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Why Do Dogs Eat Poop and How Do You Stop It?
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Why Do Dogs Eat Poop and How Do You Stop It?

Charlie, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jul 20, 2020

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There are few things more disturbing to pet owners than letting their dog run outside to poop only to end up watching them eat it. All of a sudden, the thought of the dog licking your face becomes a non-starter. The question many dog owners have is why dogs eat poop and how to stop it. It turns out there are a few reasons why they do it, and there are ways to make them stop.

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1

Veterinarians Call it Coprophagia

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The eating of one's own poop is referred to in scientific fields as "coprophagia." Dogs can be indiscriminate poop eaters, meaning they will consume the feces of other dogs, too. This condition can develop either because of behavior or health issues. It's important to know the reason why your dog is doing this so you can address it properly and develop methods to get them to stop.

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2

A Lot of Dogs Eat Poop

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Studies on this behavior have found that almost a quarter of dogs engage in this type of behavior, and over half of the dogs that do it are chronic eaters. Some studies suggest the behavior derives from the fact that dogs are natural scavengers and will eat just about anything they find on the ground. This was a method ancestral dogs used to get and recycle needed nutrients to maintain good health.

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3

Dogs Like Hard Fresh Poop

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Dogs typically have a preference for the type of poop they like to eat. Among the favorites are piles that have hardened. Dogs typically don't eat soft or poorly formed feces, instead choosing poop that is hard or has been frozen by cold weather. Pet owners who have dogs that suffer from this condition often refer to the feces as poopsicles.

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4

Dogs Can Be Shamed into Eating Poop

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The feelings of shame in a dog can begin during the house-training period of a young puppy. This is particularly true for dogs that have been trained not to poop in the house by having their nose rubbed in the mess. Veterinarians have observed that the feeling of shame and fear of disapproval from their owners is one reason why some dogs will clean up their mess orally after they have made it.

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5

Stress and Environmental Factors Play a Role

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Certain stress and environmental factors have been identified as potential causes for dogs to eat poop. The factors include:

  • Keeping the Dog Alone: Many dogs do not react well to spending a lot of time alone, and it causes them stress. Dogs that are isolated and stressed are more likely to eat poop than ones that spend a lot of time with others.
  • Get a Reaction: Dogs like to eat poop to see how you will react. It could be its way of teasing you and getting you excited.
  • Protect the Pack: Studies have shown that younger dogs will often eat the poop of an elderly or sick dog. Scientists think this is because the dogs learned to eat the poop to eliminate the scent predators can follow.
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6

Possible Health Problems

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Your dog could be suffering from health problems, and eating poop is a way of alleviating them. There are several health issues that lead to this behavior:

  • Poor Diet: Dogs will eat poop to supplement their nutrient and calorie intake.
  • Malabsorption Syndrome: This occurs when damage is done to the intestinal tract due to sickness, injury, chronic diseases, and infections.
  • Drug: Steroids and the overuse of antibiotics can lead to poop-eating behavior.
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7

How to Train Your Dog to Stop

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There are a few things you can do to train your dog to stop eating poop. One of the best ways is to clean up the poop right after it goes to the bathroom, so there's nothing on the ground to eat. If you have cats, you should put the litter box in a place where the dog cannot get at it. Another method is to keep treats in your pocket so the dog will come to you right after they poop instead of paying attention to what is on the ground.

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8

Diet Supplements Help the Dog to Stop

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As stated, one of the reasons dogs will eat poop is to ingest the nutrients in it. If you supplement the diet with nutrients, it will have less reason to search for other sources. There are a couple of supplements you can use.

  • Vitamin-B: Studies have shown that dogs with a vitamin-B deficiency have an increased likeliness of eating poop.
  • Enzyme Supplements: Today's dogs eat a much different diet than those from the past, and it often lacks the amount of meat-based proteins in place of carbohydrates.
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9

Make it Taste Bad

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Obviously, a dog that eats poop doesn't mind the taste too much. You should add ingredients onto the poop to change its mindset. For example, put hot sauce or some other disagreeable tasting substance onto the fresh pile. In time, your dog will learn to avoid the poop instead of eating it.

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10

Keep the Dog on a Leash

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Another method to control your dog's poop-eating behavior is to always take it outside on a leash until it poops in the backyard. Once it poops, pull the dog away and tie it up while you clean up the mess to remove the temptation. You can let the dog run free once the mess is cleaned up.

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