Have you ever caught your dog eating poop and wondered, “Whew, why do dogs do this?” You are definitely not alone.
Eating poop, also called coprophagia in dogs, isn’t exactly a pastime you’d consider ideal for your furry family member. Here’s everything you need to know about why dogs eat poop and what you should do about it.
- There are normal and abnormal reasons why dogs eat poop.
- It is normal for dogs to eat other species’ poop, but it is abnormal for dogs to eat their own poop or other dogs’ poop.
- To prevent a dog from eating poop, use positive reinforcement and redirection.
Why do dogs eat poop?
The scientific term for the habit of eating poop is coprophagy.
Dogs eat poop for a variety of reasons. And while some are normal, others are signs of an underlying problem. For example: It is normal and somewhat common for dogs to eat the poop of another species, but it is rare for adult dogs to eat their own poop or the poop of another dog.
Normal Reasons Dogs Eat Poop
A dog that eats poop can be normal in the following scenarios:
1. They are breastfeeding
Nursing bitches often eat the poop of their pups to keep their den clean.
2. It’s instinctive
A 2018 survey published in Medicine and Veterinary Sciences he hypothesizes that dogs eat poop as a behavior inherited from wolves. Wolves often eat fresh poop (less than two days old) to keep the den free of fecally borne intestinal parasites.
When eaten, the poop would have parasite eggs that are not infectious, the study explains. After two days, the infective larvae would develop. This might explain why, of the approximately 3,000 dogs surveyed, “coprophagy was overwhelmingly directed at fresh feces.”
3. The poop of other animals tastes good to them
Dogs sometimes eat the poop of another species. The feces of other animals, such as horses or cats, contain nutrients that can be beneficial. But this poop can also contain harmful bacteria, so it’s best to discourage your dog from eating it.
It is normal for dogs to eat the poop of another species, but it is uncommon for adult dogs to eat their own poop or the poop of another dog.
Abnormal Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
Eating your own poop or another dog’s poop is not a common behavior, and you will need to find out what is causing it. Here are four reasons why an adult dog will do this.
1. They want to get your attention.
Some dogs may have started eating poop when they were young because they feel like it’s a game. For example, when puppies are young, they can explore by picking up their feces in their mouths. If your dog does this, you’ll probably run up to him and yell something like “let go.”
When this happens, some pups may startle, drop their poop, and never touch it again. Other puppies may interpret the yelling as an excited invitation to play.
As a result, they run off, and suddenly an impromptu game of tag ensues. These pups have learned another way to get their human parents to “play” with them.
Your dog may not even necessarily want to play, but simply wants you to engage with him. As your dog becomes an adult, this is passed down as learned behavior that gets their attention. And let’s face it: It’s very hard not to pay attention to a dog that’s eating poop.
2. They don’t feel well
If your dog is eating poop, he may not be feeling well.
When you have a puppy or dog that eats other dogs’ poop or its own, have your pet examined by your vet. Coprophagy can be associated with diseases of the intestinal tract and sometimes other parts of the body (such as the liver or brain).
If your adult dog has never eaten poop and suddenly develops the habit in association with symptoms of illness, such as weight loss, lethargy, malaise, behavior changes, vomiting, or diarrhea, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Coprophagy can be associated with diseases of the intestinal tract and sometimes other parts of the body (such as the liver or brain).
Your vet will need to perform diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has an underlying medical problem, such as intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies, or gastrointestinal illness.
3. They have anxiety
Other dogs eat poop as a displacement behavior when they are anxious. If an anxious dog is confined, he may defecate and eat his own poop.
Possible sources of anxiety that can cause coprophagia include:
Concern about being confined
Being away from them (separation anxiety)
Lack of enrichment activities when confined
4. They are afraid of being punished for an accident
Some dogs can learn to eat their poop as puppies if their owners have repeatedly punished them for pooping in the house. The dog may eat the evidence because he is worried about how you will respond.
When potty training a puppy or dog, never use punitive measures. Instead, rely on positive reinforcement.
How to stop a dog from eating poop
If your puppy or dog eats poop, the best way to help him is to implement systems that prevent him from practicing the habit.
Once you’ve determined why your dog is eating poop, try these solutions based on the reason for the behavior.
Dogs eating cat poop
Although it’s considered normal, you don’t want your dog diving into the litter box to get a bite to eat.
For dogs that eat cat poop:
Put up a pet door or gate that allows the cat to access your litter box while keeping the dog out of that room.
Place the litter box on a large table. This allows your cat to jump up to access the box while keeping it out of your dog’s reach.
Try a coprophagic supplement that discourages dogs from eating poop by changing the taste of the poop. (Keep in mind that dogs usually repeatedly eat things that taste good to them. Poop can appeal to their taste buds.)
Puppies that start eating poop
For puppies that like to eat poop, you need to control their access.
When you are house training your puppy, take him outside on a consistent schedule. Once your pup has finished pooping, praise him and offer him a tasty treat. As they eat the treat, he quickly cleans up the feces.
This way, you don’t allow your pup any access and prevent the problem from happening. You are also positively reinforcing his potty training instead of punishing your dog for accidents.
Dogs that are caged or have separation anxiety or anxiety
For confined dogs that eat their own poop, determine how to change some aspects of their confinement to help reduce their anxiety. Some dogs need a larger space or quieter area, or simply need more toys to keep them occupied.
For dogs that show anxiety and cannot be left alone, find a daycare center or see if your dog can come to work with you. These dogs may also benefit from seeking the help of a veterinary behaviorist or certified animal behaviorist.
Adult dogs that have learned to eat their poop
If a dog has learned to eat poop because it is afraid of being punished for having an accident, the first step is to stop using the punishment. Then take active steps to prevent your dog from having access to the poop.
It may be the case that the dog has been punished by previous owners. In this case, focus on positive reinforcement, although you’ll still need to restrict access to the poop.
Once the behavior has been established, it is crucial that you maintain patience and consistently use positive reinforcement to encourage alternative behaviors for your dog to carry out. other what to eat poop
Redirect your dog’s attention
When you have an adult dog that has been eating poop for a long time, then it is important that you go outside with your dog whenever he needs to poop.
As soon as they are done, call your dog over for treats. Then he puts them back in the house or throws a toy for them to chase after while you pick up their stool.
If your dog immediately turns around to eat his poop and you don’t hear him, you’ll need to keep your dog on a leash and walk him away as soon as he’s pooped.
To really discourage your dog from eating poop, you’ll need to continue to monitor your dog and restrict access to poop to prevent a relapse. Some people have success teaching their dogs a “leave it” cue and then an automatic “come” or “sit” using positive reinforcement.
The real key is to always offer lots of praise and treats when your dog decides not to go for his poop right away. To help out, you need to find a very high value treat that they only get in these scenarios.
Use dog training tools
You can also use pet equipment to help prevent your dog from eating poop.
Belt: Keep your pet on a leash when working on this behavior so you can quickly get her off the stool. Work on “leave it” signals if necessary.
Clicker: Clicker training can also be very helpful in teaching your dog to stop eating poop.
Candies: Make sure you have a bag of goodies and keep plenty of tasty rewards on hand.
Poop Bags: Pick up and remove all yard feces immediately to remove any temptation for your pet.
Make poop less attractive
If your dog eats his own poop because it tastes good to him and he has developed the habit, try using dog chews to discourage this behavior. Popular products include:
Probiotics can also be used to help stop your pet from eating their feces.
These chews can be given in conjunction with your efforts to keep your dog away from his poop by distracting him with toys or using training tools.
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