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[UPDATED MARCH 2020]
If you’ve landed on this page then you have obviously gotten past the disturbing title, and you want to find out for yourself the answer to the question of why do dogs eat dog poop?
As embarrassing as it is for us dog owners to even talk about the subject and admit that we have a poop-eating dog, it is actually a very common problem. What we see as a disgusting and repulsive form of behaviour, is actually quite common in dogs.
The scientific name for poop eating is “Coprophagia”, and those who have never heard of it might think it is some kind of fancy food item, well… to some dogs it is a delicacy. Coprophagia is often one of the reasons that dog owners try to rehome their dogs.
There are some dogs that eat poop, while others do not, and some dogs will only eat their own, and others will only consume the poop of other animals. So weird and confusing right?
If you have a poop eater at home, don’t despair because the reasons why dogs eat poop fall into 2 categories, medical or behavioural, and there are ways to discourage this disgusting habit.
Poop Eating Is Natural Instinct For Mothers & Pups
A mother dog who has a litter of pups will lick her puppies as a way to encourage them to eliminate. The mother will then lick the feces clean in order to keep the den area clean and scent-free. This is a natural instinct, and in the wild mothers do this as a way to keep potential predators away.
The mother dog will usually stop eating her puppies feces around the time the puppies have started to consume solid food, and are able to leave the den to eliminate.
This instinctive behaviour is passed on to puppies, and puppies will often eat their own feces. Some puppies will grow out of this behaviour, and some puppies will continue to eat poop into their adult lives.
It is a learned behaviour, along with the curiosity that leads them to smell and eat their own poop, or poop of another dog.
This instinctive behaviour is seen in the wild, and it can be discouraged at home by the breeder. The breeder should clean up after the puppies so that the puppies will not have a chance to eat their poop.
Why Do Dogs Eat Dog Poop? 13 Reasons
Besides being a natural instinct, there are other reasons that may motivate your dog to eat the feces of another dog or animal, or their own.
The reasons behind poop eating can be classed in to 2 categories, behavioural and medical.
1. Anxiety & Stress
Your dog may result in eating poop as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. Dogs who are in confined spaces like a kennel, or locked in a basement all day alone, are more likely to eat poop than dogs who have human interaction throughout the day.
2. Your Dog Wants Your Attention
Dogs love any attention given to them by their humans whether it is a good reaction or bad reaction from you. If you have witnessed your dog eating poop for the first time, then I’m sure you reacted by shouting loudly in disgust. Your dog will anticipate this loud reaction and eat poop just to get your attention.
3. Dogs Are Scavengers
Dogs are natural scavengers, they are always on the hunt for food and will follow any scent. Unlike humans, dogs are not grossed out by feces of other dogs or other animals and just might take a bite out of something that smells good to them.
Other dog feces may contain an ingredient that your dog finds tasty. Perhaps your dog is eating the feces of a dog that has been fed human food and enjoys the taste.
Dogs will also eat other animal’s waste such as cow and horse manure, and cat poop. Cow and horse manure may contain undigested corn or other stuff your dog will find appealing, and cats are often fed a high protein diet that will be appealing to your dog.
Dogs are also drawn to rabbit poop, which is loaded with digestive enzymes and B vitamins.
4. Your Dog Is Bored
Dogs who are left alone all day with nothing to do will become bored, and the opportunity of eating poop may present itself.
5. To Avoid Being Punished
Dogs who have received harsh house training by being punished for pooping in the house, or who have had their noses rubbed in their poop, will think that poop is bad and will eat the evidence to avoid being punished.
6. Your Dog Wants A Clean Space
If your dog is outside in the yard all day, and there are numerous piles of dog crap lying around, your dog may resort to eating poop, as a way to tidy up his space.
7. Enzyme & Nutrient Deficiency
Dogs that are fed a highly-processed diet such as kibble often lack digestive enzymes needed to properly absorb their food. A dog’s body will naturally create digestive enzymes, but not enough to effectively complete the digestive process. Dogs need to get digestive enzymes from their food.
Before dogs were domesticated they were catching and eating their food in the wild. They would eat their prey, and that included everything, guts and all. Digestive enzymes would naturally be present in the guts of their prey, giving them the appropriate amount they needed.
