Why do dogs eat poop – especially their own? It’s so gross! There’s nothing worse than when your dog eats a fresh piece of poop and then, in response to your shrieks of horror and dismay, tries to lick you in an appeasement gesture.
Poop eating – or “coprophagia,” to use the scientific term – isn’t just disgusting to us. Your dog may be ingesting intestinal parasites and/or disease pathogens such as parvovirus, toxoplasmosis, or giardia along with the feces.
Unfortunately for us, coprophagia is common in dogs – a natural, normal behavior. Dogs may eat all kinds of poop – deer, horse, bunny, even human poop. Cat feces seems to be especially delectable.
No one knows for sure, but some theories commonly offered to explain why dogs eat poop:
- It tastes good (natural/normal behavior).
- Intestinal parasites, endocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), underfeeding, or poor diet have deprived the dog of needed nutrients, leading to an instinctive urge to eat novel sources of nutrients.
- Eating feces can recolonize the gut with a different/healthier microflora; dogs may possess some natural instinct to eat feces to improve their own digestion.
- Den cleanliness instinct: Mother dogs naturally eat puppies’ poop to clean the den.
- Some medications can make a dog very hungry.
- Stress/anxiety, boredom, and attention-seeking can cause/contribute to coprophagia.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR DOG EATS POOP
You must first explore possible medical causes. Talk with your veterinarian and follow her recommendations to diagnose and treat or rule out medical issues. If stress, anxiety, and/or boredom are the cause, reduce stress and add enrichment to your dog’s world. If you need help, consult a qualified force-free dog-training professional.
Once any medical reasons are ruled out, try management: Scoop promptly after your dog(s), put cat litterboxes where he can’t access them, keep him away from the manure pile, and use “Walk Away” or “Leave It” cues to move him away from temptation when walking on trails where horses or other animals may have eliminated. Consider, too, using counter-conditioning and desensitization (CC&D) to teach your dog to love wearing a muzzle, and use it when you and your dog are in locations where feces might be found.
Alternatively, accept that it’s a natural, normal canine behavior and grin and bear it when your dog dives into a pile of poo on the hiking trail.
By the way, all those products out there you can feed to your dog to make his poop taste bad? I’m sorry to report that they pretty much don’t work.