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

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

Critter Culture Staff



For many dog owners, there's nothing more off-putting than watching their beloved pet head outside for a bathroom break, only to find them eating their own poop. This behavior, while disturbing, is a common concern that raises questions about both hygiene and the dog's well-being. It's enough to make even the thought of your dog's affectionate licks seem less appealing.

Why do dogs engage in this behavior, and what can be done to stop it? These are questions that dog owners often grapple with. The reasons dogs eat poop are varied, ranging from behavioral issues to dietary deficiencies. It's a problem that can leave owners feeling frustrated and unsure of how to react.

The good news is that there are several strategies and approaches to discourage this behavior. Understanding the root causes is the first step in addressing the issue effectively. This article aims to shed light on why dogs might turn to this habit and offers practical advice on how to prevent it. By tackling this issue, you can ensure the health and happiness of your pet, while maintaining a clean and hygienic home environment.


Veterinarians call it coprophagia

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.

why do dogs eat poop FatCamera / Getty Images


A lot of dogs eat poop

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.

To help curb your dog's poop-eating habit and improve their digestive health, introduce Perfect Poop Digestion & General Health Supplement for Dogs into your routine.

eat poop David Osberg / Getty Images


Dogs like hard fresh poop

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.

why do dogs like eat poop Geshas / Getty Images


Dogs can be shamed into eating poop

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.

Heide Benser / Getty Images


Stress and environmental factors play a role

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.

eating poop Lyly / Getty Images


Possible health problems

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.

Address potential health issues that may cause your dog to eat poop by providing them with Zesty Paws Multivitamin Treats for Dogs into your routine.

health why do dogs eat poop cmannphoto / Getty Images


How to train your dog to stop

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.

training a dog not to eat poop spyderskidoo / Getty Images


Diet supplements help the dog to stop

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.

Enhance your dog's diet with Zuke’s Mini Naturals Soft And Chewy Dog Treats.

puppies that eat poop GeorgePeters / Getty Images


Make it taste bad

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.

eat poop train dogs TerryJ / Getty Images


Keep the dog on a leash

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.

dogs eat poop FatCamera / Getty Images


Evolutionary background

dog poop

Believe it or not, the unsightly habit of poop eating, or coprophagia, has roots that go deep into the canine's ancestral lineage. Ancient dogs, living wild and free, had to scavenge to survive, often consuming what they could find, including feces, to extract any remaining nutrients. This behavior, while distasteful to us, was a survival strategy that helped canines cope with food scarcity. Understanding this can give pet owners a bit of perspective on why our modern dogs might still display this ancient behavior.


The role of a dog's mother

Newborn Labrador Retriever Baby and Mother

From birth, puppies learn everything from their mother, including, sometimes, the habit of eating poop. Mother dogs lick their puppies to encourage them to eliminate and then consume the feces to keep the den clean and free from parasites. This behavior might seem gross, but it is a natural aspect of canine maternal care. Puppies observing this may mimic the behavior, believing it to be a normal part of dog life. Thankfully, most puppies outgrow this habit as they mature and become more independent.


Nutritional analysis

amazing portrait of young crossbreed dog (german shepherd) during sunset in grass

Feces, particularly from herbivores like rabbits and deer, can contain undigested particles of food rich in nutrients. To dogs, these "leftovers" can be an irresistible source of protein and fat. While domestic dogs do not need to eat feces to obtain these nutrients, thanks to well-balanced dog foods, the lingering instinct can sometimes drive them to snack on these unconventional treats. Supplementing your dog's diet with the necessary vitamins and ensuring they are fed adequately can help curb this behavior.


The psychological aspect

French bulldog dog waiting for owner at the door

Stress, anxiety, and even boredom can lead dogs down the path of eating poop. Dogs experiencing separation anxiety or those left alone for long periods may turn to coprophagia as a form of self-soothing or simply to pass the time. Understanding the emotional and psychological needs of your dog is crucial in preventing this behavior. Providing ample mental and physical stimulation can help keep their mind off such undesirable habits.


Impacts of isolation and confinement

Puppy illness. Sad dog is bored

Dogs are social creatures, and isolation or confinement can have negative effects on their mental health, manifesting in various unwanted behaviors, including coprophagia. Dogs confined in small spaces or isolated from human and animal interaction for too long might resort to eating feces out of boredom or frustration. Ensuring your dog has a comfortable space and regular social interactions can help mitigate these behaviors.


What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Get your paws on the latest animal news and information