The modern canine diet is often lacking in digestive enzymes, and dogs result in eating poop as a way to get their enzymes and nutrients that they need.
8. Gut Health
Your dog may have an imbalance of healthy gut bacteria. Dogs are often prescribed Antibiotics and other drugs, which kill any healthy gut bacteria naturally found in your dog’s gut.
9. Pancreatic Insufficiency
Dogs with this condition also known as (EPI), create very little or no amount of digestive enzymes in the pancreas. Dogs with this condition will show symptoms of starvation, weight loss, diarrhea, and poop eating. Find out more in this article from PetMD.
If your dog has intestinal parasites, it could be a reason why your dog is eating poop. Intestinal parasites absorb the nutrients that your dog should be getting from food, so your dog will eat poop in order to replenish his nutrients.
11. Conditions That Cause Increased Appetite
There are certain diseases such as diabetes and thyroid issues that can increase a dog’s appetite. Dogs will become so ravenous that they will eat anything they can find.
Drugs such as steroids will also increase your dog’s appetite. While on steroids your dog will be hungry all the time and will eat anything, even poop.
If you are not feeding your dog enough food, your dog will look for other food sources such as poop.
Is Poop Eating Harmful To Your Dog?
When your dog eats his own poop it is not going to do your dog any harm, other than the foul breath, and the ick factor. However, if your dog consumes the feces of other dogs or animals there is a risk of health problems, especially if the poop has parasites, viruses or toxins.
If your dog has allergies and consumes poop that contains an allergen, then that will cause problems for your dog. Whenever your dog consumes poop from an unknown origin, your dog is at risk of getting sick.
Some signs that your dog may be sick from eating poop include:
- Vomiting & Diarrhea
- Intestinal Parasites
- Loss of Appetite
While eating their own poop may not be harmful, poop eating should be discouraged and stopped. Not only is your dog at risk of getting sick, but there is also a potential that you may get sick as well if your dog licks you.
How To Stop Poop Eating Behaviour
If you notice your dog eating poop, you should make sure to visit your vet in order to rule out any medical issues. If your dog has a clean bill of health, then you will need to address the behavioural reasons.
- Feed At Regular Intervals: If you are feeding your dog once a day, consider feeding 2 or 3 times a day to keep your dog more satisfied and less hungry.
- Change Your Dog’s Diet: As we determined earlier, the modern canine diet which is kibble is highly processed and lacks digestive enzymes that your dog needs. I recommend feeding your dog a raw food diet, that consists of a variety of quality proteins. Raw food contains digestive enzymes that your dog needs.
- Restore Your Dog’s Gut Health: Probiotics are a great way to restore your dog’s gut health. Probiotics add healthy bacteria to the gut.
- Pick-up After Your Dog: Clean up any dog poop immediately, and keep your dog’s area clean, to avoid the temptation.
- Keep Your Dog On Leash: Supervise your dog while walking, by keeping your dog on a leash.
- Keep Cats Litter Box Clean & Away From Dog: If you own a cat, you will want to keep the litter box in an area that your dog can’t get to. A good idea is to place it in a small space such as under the stairs, and have a stair gate with a flap door big enough for only your cat.
- Practice Good Recall Commands: Work on the “Leave It” and “Come” command, and offer a treat to your dog when he obeys.
- Provide Plenty Of Daily Stimulation: Keep your dog from getting bored, by offering plenty of mental stimulation and exercise, and make sure your dog has plenty of toys to help keep him entertained.
- Don’t Punish Your Dog: When you see your dog eating poop, naturally you will be disgusted and want to yell at your dog, but your reaction may cause excitement in your dog, making your dog more interested in the poop.
- Try A Poop Deterrent: Many dog owners swear by a product called Forbid. It is a poop deterrent that you sprinkle onto your dog’s food to make his poop taste awful. It has worked well for dogs who eat their own poop.
Do Home Remedies Work?
There are certain home remedies that claim to prevent your dog from eating poop, such as feeding your dog pineapple and pumpkin. Dogs like the taste of pineapple and pumpkin, but it makes their poop taste awful.
While pineapple and pumpkin are healthy for your dog, feeding too much can be a bad thing. Pineapple contains a lot of sugar which is not good for your dog, and feeding an excessive amount of pumpkin can provide your dog with a toxic amount of Vitamin A.
