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My dog loves to eat poop. Why?

cartoon poodle drawing on chalk board poop eating

Photo courtesy of diamondsintheruff.com

Poop eating, commonly referred to as Copraphagia is a nasty habit that is usually learned and is not actually a medical problem. Below you will find the top reasons why your dog eats poop and how you can cut down on their appetite for this nasty treat!

1. Oral fixation
Like human babies, puppies experience the world by putting everything in their mouths out of curiosity. Sadly, this includes feces. Hopefully, as your dog matures, this habit will decrease and eventually go away . . . but not always.

Tip: Encourage your dog to play with and investigate toys and other objects and show him plenty of affection and attention for proper behavior. Punishment or excessive attention to poop eating will only reinforce this negative behavior.

2. Learned behavior
Commonly called Allelomimetic behavior. Taking time to pick up the poop is a good idea, just make sure your puppy isn’t watching. If you, their idol, pick it up it must be good and they will want to investigate.

Tip: Leave Rover in the house while you de-poop the yard.

3. Attention-getting behavior
When caught in the act of poop eating, many dog owners react badly and get very upset, punishing the dog. To your dog, this is attention, doesn’t matter if it is negative or positive if they feel like you don’t show them enough attention.

Tip: Don’t overreact when catching Rover in the act. Keep it picked up when you can and show no emotion about him eating it. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, he will lose interest in eating the poo.

4. A clean crate is a happy crate
If kept in a kennel or crate, or sometimes even one room, your dog will try to keep it neat, doing their own housekeeping, especially if they don’t have enough room to get away from the waste. They will try to hold it until they can go outside, but accidents happen.

Tip: Try to clean up any accidents right away. If you can’t get home to walk them or clean up, consider finding a friend or neighbor who can come and walk the dog or at least clean up while you are gone.

5. Hiding the proof
Punishing your dog for pooping in the crate or in other areas will only encourage them to eat it so as to hide the evidence.

Tip: If your dog poops in his crate, don’t punish him. The odds are he just couldn’t wait any longer and you don’t want to reinforce negative behavior.

6. Instinct or Genetics
Some breeds are ‘carriers’ by nature. They pick up and carry things and hide them. Poop may be one of the things they carry around, whether they eat it or not. Also a female with puppies will eat their poop to keep the nest from attracting predators by the smell.

Tip: In a female with puppies, this instinct will go away when the puppies are house broken. In other dogs, you will have to teach the ‘leave it’ command and be sure to keep their area clean.

7. Feeding issues
Your dog may not be getting a proper nutritionally balanced diet or they are eating poor quality food. To balance the deficiency they resort to eating feces. Also, eating to little or too much can cause this poo eating habit.

Tip: Choose a high quality and nutritionally balanced food and provide it in correct quantities to keep your dog at their ideal weight. Working with your veterinarian will help achieve this result.

8. Medical issues
While not very common, your dog may be carrying parasites in their intestinal tract that cause poor digestion. Because of this, they may eat poop.

Tip: Your dog should be checked 2-3 times a year for intestinal parasites, as well as a general health check. If your dog regularly eats poop, they can pick up parasites also, so cleaning their area regularly will help prevent this issue.

If you try all these suggestions and you are still having a problem with your dog making a treat out of their poop, try adding fresh pineapple to their diet. Many dogs will respond well to this addition. The pineapple has natural enzymes that cause their poop to taste badly . . . as if it wasn’t bad enough to begin with!

Joe Martin owns a Veterinary Clinic in Lexington, KY. He is a pet care expert and has firsthand experience with many poop-eating dogs! He is also a college professor and enjoys sharing his colorful pet stories from the clinic with his students.

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One Response to My dog loves to eat poop. Why?

  1. Lynne says:

    Funny you used a photo of a Dachshund for this article. I have a mini Dachshund who exhibited this behavior when she was young. We’ve mostly overcome it through training – hers and mine. Here’s how we avoid this nasty habit:

    I walk Roxie on a leash and have a poop bag ready. Over the past 11 years, I’ve learned her habits and know when and where she likes to plop. When she completes the drop, I’m on it immediately with a quick scoop up. If she whips around and gets an eye on the pile, I simply tell her, “I’ve got you covered”. She’s come to know just what that means and will walk away from the pile so I can grab it.

    I think that if you allow your dog off-leash when they “go”, you have much less control over them and this behavior. So, walk your dog leashed and be ready with the baggies. You’ll both get used to the habit.


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