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  • Writer's pictureLyndsey MacKinnon

Why is my dog eating its poop?

Dogs eating poop, also known as ‘coprophagia’, although nauseating for us to witness, is common amongst our four-legged friends and there are various reasons why they take a liking to it.

Not only do many dogs eat their own faeces, other favourites include fox poo, cat poo, cow pats, horse manure or even other dog’s poop. But why exactly do they do this?

It is often put down to ‘nutritional deficiency’, with many claiming that the dog must be lacking in something their body needs. However, if we take a look at just how common this behaviour is, it’s clear that this is actually a common misconception. It is likely that unfortunately, your dog just really enjoys the taste and texture of it!

Here are the top reasons behind your dog snacking on stools:

1. They enjoy the taste and texture

Although difficult for us to comprehend, dogs have a very different sense of taste to us and some of them really enjoy the taste of poop! You may also notice that most dogs will only eat reasonably fresh poop, leading us to believe that they also enjoy a certain texture. Remember that unlike us humans, dogs explore everything with their mouths.

2. They are hungry and have found something to eat!

You may notice that your dog tends to eat poo more often when they are hungry or before they usually eat a meal, Research has found that ‘greedy’ dogs are more likely to eat poop. It’s worth considering whether they are getting enough food, getting the right quality of food that will keep them full for longer or whether their food schedule could be altered to avoid long gaps between meals.

3. It is a behaviour that they learned from their mother

Typically, the mother of a litter will eat her puppy’s poop. There are 2 reasons behind this. The first is that it will keep their den clean and hygienic so they have somewhere to sleep. The second is based on the idea that it is a survival instinct. In the wild, the mother would want to keep the scent of her puppies to a minimum to avoid attracting predators.

As puppies are learning how to behave from their mother, it is likely that they will instinctively copy this behaviour from a very young age. Most puppies will grow out of it but unfortunately some never do!

4. They are bored or stressed

Quite often we see unwanted behaviours in dogs as a response to stress, boredom or anxiety. If your dog struggles being left alone, they may eat poop out of boredom or anxiety. It is important to ensure that your dog is both physically and mentally stimulated before being left alone. You could also consider a dog walker to keep them company when you are away.

5. They have a medical condition

It is also worth considering some of the medical conditions which could lead your dog to eat their own poop:

· Diseases that increase their appetite such as worms, diabetes or thyroid issues.

· Digestive issues

· Medications such as steroids

It is always worth speaking to your vet about this, especially if your dog suddenly starts eating poop.

6. Habit

Some dogs start eating poo at a very young age and over time is just becomes a bad habit!

Is eating poop dangerous for dogs?

We should always try and discourage dogs from eating poop as it can contain unknown medications. Horse manure or other forms of livestock poop could contain worming medications that could be bad for your dog’s health. There is also a risk of parasites, viruses and bacteria. If they do eat poop, always give them water to drink afterwards and ensure you are cleaning your hands if near their mouth, don’t let them lick you and ensure that your dog is up to date with their worming medication.

How to stop your dog from eating poop

  • Ensure your garden is clear of poo and you are picking up your dog’s poo as soon as they go. Check outside for poos BEFORE letting your dog outside

  • DO NOT punish your dog for eating poop. This will just scare your dog and they will not understand why, however it will affect the relationship between you and your dog. Remember, this is a completely NORMAL behaviour for dogs and punishing them could lead to other behavioural issues.

  • Keep your dog on a lead when out on walks, even a long training line so that you can give them freedom but reel them in before you approach poo. Gently encouraging them to make a good choice!

  • Consider a muzzle if your dog is excessively eating poo to attempt to break the habit for their well-being

  • Work on training a solid RECALL and LEAVE IT. This is a big one. Ensure that when they recall in from the garden and leave the poo that you THROW A PARTY! Throw a handful of really tasty treats down indoors so that your dog chooses to recall again next time! Whenever your dog chooses NOT to eat poop, give them lots of praise and rewards. Initially start working on recall and ‘leave it’ with other less valuable objects indoors very, VERY frequently and with enough practice, it will become an instant reflex to look at you/run to you when they hear your recall or leave it cues.

Always remember that coprophagia is a completely normal canine behaviour and very common in our pets. Continue to use positive reinforcement and lots of praise when your dog makes a good choice. As always, management is key so ensure that your garden is clear of poops, your dog is on a lead and that you avoid poo on walks where possible.

Happy training!

Lyndsey MacKinnon

Head Trainer & Co-Founder

Canine Pawtential

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