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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

why do dogs eat poop FatCamera / Getty Images

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.


A lot of dogs eat poop

eat poop David Osberg / Getty Images

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.


Dogs like hard fresh poop

why do dogs like eat poop Geshas / Getty Images

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.


Dogs can be shamed into eating poop

Heide Benser / Getty Images

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.


Stress and environmental factors play a role

eating poop Lyly / Getty Images

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.


Possible health problems

health why do dogs eat poop cmannphoto / Getty Images

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.


How to train your dog to stop

training a dog not to eat poop spyderskidoo / Getty Images

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.


Diet supplements help the dog to stop

puppies that eat poop GeorgePeters / Getty Images

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.


Make it taste bad

eat poop train dogs TerryJ / Getty Images

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.


Keep the dog on a leash

dogs eat poop FatCamera / Getty Images

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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