You love everything about your dog. You love scratching his belly and watching him relax, cuddling with him on a cold night, and getting his “kisses.” When you’re out on a walk and see him eating poop, however, you might seriously reconsider those kisses. Why do dogs eat poop? Is there anything you can do to stop it?
As with all dog behaviors, you need to understand why your dog is eating poop so you can utilize the proper techniques to get him to stop. Some dog enthusiasts suggest poop eating dates back to a dog’s wolf ancestors. When wolves poop, they expel intestinal parasite eggs. By eating their feces, they theoretically kill the eggs, in turn reducing the risk of an infection. Wolves are also natural scavengers and will eat what they have access to. While this ancestral idea could be why your dog is eating poop, there could be another reason:
Shame – When a dog feels shame, it’s often associated with how he was trained. Did you ever rub your dog’s nose in his poop when he made a mess in the house? This training technique could have connected shame and defecating in your dog’s mind. When he poops, he feels bad about it and will go about cleaning it up orally.
Environment – There are three main environmental factors that result in dogs eating poop. First, when a dog spends a lot of time alone, he tends to stress more than other dogs. When dogs stress and spend too much time alone, they act out and could start eating poop. Second, the dog might also eat poop because he likes the reaction and attention his human friends give him. Finally, if a younger dog spends time around sick or elderly dogs, the younger dog might eat the older dog’s poop as a way to eliminate scents that could potentially attract predators to the older dog.
Health – There may be dozens of health problems that could lead a dog to eat feces. For example, if a dog has a poor diet, he might try to supplement nutrition by eating poop. If he’s been given an overabundance of antibiotics or steroids, he might eat poop in an attempt to neutralize it. If he suffers from malabsorption syndrome, eating his feces might alleviate some of the symptoms.
It’s possible there’s another reason for this behavior, so if these don’t apply, you don’t have to throw in the towel. Take your dog to visit the veterinarian to see if he or she can figure it out so you can begin the process of helping your dog kick the habit.
There are some things you can do to teach your dog not to eat poop. Sometimes these behaviors start young, so you should start young as well. Some of the tricks you’ll learn will directly relate to some of the previously listed reasons for such behavior. Others will be general tips regardless of the reason behind the behavior:
Immediately Clean Up His Messes – As soon as your dog defecates, clean it up. If you’re headed out in public, take some waste bags with you and clean up the mess each time he makes one. This not only helps your dog, but is helpful to other dog owners as well. At home, don’t send the dog out to do his business alone. Go with him and scoop the poop as soon as it’s excreted. If you keep treats in your pocket, you can lure him away from the mess as soon as it’s made. While he gnaws on the treat, you can clean up the mess.
Avoid Other Animal Feces – If you have cats, keep the litter box in an area where the dog can’t get to it. When you’re out and about in the community, keep your dog on a leash so you can control whether he gets near another dog’s or cat’s feces.
Train the Dog Properly – Instead of rubbing your dog’s nose in his poop when he messes in the house during training, come up with another tactic. Something such as a reward for going outside might be a good option.
Spend More Time With Your Dog – If your dog is eating poop due to environmental factors, he may just need you to spend more time with him. Give your dog plenty of attention so he doesn’t feel the need to act out in other ways. A game of fetch or something similar is a great way to wear him out so he doesn’t have the energy to act out by eating poop.
Provide Nutritional Supplements – If your dog is eating poop due to health issues, you might need a veterinarian to help you figure out what nutrients he’s low in so you can provide supplements . Vitamin-B deficiency is often the culprit, as is a lack of enzymes from protein-based foods .
Spray the Poop – There are some awful-smelling deterrent sprays you can spray on the poop to deter your dog from eating it. They’re safe and effective when you’re training your dog, and will leave a lasting impression.
Dogs have all kinds of habits that are different than their human friends. Some are cute and some are not. If your dog has fallen into the habit of eating poop, you need to understand why he’s behaving that way so you can implement some techniques to help him stop.