Of all the habits dogs have, eating poop is one of the grossest and many pet parents will go to great lengths to deter their dogs from engaging in this unwanted behavior. To better understand and deal with poop eating, this article will explain:
- Why dogs eat other poop
- Why dogs eat their own poop
- How to stop your dog from eating poop
- Frequently asked questions about dogs eating poop
Why do dogs eat other poop?
There are a number of reasons that dogs eat poop:
- Poop tastes good to them! Eating poop sounds gross to you, but your dog thinks it tastes pretty darn good.
- Nursing. A female dog may eat the poop of their young in order to keep the den clean.
- Medical issues. Sometimes dogs eat poop when they are sick and suffering from intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies, malabsorption syndromes, diabetes, Cushing Disease, or thyroid disease.
Why do dogs eat their own poop?
If your adult dog is eating their own poop, they could be suffering from a medical issue and you should consult your vet. Other than medical issues, there are a few reasons that adult dogs eat their own poop:
- Anxiety. Dogs sometimes eat poop as a displacement behavior when they’re feeling anxious. (Note: A “displacement behavior” is a behavior that channels an emotion in an unexpected way. For instance, instead of crying when they’re feeling anxious, your dog may eat poop to release the stress associated with their anxiety.)
- Aversion to punishment. Some dogs may eat their poop if they’re repeatedly punished for having an accident. They do this to remove any evidence that they went poop, and consequently avoid punishment. This is one of the many reasons not to punish your dog if they have an accident in the house.
- Isolation or confinement. Spending too much time confined to a crate, kennel or other small space can result in a poop eating problem.
- Desire for attention. Dogs sometimes eat their own poop to try and get a reaction from their pet parent. When you yell, run, or chase your dog in response to them eating poop, your dog may interpret your reaction as rewarding or a game.
Should you worry about your dog eating poop?
It depends. If your dog is a puppy or nursing, you shouldn’t worry. On the other hand, if your adult dog is eating poop, they could be suffering from a medical issue and you should consult your vet.
How to stop your dog from eating poop
To stop your dog from eating poop:
- Practice your loose leash walking techniques. In particular, reward often and in the "Magic zone." This will incentivize your dog to pay more attention to you in lieu of looking for poop to eat on walks.
- Keep your pup on a leash, even in your backyard. When it comes to letting your pup out, the best option is to keep them on a leash. By keeping them on the leash while in the yard, you'll be able to direct them away from their poop as soon as they go. We also recommend immediately practicing positive reinforcement techniques that include rewarding your pup for pooping and then moving away from the poop. This way, they'll begin to relate walking away from their poop to being rewarded with a tasty treat.
- Keep your dog’s living area clean. In addition to keeping your dog’s indoor living space clean, immediately clean up any poop in your yard so there won’t be any poop for them to eat.
- Practice basic training exercises. Teaching your dog to “Leave it” is a great exercise and useful for deterring your dog from eating poop.
Frequently asked questions about dogs eating poop
Is it normal for dogs to eat poop?
Eating poop is a normal behavior at some stages in a dog’s life. For instance, a mother dog will clean up her puppies’ poop by eating it. She often does this for the first three weeks after the puppies are born. Similarly, puppies will often eat their own poop and the poop of other animals. They do this as a way of exploring the world around them, and will generally stop this behavior by the time they’re nine months old.
Can dogs get sick from eating their own poop?
Dogs eating their own poop is relatively harmless, but might be an indication that your dog has underlying medical issues such as intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies, malabsorption syndromes, diabetes, cushing's disease, or thyroid disease. You should consult your vet.
Should you punish a dog for eating poop?
Don’t punish your dog if they eat poop. Getting mad or yelling will do nothing more than make your dog afraid of you and/or potentially make them afraid to go poop in your presence. Instead of punishing your dog, work on teaching your dog to leave it.