Another poop deterrent is sprinkling Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or lemon juice onto your dog’s poop. Seriously?? If you have the time to go outside into the yard and sprinkle this stuff onto your dog’s poop, then you have the time to pick the poop up!
Sadly, these home remedies don’t work on all dogs, and in most cases, they only work for a short period. I do not recommend these home remedies.
At the first sign of your dog eating poop, you are naturally grossed out, and maybe even a little embarrassed, but it’s important to remember that coprophagia is more common than you think. You should always take your dog to the vet to rule out any medical issues, and then work on the behavioural reasons.
The best way to discourage this nasty behaviour is to always pick up after your dog, lower your dog’s stress levels, feed a good diet, and practice the recall commands.
Remember that punishing your dog will not work, and will only make things worse.
What About You?
Have you ever witnessed your dog or another dog eating poop? Do you have any tips to share?
I would love to hear from you, please share your thoughts below.
I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.
20 thoughts on “Why Do Dogs Eat Dog Poop?-13 Reasons And How To Stop It”
I see from the dates of other readers I’m a bit late to this haha.
I had searched up the obvious and came across your articles and thank you so very much for everything you had written in here as well as the ‘deterrent’ article. I have 3 frenchies and 1 of them is a Caca connoisseur! It is sooooo gross! LOL For the most part she likes her own poop, however I’ve seen her eat the other dogs poop as well! I’m pretty on top of it when they poop I immediately throw it out as they are puppy pad potty trained. I have stopped her many times as well and she listens to that command of “leave it” I THANK YOU so much for your detailed articles! I definitely will also try other things that you suggested.
It’s so frustrating and gross when you have a poop eater!
Being on top of it, is really the best solution, by cleaning up the poop right away and training your dog to leave it.
I’m glad this article has helped you out.
As far as deterrents, they do work for some dogs, but not all.
In my case, with my Golden Retriever, she only tries to eat other dogs poop on occasion (picky eater/selective eater, Lol!). Plus, it only happens in the winter (frozen poop).
Trust me, it’s never boring being a dog owner.
But, it sounds like your dog is doing really well with the leave it command.
I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience, and kind words.
Thanks for sharing this, as a new dog owner your post has been very helpful. I have not witnessed my dog eating poop yet, hopefully, I never will, but if it happens I will be more prepared. Thanks again, and keep posting these helpful tips.
If you’re lucky, your dog will never dine on his or her own poop, or that of others. I’m glad you found this post helpful.
Thanks for stopping by,
Hi Jenny – I have to say when I first read the title I found it to be repulsive. But I find dogs interesting so I decided to read it anyway. Once I started I couldn’t stop. It all makes sense, including your solutions. I was amused by what you wrote about dogs doing things to get our attention. They can be such children! Thanks for the opportunity.
I’m glad you stuck around and read my article. I guess you have learned something about dogs. The title of this article is definitely repulsive, but it is a very common problem that dog owners encounter with their dogs.
Dogs are very much like children, LOL! They do so many things which can either be good or bad just to get our attention.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
LOL, what a topic for an article. But I must say it’s relevant because if owners can understand why their dogs tend to eat dog poop, then maybe they can do something to curtail this kind of unsavoury behaviour.
I can understand some of the reasons that you give to explain this. For instance, mother dogs doing that to help to hide a litter from predators. That I can kind of understand as an instinctive move for species preservation in the wild that has carried over to our domesticated pooches.
You’ve also given some very good ideas on how to stop them from doing such a thing. If I ever see my dog carrying on with this disgusting behaviour I think I’m just going to try the Tabasco sauce idea to make him stop.
I’m glad you found this article useful as well as funny. It is certainly quite a topic, but because it is quite a common problem among dog owners, I thought it was important to address this issue.
I hope for your sake that your dog never indulges in this bad habit, but if so, Tabasco sauce might be the answer for you.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
Oof, dogs are so awesome but this is one of those things that is just too weird. It’s good to have a list of reasons they might be acting this way, as there are a lot of ways that could help the dog and stop the poop eating odd behaviour.
I feel like a lot of dog owners will look at the list of causes and feel like their dogs may fall into multiple categories. It may take a bit of trial and error to find the right combination of things that can help the dog to stop.
