Coprophagia is the fancy name for eating poop. If you haven’t seen your dog do it, I’m sure you’ve seen someone’s dog do it. But WHY do they do it? It’s so… disgusting. According to the ASPCA, the possible motivations behind your dog eating poop include perfectly natural doggie instincts, but may also indicate some form of malnourishment.
For the most part, dogs eat poo because old habits die hard. Though our pups tend to be domesticated and housebroken, they still have the mentality that they live in the wild. In nature, dog parents often eat the feces of their young to keep the nest clean and prevent predators from following the smell.
Since your dog doesn’t live in the wild, Dr. Patrick Tate suggests the following reasons as possible explanations for why your dog is eating poop:
They Like The Flavor
Believe it or not, your dog may actually like the taste of his own poop or that of other dogs. This is likely the result of being fed too much people food, enriching the feces with the residual scents and flavors of human cuisine.
Dogs that eat cat poop or nuggets left by local wildlife probably enjoy the flavor of that animal’s high-protein diet. Remember, these are the same pups that roll in rotting carcasses, so there’s no accounting for taste!
They Are Bored
While you may never have tried to kill time by eating out of the toilet, your dog doesn’t have a smartphone or an Xbox to keep herself busy. They also lack opposable thumbs, so taking up knitting is out of the question.
If your dog is litterbox grazing or eating her own poop when left home alone, she’s probably bored. Try a puzzle toy to keep her brain – and mouth – occupied.
They Are Feeling Anxious
Boredom and anxiety go paw-in-paw. Dogs with nothing to do often develop compulsions like obsessive chewing. Coprophagia may be just another negative behavior triggered by separation anxiety.
Because It’s There
If you have a backyard full of poop, your dog might just be doing the cleanup you should be doing. It likely goes back to their instinct to keep a tidy “nest.”
They Want Your Attention – For Better Or Worse!
Do you react loudly every time your pup reaches for a bite of poo? Your dog might anticipate that reaction and simply do it to get you to pay attention to her. In the canine world, there’s no such thing as negative attention when it comes to their favorite hooman!
To Avoid Punishment
If the dog has been rebuked for pooping in specific places, then they may conclude that it is necessary to dispose of the evidence. After all, if the poop is gone, you must move on!
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Learned behavior is common in pack animals. They observe their parents and littermates in order to learn how to dog. A dog eating poop may simply be imitating the behavior of other pups it knows.
There Could Be An Underlying Health Problem
How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop:
Coprophagia may either resolve itself or become a persistent problem. Luckily, Dr. Tate has several suggestions to help you nip it in the bud!
- Feed a high quality diet at the same time(s) each day.
- Provide your dog with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Keep your yard and your dog’s living area free of poop.
- Try adding a “coprophagia deterrent” (like For-Bid or Deter) to your dog’s food. Note: These are generally safe, but be sure to check with your veterinarian before using.
- Add pineapple or pumpkin to your dog’s food. They like the taste going in, but not so much going out!
- Teach your dog the “Leave It!” command and try to catch them in the act.
- Leash walk your dog and pick up poop as soon as he goes.
- If you have a cat, put the litter box in a place where your dog can’t reach it (but your cat can).