No one loves to talk about dog poo. However, if you’ve got a dog who loves eating poo on your hands, the subject probably comes up a lot. You’ve probably asked yourself – and every other Dog Owner you know – why do dogs eat their own poop?
After all, having to warn friends and your vetted Pet Sitter to avoid kisses from your poop-eating pup is embarrassing. You’re probably also worried about whether eating poo is healthy and safe for your furbaby.
So in this article, we’re going to ask: why do dogs eat their own poop? And, more importantly, what can you do about it? The answers may surprise you, so let’s jump right in!
Understanding coprophagia – the scientific answer for “ why do dogs eat their own poop?”
There are both medical and behavioural reasons why a dog might practice coprophagia, or the consumption of faeces – be it their own, another dog’s, or another species’. Interestingly, not all dogs eat their own poop. In fact, most try to cover up their poo and avoid touching the poo of other animals. By contrast, though, some doggos just can’t get enough. Whether it’s in their backyard, neighbourhood, or local dog park, they’ll gobble down any faeces they can find. So what’s the deal?
Let’s start with the medical reasoning. Some vets suggest that dogs eat their own poop as a result of a medical deficiency. On the one hand, an underfed dog or a dog with a thyroid problem may eat anything in sight. Parasites or other digestive issues may also prevent a pup from being able to absorb crucial nutrients from their diet. In all of these cases, a dog might turn to poo as a source of food.
When it comes to behavioural theories, that’s where things get a little less cut and dry. Here are just a few of the possible reasons why a dog might eat poop:
- Learned behaviour from the puppy years. Sometimes puppies will eat poop out of curiosity or as an attention-seeking behaviour. Another theory suggests that puppies learn the habit from their mothers, who keep the den clean by eating their puppy’s waste.
- Anxiety and discomfort. Dogs left alone for long periods of time or who came from overcrowded shelters are more likely to eat their own poop. Also, dogs who were improperly potty-trained (by shoving their nose in their own poop) can find themselves confused. A dog may try to eat the poop in an attempt to avoid punishment or think they’re supposed to eat it.
- Survival tactics. Animal behaviourists have suggested some interesting hypotheses about coprophagia. One is that dogs eat the fresh poop around their dwellings to prevent the growth of bacteria and parasites. Another suggests that dogs eat the poop of their elderly or sick pack members to prevent detection from predators.
Curbing the tendency in in dogs
Now that we know a bit more about why dogs eat their own poop, let’s talk about some solutions.
- Check in with your dog’s veterinarian. Even if you think that the behaviour isn’t medically-related, it’s still a good idea to get a professional opinion. Make sure that your Pet Sitter is also in the loop so that you can both monitor the poop-eating behaviour.
- Keep your pup’s area poo-free. Even the most avid poo-eaters will generally stay away from poop that is older than two days old. In other words, keeping your pup away from fresh poo is key.
- Give your doggo plenty of love and attention. Remember, an isolated dog is more likely to practice coprophagia. Your doggo shouldn’t spend excessive time locked in a cage or kennel or in the backyard. You might want to revisit crate training to make sure that your doggo is happy and comfortable.
- Correct the behaviour, but don’t make a big fuss. If your pup is looking for attention, they might eat poop because they know what your reaction will be. Instead, you might try treat training – rewarding your pup when they see poo but leave it alone.
Sometimes dogs eat their own poop, but it’s not a life sentence!
The more you know about your pup’s behaviours, the easier it will be help them stop eating poo. With a little bit of persistence and – as always – lots of love and treats, you can have have a poop-free home!