I agree dogs are awesome but this bad habit is something that I can do without. It is certainly a trial and error situation, as each dog is different and what could work for one dog may not work for the other.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
Well, I said I’ll be back and here I am. Poop eating dogs is rare but it does happen and I’m glad if anyone asked me about it I can say its called Coprophagia. I enjoyed learning again from the last time I viewed your post and what better than to come back to read your poop eating dog post. I think for dogs it’s all about cleaning their litter as you mentioned but then again they say that dogs that eat grass are eating it to get better and to empty their tummy because it makes them sick.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Unfortunately, dogs that eat poop is not really that rare, in fact, it is quite common. As mentioned, one of the reasons could be that the dog is lacking certain nutrients in their diet and is looking to eat poop to get those nutrients. As disgusting as it sounds and is, it is something that should be discouraged and prevented. The dog owner needs to rule out any medical reasons behind it, and if not medical then look at the behavioural reasons.
Hi Jenny! I found your post on Pinterest and thought it was so coincidental that you are from Peterborough! Us too! Thanks for your advice! Hopefully, we can get our poop eater out of this habit!
Thank you for commenting. That is so cool that you have found my post on Pinterest and that you live in the same city as I do. I sure hope that my advice serves you well.
Hi Jenny. I am a dog owner and have seen this behavior in many dogs. Yes, it is gross. and I agree with you on most of your recommendations. But I have often wondered why they did this and as you explained it made sense. I have seen this behavior in other dogs but our dogs never seemed to have this problem.
We have always trained our dogs and I had never come across this kind of behavior. But then again they have always been a puppy first.
My shitzu is a very picky eater. Most of the dogs that we have had are fast and furious at eating, but our Bear (that is his Name) will sniff and walk away. This was a big problem because I was forever changing his brand of food. Bear came to us at three years old and already had this problem. I do not believe in giving dogs human food. But I did find a solution, he has to eat at a certain time of the day every day and if he didn’t eat within 10 minutes I would remove his food until the next feeding. Now he is eating fine and getting a good healthy look. He is still a moocher with those big puppy eyes watching you eat, he gets sent away to go lay down, off he goes with his tail down.
Have you ever seen a dog that doesn’t bark? Well, Bear doesn’t, he was taught not to bark because he lived in a small apartment with another shitzu and they were not allowed to bark, he only barks in his sleep(O:
Well thank you for this post and I will keep you in mind if I need any help for our puppy.
Thank you for your comment. You are lucky to have never experienced poop eating behaviour in your dogs, as it is very common among dogs. It sounds like you are doing a great job with your dog Bear, by not giving him any human food, and by teaching him to eat at a certain time of day to maintain a regular routine. That’s funny that Bear only barks in his sleep, he must be pretty sound asleep and dreaming away. I am glad you enjoyed my post, and if you need any further advice or help for your puppy please check my website.
When I saw your title, I just had to read the whole post.
By the time I finished it I was very grateful that I am not a dog!
And I will certainly stop before I let a dog lick my face again!
I don’t have a dog right now, but have had many in my life and this was something I was fortunate enough never to see.
I think the causes of why a dog would do that seem very logical. If I was a bored dog locked up in a small kennel who got punished every time I pooped, I might too be creative in getting rid of the poop!
It would take me a long time before i ate it though!
Great post and this will certainly come in very handy for a lot of dogs.
You did a great job of giving solutions.
Hi Tim thank you for your comment. It sounds like you have been lucky enough never to have witnessed a dog eat poop, or own a dog that has. Unfortunately, this is a very common problem for many dog owners, myself included. To us dog owners it is embarrassing, and very gross, but to dogs it is none of those things. I am so glad you enjoyed my post, and the solutions that I mentioned. Hopefully you will never encounter this problem, but in the case that you do, you will know how to handle it.
Wow, thanks for the methods to get dogs from eating their own poop. As disgusting as it is, I feel like it just isn’t healthy for them, am I right? My girlfriend has a little jack russel and they can be pretty smart like some of the things you listed, getting your attention, to keep a clean area, or to avoid being punished.
Hi Nate, thanks for your comment. Poop eating is very disgusting to us humans, but dogs don’t find it gross, or do it to gross us out. Always make sure to rule out any medical issues, and then address the behaviour. Eating their own poop is not harmful, but when they eat other animals feces, it is definitely a concern, as they are putting themselves at risk for getting sick.