Disgusting, horrific, and embarrassing are just a few ways to describe how it feels when you realize your dog is eating poop! When a dog eats poop, it is called Coprophagia. I don’t think it is better or worse if they are eating their own poop or eating another dogs. Just the act of seeing your dog eating poop can be traumatic.
Your first instinct is to yell and run towards them to quickly stop the behavior from happening. You need to stop yourself from having this reaction. Startling your puppy or dog can do more harm than good. Causing this type of alarm to your pet can have the opposite effect you are looking for. Not to mention that it could cause your dog to have other behavioral issues.
The first thing that comes to your mind the first time you catch your dog eating poop, is WHY? Well let’s go through some reasons why a dog eats poop and some helpful tricks you can use to curb this behavior quickly. We don’t want this to become a recurring habit.
A puppy will often start eating poop right from in the litter days. It is not uncommon for mother dogs to keep their den clean for her puppies. Instinctually they have that need from being in the wild to try to protect her puppies from predators that may smell the feces’ and come near the den.
The mother cleaning the den can be done by her eating her puppies feces’. She usually does this until the puppies are weaned from her and eating solid food.
Just like any good puppy, they may see their mother doing this behavior and mimic her. Puppies that may initially act on this watched behavior can many times outgrow it once they start defecating outside. Other puppies may not, and they can continue this into their puppy years and even into adulthood.
A dog can do very strange things when they are sick or have an illness. Eating poop can be one of those drastic side effects of illness and you may not even realize it. Some illness that can cause this behavior are:
- Digestion troubles – Inflammatory bowl disease, lack of nutrition or nutrition absorption, Celiac disease, food allergies.
- Pica – Ingestion of items that are not food related. This is a compulsive behavior, that requires Vet attention.
- Dementia – Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. A dog that shows odd signs like confusion, anxiety, listlessness and neurological issues.
- Parasites – A dog that is infected with a type of parasite.
- Thyroid issues – When a dogs thyroid is not functioning properly.
- Diabetes – A dog that has diabetes without anyone knowing they have it.
If your dog is experiencing any of these suspected illnesses, please don’t wait and take your dog to the Vet as soon as possible. Catching any illness in your dog is much easier to treat, the sooner it is discovered.
Stress, fear and anxiety
I know it sounds strange to thing that a dog can suffer from things like anxiety, but simply put they can. A dog that is exhibiting fearfulness, or in a high stress situation can eat feces’ as a way to alert you that something is wrong.
Oddly enough, this can be a self-soothing behavior for your dog.
Going back to the beginning of my article when I said that catching your dog eating feces’ and startling them by yelling can make the situation worse. Well one other thing that can cause this to happen is because they now associate them defecating in the wrong spot and the need to eat the evidence away.
Hard to believe, but rationally the dog thinks that they can avoid punishment for the behavior if there is no evidence to find.
I have talked before about what can happen when your dog is bored and looks for things to do on their own without direction. Most of the time the things they find to do, are not things that we want them doing.
When a dog is bored, things like a dog digging holes in your backyard is just one example of how a bored dog can react negatively.
Well you guessed it, a dog that is bored in the backyard can also lead to them eat their own feces’. The thing is that although you may think it happened just one time, because that is the only time you seen them do it, you think it’s not an issue. Honestly though, it is more likely to have happened before.
Keeping this behavior from becoming a reoccurring problem is important. Nobody wants a dog that comes inside with a mouth full or poop. Let me tell you, it is nasty. As the parent, we are tasked with cleaning up the mess, and that is a tough task to get through.
I had a dog when I was younger and her name was Quinn. She was an Alaskan Malamute dog. Quinn was very sweet and cuddly, but had the nasty behavior of eating her own poop in the backyard. It started when she was young and stayed with her into adulthood.
Anyone that knows anything about Malamutes, they are what I consider a working dog breed. I was very young when I got Quinn, and didn’t realize what getting that breed would mean. It was just a complete lack of education on my part.
So unfortunately for Quinn her boredom was one of the main reasons that she would eat dog poop in the backyard. Making sure you are attentive and aware of what your dog is doing while alone outside. Ever since than, I was always the dog owner that would pay complete attention to my dog when I would let them outside.
Are there risks to eating feces
If you are a dog owner that has a dog that eats their own feces’, than you will want to know, if there are risks for your dog from this behavior.
A dog that eats the poop of another dog or animal, can ingest eggs from intestinal parasites. This is full of bacteria that can actually make your dog sick.
Although the risk of your dog getting sick is small, the greater risk is to yourself. Humans are at risk of having these parasites and bacteria transmitted to us through our dog’s saliva and mouth. Other dogs, can also become infected if they come into contact with your dog’s mouth.
If your dog is a feces’ eater, making sure to wash your hands often and regularly after coming into contact with your dog’s saliva or mouth is crucial. This can help contain any bacteria from spreading.
Even though having bad breath isn’t really a health risk to your dog, it can sure be a terrible situation for you when to deal with when you try to get close to cuddle with your dog. Using a dog dental kit for cleaning can help with this situation.
The most important part of this article is to first be sure that your dog is not suffering from any illness or sickness that is causing them to eat feces’.
Why a dog eats poop can, as I said be linked to health reasons, boredom and mental behavior issues.
Once you have ruled out an illness as the cause, dealing with the behavior is the next step. Now this can be a challenging behavior to cope with and be successful, but it is possible.
The easiest thing you can do right off the bat, is to keep your backyard clean of any feces’. Yes that means picking it up every time your dog goes out to do their business. If there is nothing out there for your dog to eat, than controlling that behavior becomes possible.
Putting your dog on a leash when you take them outside, can ensure that you quickly remove any mess as soon as it happens. Many dogs will go to eat the feces’ almost right after it happens. Picking it up right away, while also turning your dogs attention to you is important. The distraction can than be topped off with a treat for the good behavior. Using the proper commands along the way with your dog, will also help them learn how to behave when you tell them what to do.
Another option of ways to deter your dog from eating their own feces’, is to add something to their food, that actually makes their poop taste bad. Make sure to discuss this method with your Vet, to find what the best and safest product you could try would be.
Using a sensory deterrent on the remains outside, can also be sprayed on the feces’. This can help change the acidity and aroma of the feces’ simply by spraying things like a 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar mixed together. You could also buy a Bitter Apple type product.
Perseverance, patience and supervision are the 3 things, that I feel are keys to success. Best of luck!