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Why do puppies and dogs eat poop?

Aug 15, 2018 0 Comments
Why do puppies and dogs eat poop?

Dogs eat their poop...it will be ok! 

First, DO NOT BE ALARMED if you notice your puppy or dog eating poop. Dogs are known to eat poop for attention, to avoid getting in trouble for going where they shouldn’t have or even just because they are bored!  Yes… a bored dog or puppy might eat their own poop!  Stool eating is known as coprophagy and is actually not an uncommon practice for a puppy.  Disgusting? Yes, but it can be fixed, so read on! 

Let me reiterate, do not be alarmed when you see your dog eating its poop. Reacting negatively may lead to more coprophagy in the future and has the potential to lead to other behavioral issues. 

So, where do puppies get poop eating from? 

Well, it can start as early as when they are still with their mothers.  When a mother is surrounded by her litter, it is very common for her to eat the stool of her puppies to keep the “den” clean and to protect her pups from predators that can be attracted to the den by the scent of the excrement. 

Mother dogs typically stop eating their puppies feces by the time the puppy has moved on to hard food and because the puppies are learning everything from their mothers, it isn’t uncommon for the pup to pick up this habit.  Normally, by the time a puppy has started venturing out of the den’ to go to the restroom they will stop eating their waste.  Generally, breeders will regularly clean the puppies den until the puppy is ready to move on to a new home not only for cleanliness but also to discourage the behavior.  However, this may not have been the practice used in your puppy’s first home.

While it is not uncommon for a puppy to eat its own or other dogs stool, if the puppy continues to eat poop despite your best efforts to get them to quit, you might want to visit a behavioral therapist or your vet to best identify the issue.  However, generally speaking a dog that is receiving a healthy diet, they should grow out of the behavior.

What are some other reasons puppies and dogs eat their stool?

  • They want attention: As we all know, puppies LOVE attention!  If you have reprimanded your puppy for eating its poop, then there is a chance that the dog is eating its feces to gain that attention again, even if it was negative.  Negative or not, the puppy knows that you will give it that extra attention, so they eat it anyway!  Weird yes, but the puppy just wants your love. 
  • They are bored: Puppies that are left alone for extended periods of time are known to play with and eat their own poop, just to pass the time.  If you are going to leave your puppy alone in its kennel or pen for extended periods of time, be sure to leave them some toys in there and always make sure it is clean before you leave them. 
  • They have digestion issues:  Have you ever noticed that your dogs poop looks similar to the way it did before they ate it?  There is a chance that your dog is having trouble digesting the food and thus the stool tastes a lot like the food they just got done eating.  Switching foods often will solve this issue.  It is important that your pup has a nutrient rich food that they are able to fully digest.  If changing foods doesn’t do the trick then you might want to speak to your vet about the issue, as their might be a more serious digestion problem
  • They are stressed:  Yes, dogs experience stress as well! This stress will sometimes cause adult and adolescent dogs to eat their own feces. This could be stressed that is cause by a multitude of reasons.  New environments, new dogs, new babies and the list goes on.  If you believe your dog is eating their poop because of new stresses, try not to cause more stress by reprimanding them for eating their stool! Think your dog is stressed?
  • They are hungry:  As we mentioned before, a dog that isn’t properly digesting food can cause them to eat their poop but there are some other more sinister issues that your puppy might be experiencing.  Often, new puppies can have intestinal parasites or worms that are eating leaching nutrients from the puppy’s system, causing them to eat whatever they can find… poop.  On the other hand, the puppy might just by hungry, in which case you need to look into whether or not you are feeding them enough.  Puppies are in need of constant nourishment and sometimes can need to eat up to 3 times a day.  Concerned you aren't feeding your pup enough?  Consult your vet! 
  • They don’t want to get in trouble:  Remember how we were saying your dog might be eating its poop for attention? Well, they also might be eating their own poop to avoid any negative attention for pooping where they shouldn’t have!  In other words, they eat their poop in an attempt to “hide the evidence.” 
  • They just want to:  Ultimately, there are some adult dogs and puppies that simply like to eat there own poop, period.  If you decide that this is the cause, there is nothing you can do other than after your dog uses the restroom, do your best to clean up as quickly as possible.  Keep your poop bags handy! 

How do I stop my puppy from eating its poop?

  • The first thing you can do is keep your puppies kennel and play area as clean as possible!  After your puppy poops, clean up after them immediately.  Maybe try putting the puppy on a leash when you take them to go to the bathroom.  Once they have gone, don’t give them the opportunity to play with or eat the poop.  Call them to you, or if on the leash pull them away from the excrement. Be sure to reward them when they leave the poop and come to you, so you reinforce the behavior you are looking for! 
  • Play with your puppy, go for walks, play fetch, take them for a car ride, exhaust them in any way possible!  A puppy that gets the proper amount of play time will simply go to sleep when you leave them by theirselves. 
  • One of the most important things you can do for your puppy is to feed them a good, high quality,nutrient rich puppy food.  It is important they get all the vitamins, proteins and minerals they need.  Not only is it important to feed them a good food but treats as well!  Make sure the treats you feed them are healthy, natural and provide them with nutrients.  Always be on the lookout for signs of malnourishment in your puppy and take them to the vet at the first sign of growth or development issues!
  • There are a number of products that you can buy that will make your dogs poop taste really bad and some that make their breath smell better!  Below are a few that you can order.
  1. Solid Gold 
  2. NaturVet Coprophagia Deterrent Plus Breath Aid Dog Soft Chews
  3. Poop Eater Solutions
  • Positive reinforcement is the best way to keep your puppy from eating their poop.  When your dog poops and doesn’t eat or play with it, reward them for their positive behavior.  Consistency is key, so be sure every time the pup performs the way you want them to, to reward the behavior!    

How do I get my adult dog to quit eating poop? 

Sometimes puppies just simply don’t seem to outgrow the desire to eat their poop and it follows them into adulthood. There are also instances where an adult dog simply starts eating there poop.  

If your dog has never been a poop eater and then starts, then make an appointment with a vet and immediately begin looking for signs of illness.  Diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, short temper, loss of appetite and discomfort are often signs of disease.  

Once you and your vet that disease is not the cause of your dogs coprophagy, then employ all of the techniques we discussed earlier.  Clean up the feces quickly, increase the amount of play time, show them more attention, positive reinforcement, stool deterrents and swapping to a high quality, easily digested dog food should solve the problem. 

Ultimately, if the problem persists, then a behavioral specialist might be the best course of action.  Finding one in your area might be difficult, if so, ask your veterinarian as they often have great solutions.  There are also some instances where the poop is simply too enticing.  Often cat and horse poop are a go to for dogs.  Simply distracting the dog from these “treats” is the best course of action for the owner.

Final Takeaway

Yes, unfortunately, sometimes dog eat their own and other’s poop.  While disgusting, remember it isn’t the end of the world and often the behavior can be altered!