When your dog eats his poop you not only want him to stop eating his poop, you want to know why he's doing something so disgusting!
Many animals eat poop, guinea pigs, elephants and hippopotamuses, to name a few.
Animals may practice coprophagia (eating dung) for its beneficial ingredients. Puppies often eat their own poop for a while then stop, as though they have grown out of it.
This lends some credence to a nutritional value theory of eating poop. Or does it?
Growing puppies have great need for assorted vitamins and minerals. Is there any of this good stuff in poop?
There's bacteria, which is not good for your dog.
There's water, which is good for your dog.
There is also fiber and perhaps a little carbohydrate, which is not bad for your dog.
Broken down to its essence, clearly, poop is not a high value subsistence source. It's much better to keep the water dish full and give the pup plenty of good quality food.
Other Reasons Dogs Eat Poop
As much as we'd rather not think about it, dogs might eat poop because it tastes good. Reports from people with multiple dog households, often say things like, Rex eats only Suzie's poop, never Queenie's. So maybe eating feces is a matter of taste.
Learned behavior is another possible explanation for dog coprophagia. In short, the dog or puppy saw another dog or puppy eating poop, then took up the habit himself.
Some dogs seem to be hungry all the time. Such hungry hounds eat all sorts of unsavory things like dirt, socks, garbage. For them, it only makes sense to include excrement on the menu.
Perhaps a dog eats his own poop because he doesn't have much else to do. If a dog has no toys or friends or activities on his agenda, he finds something to do on his own. If poop is the only thing on hand, so to speak, it's hard to fault the dog for entertaining himself.
Then there is the school of thought that we just don't know why some dogs eat their poop.
Who are the dogs most likely to eat poop?
Anecdotally speaking, toy breeds are the most coprophagia prone. The trouble with ancedotal reporting is that you cannot be sure if toy breeds really do eat poop more often than other breeds or if toy dog owners are just more likely to notice and discuss poop eating then are owners of other dogs. Thus, the little dog theory should be taken with a grain of salt, if you'll forgive the mention of condiments in this context.
There is also the theory that puppies raised in unsanitary/neglectful conditions are more likely to eat poop. However, for every puppy mill dog that eats poop there are many puppy mill dogs who do not.
If we knew for sure why dogs eat poop we could better predict which dogs are most at risk for this behavior.
Here are some suggestions to put an end to the poop eating.
Just say no!
As you do with other inappropriate behaviors, let the dog know that eating poop is unacceptable. When you see him about to take a bite, yell NO! Redirect him to something acceptable, such as a toy.
Remove the poop.
Sometimes the most obvious solutions are the most effective. As soon as he poops, pick it up and dispose of it. If there's no poop available, the dog cannot eat it. Often this is enough to get the dog out of the feces eating habit.
Make the poop less palatable.
Try sprinkling tabasco, meat tenderizer or bitter apple on the pile. If it doesn't taste good any more, the dog may give up dung snacking.
Create a Designated Elimination Area.
Train the dog to “go” only in one small section of the yard. Reserve that space for potty only. Don't let the dog play there or even to wander through the DEA unless he is there to do business.
Give the dog a job, or at least some fun diverting things to do.
Play with him, take him for a walk, join a club where you and your dog can do agility, coursing, tracking, herding, grounding, dock diving, relay racing, or other fun stuff. Teach the dog to fetch your slippers.
When you can't be with him, give him toys to chew or to extract food from, such as a Kong filled with peanut butter.
If you try all these strategies and the dog still eats poop, don't despair. Sometimes, though surely not as soon as you'd like, the poop eating habit stops as suddenly and mysteriously as it began.
Calvin is the co-founder and one of the main contributors to dogtemperament.com. He has been an avid dog lover all his life. He enjoys researching and sharing great ideas on how you can avoid common pitfalls of dog ownership and build the most loving and enjoyable relationship with your dog.