Why does my dog... eat poop?
While snacking on nature's nuggets might seem repulsive to us humans, it is a very normal behaviour for a lot of animals, including our dogs. In-fact, a recent study of feral dog colonies abroad found that up to 20% of their diet was poop. Human, horse, cat, dog, our canine companions aren't fussy, they'll give anything a go!
In our domestic dogs, they shouldn't be in search of the extra calories, so why do they do it? While being a relatively normal behaviour, coprophagia (that's the scientific name for it) can be more likely to happen in certain situations.
They like the taste
Simple. Disgusting. That's life!
Your dog is a puppy
Puppies go through exploratory phases just like our toddlers, and they will put anything in their mouths including their own poop and that of other dogs. It is thought that when they eat the poop of healthy adult dogs such as their Mum they are adding lots of good bacteria to their own gut flora…. Yakult anyone?
Don't worry too much if your puppy is a poop fiend, they usually grow out of it if you make sure you keep the poop picked up regularly in your garden and keep a good eye out on your walks to spot any rogue poops before your puppy has chance to get to them.
Your dog's diet is lacking
A nutritional gap in their diet may bee the reason for your dog sniffing out and eating other dogs' poop. If there is something they they are not getting enough of in their own diet, it can be that they detect this in other dogs diets via their poo, and so eat these morsels as a way of trying to boost their own intake of certain vitamins and minerals. If your dog eats the same dry or wet processed food every day, it is likely that there is something in their diet that they are missing, and without variety, this need will never be met. A raw diet can help to make sure that they are getting whole and rounded nutrition every day, with the necessary variety to keep all of their dietary needs met. Speak to a K9 Anytime team member about changing to a raw diet for your dog to try to eliminate their desire to eat poop.
Your dog is a certain breed
Certain breeds are more likely to eat poop than others which implies there may be a genetic element. Breeds that are bred for hunting such as cockers can sometimes channel their hunting instincts into sniffing and searching for hidden delicacies in the grass. You can help to curb this behaviour by teaching your dog to play a different hunting game, such as sniffing out some sprinkled food or hunting down a ball that you've hidden.
Cleaning up after themselves (learned behaviour)
Dogs that come from a kenneled environment such as a puppy farm are often more likely to eat poop than dogs that came from a more enriching environment. This behaviour is driven by both a need to keep the den area clean, as seen in mama dogs, or simply because there was nothing else to play with so the pups entertained themselves by chomping on they only thing there was. If a dog has ever been told off for toileting in the house, they may feel the need to “hide the evidence” before the human finds out what they've done. If you're struggling with your dog going to the toilet in the house, telling them off isn't the solution, and you might need to take a different approach.
Your dog has a health problems
This is much less likely than a behavioural reason, but there are some medical conditions that can exacerbate coprophagia. Vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition and parasite infections can all contribute. If eating poop is a new behaviour, a trip to the vet may be in order!
What can you do about it?
While poop eating is relatively normal, big poopy kisses are not pleasant! As mentioned above, keeping your garden poop free will go a long way to prevent this problem. If your dog is eating your other dog's poop, let them out separately. If they're eating their own poop, be ready with a delicious treat and call them over too you as soon as you see them finish up. (Practice building a really good response to their recall in the garden separately for best results.)
Do not shout at your dog or try to wrestle the poop out of their mouth. You will be making the poop more valuable to your dog by competing for it…. and no one likes poopy fingers!