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Canine Coprophagia: Poop Eating (and How to Stop It!)


dog eat poop

Yuck – there’s nothing more disgusting than seeing your furry friend eat their own poop, and what makes it even worse is when they come over to you afterwards looking for a great big doggie kiss! So why does your dog do this, and how can you stop this revolting habit? Well, fellow dog lovers – read on to find out.

Poop eating (or coprophagia) is the practice of eating stool – for our dogs, this may mean that they chow down on their own poop, their littermate’s, or even the poop of another pet in the house. In certain situations, coprophagia is perfectly normal for our canine companions; mother dogs will clean up their puppies’ feces to keep the nesting area clean and odor free, for instance, and most puppies go through a stage themselves where they naturally investigate everything with their mouths – yes, even poop!

Most dogs will eventually grow out of this habit, but some of our furry best friends just don’t seem to get the memo, and among these individuals, there can be a few who develop compulsive poop eating habits that are difficult to break. Although there’s no single definite reason why your dog might practice coprophagia, veterinary behaviorists believe that these following reasons tend to play a significant role:

  • Malnutrition: Early malnutrition or starvation may compel a dog into eating its own stool, forming a habit that remains as an adult
  • Inconsistent feeding schedule: Some dogs who are anxious about when their next meal is coming may start to ingest their stool
  • Learned behavior: Some of our furry friends can even ‘learn’ this behavior from their mother or other dogs in their household
  • Boredom: Dogs who are bored or under-exercised may turn to coprophagia out of stress or simply for something to do
  • Constant contact: Dogs originating from situations with very poor hygienic practices like puppy mills may develop stool eating habits from an early age

So what are some effective ways to stop the habit of compulsive stool eating? Although some dog lovers are tempted to try things like dropping Tabasco sauce on their dog’s poop, these fixes are usually just band-aid solutions that don’t solve the problem for good. A combination of different strategies is often the best answer. For example:

  • Have your dog examined by a veterinarian to rule out any medical issues
  • Pick up all stool from your dog’s bathroom area immediately
  • Go with your dog (keep them on leash if needed) to a poop-free area to do their business, and then walk them away as soon as they’re finished
  • Increase the frequency of your dog’s meals (split their daily requirement into several smaller meals), and increase their daily fiber intake. This can change the consistency of their stool, which can make it less appealing for them.
  • Devote enough time each and every day to exercising, interacting and playing with your furry friend. Activities that work both their physical and mental muscles are best. Get creative! Try training new tricks, using food puzzles, play ‘find the treat’, get a good game of fetch in, have a doggie friend over….
  • Work on a solid ‘leave it’ command and reward your dog lavishly with their favorite tidbit each time they obey

Getting your pup to stop stool eating usually isn’t a fast and easy process – what habit is ever easy to break, after all? You’ll have more success if you start early, however, and continue the above strategies for at least five or six months. Although poop eating is definitely disgusting, often it’s a sign that our dog is just trying to tell us something.

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