If you've ever seen a dog happily eating its poop, you might be wondering why. And if you're the owner of that dog, it's probably driving you crazy! The truth is that there are many reasons why dogs eat their poop - and we'll tell you about them in this article. We'll also provide some tips on how to deal with your pup's habit of eating poo (yes, we said "poop"). Sound good? Then keep reading!
Why do dogs eat poop?
Dogs learn from their mothers that eating poop is a way to keep their environment clean. This natural habit usually goes away by the time the puppy is about nine months old.
There are other reasons why dogs might eat their feces, however. Illness and parasites can be a cause, as well as dietary deficiencies for example as a result of being blocked access to food in a multi-dog household. The reason can be complicated and highly individual to the dog.
Here are five reasons why your dog may be engaging in coprophagia:
- Mother's instinct: Puppies eat feces because their mother would lick them clean after they were born. This practice keeps the den clean and prevents disease by getting rid of bacteria in their droppings.
- Dietary deficiencies: Dogs with upset stomachs often lose interest in food, so eat what is most easily accessible - which happens to be poop.
- Attention: Dogs will eat their poop as a way of getting attention from you, even if it's negative. Even though your dog might be grounded for the rest of his life (no more walks!), he'll keep doing what gets him noticed - and continues to get himself into trouble!
- Boredom: Is your dog alone for long periods? If so, they might eat poop out of boredom.
- Illness: Dogs that are sick or have parasites often will not feel like eating their food. However, because dogs instinctually need to keep the den clean, they'll still consume their feces.
Why do dogs eat cat poop?
Some dogs will also eat the feces of cats and other animals. This is usually due to a dietary deficiency, as most cat feces contain more nutrients than dog feces. Dogs that are fed only commercial pet food may develop this habit since their diet is typically low in fiber and high in carbohydrates.
What to do about it
If you've ruled out all health-related causes for your dog's coprophagia, here are some things you can do to discourage the behavior:
- Keep your yard clean by picking up after your pet and fence in your garden.
- Feed your pet an appropriate, high-quality diet with plenty of nutritional value so they get all the nutrition they need from their food and don't feel the need to eat poop.
- Provide plenty of toys and activities to keep your dog occupied when they're alone, so they don't get bored.
- Start a training program where you consistently reward your pet for not eating feces. Be patient and consistent with this - it may take some time before the behavior is changed.
- There are several off-the-shelf deterrents for coprophagia in dogs that are in the form of treats that will make your dogs poop less appealing to eat. For example Zesty Paws chew no poo bites.
If you're not sure why your dog is eating poop, speak to a vet. They might be able to help solve the riddle and stop the behavior from continuing.
No matter what reason it's happening or how severe of an issue it becomes, don't punish your pup for something natural and instinctual! Making them feel ashamed or bad about themselves will only make the situation worse. Stay calm and consistent with your approach to solving this problem, realize this is a natural behavior for puppies under 9 months, and make sure you consult your vet to ensure that the underlying cause gets addressed and that your dog doesn't have any health issues.