
If your dog is taste-testing its poop due to behavioral triggers, you'll probably need to take an active role in helping them break the habit. Here are a few interventions to keep in mind:
- scoop the poop: When you're home and with your pet, be sure to pick up feces right away after your dog defecates.
- don't forget your cat: If you have a cat, keep their litter box clean and try to keep your dog from sniffing or digging into the cat's potty.
- provide a well-balanced diet: Food additives that claim to make your dog's poop taste bad are a popular option. It's better to just feed your dog its vet-recommended diet.
- keep your dog busy: This is important both when you are and aren't home. Puzzle toys like KONGs are a great way to give your dog mental exercise, and walking or playing with your dog daily will help them expend excess energy.
- practice positive reinforcement: Train your dog to "leave it" or "come" after they have eliminated, and reward them with a treat to develop a good habit versus reaching for items on the ground.
Above all, don't make a big deal about it if your dog does eat their poop. Redirect them away from it, pick it up, and move on. If you make a big scene or seem excited, your dog is more likely to continue eating poop. Continue to check in with your vet if you remain concerned about your pet's poop-eating habits.