As humans, when we think of delicacies, we think of things like caviar, escargot, or maybe even truffles! For some dogs, poop is their delicacy. It may be their poop, another dog’s poop, or another animal’s poop that gets them salivating. Cue the big “Ew!” from pet parents, or really anyone for that matter.
It is a quizzical thing to ponder over. Why in the world would a dog want to eat poop when there are plenty of other options to choose from? You may even think that truly, anything else would be better than poop, even garbage!
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? Dogs Eating Feces Explained
You may joke that your dog can be a weird dog! Maybe they like to stare at you while you work out, or they have a particular way they like their blanket in their bed. You may argue that one of the weirdest behaviors is ingesting poop, but it may not be as odd as you think.
There are some pretty clear reasons why dogs eat poop, and we will dive into that.
It’s hard to fathom that our adorable furry friend’s ancestor was the mighty wolf, but selective breeding and domestication will do that. Dogs share some characteristics of their wolf ancestors, including the need to live in packs (whether with other dogs or with you), similar body language, and a sense of smell.
It has been hypothesized that the eating poop habit is inherited from wolves as well.
This habit, called coprophagia, is thought of as a natural and normal behavior for dogs. Although not every dog partakes in this habit, it is thought to have originated from wolves. In fact, almost a quarter of dogs have been caught in the act of eating poop.
The thought is that poop-eating helped scavenger wolves with nutritional deficiencies to obtain nutrients that were not fully digested the first time around. Wolves can go long periods of time from meal to meal.
As such, eating every snack possible could serve as a means of survival and nutritional enrichment. Wolves may have been keen on ingesting poop from other wolves or animals that had different diets from them, maximizing possible nutrient ingestion.
This habit proved to pull double duty (absolutely no pun intended) in that it helped to keep wolve’s dens clean. It also prevented the spread of intestinal parasites and diseases, which can lead to medical issues.
Stool Eating in Motherhood
A mother’s job is truly never done, and this includes dog mothers. Mother dogs will lick their puppies’ stomachs to help them use the bathroom. As the puppies use the bathroom, the mother dog will eat the poop in order to keep their area clean. In the wild, this was a proactive way to keep away predators that may have been attracted to the smell of feces.
Since nursing mothers require more high-quality nutrition, they may choose to eat their puppies’ poop as a way of obtaining additional nutrients.
If your dog has ever had an accident in the house, you have witnessed that they likely know they did something wrong.
For instance, if your dog knows that they will be corrected when you find the poop in the house, they may ingest their poop so they won’t get into trouble. In their mind, no poop equals no punishment.
Boredom Might Cause a Dog’s Poop-Eating Habits
If your dog doesn’t have a way to keep themselves occupied, they will find a way to relieve their boredom. They will find their own fun! This boredom may be cured by getting into the trash, tearing up couch cushions, or eating their poop.
Of course, eating poop can get a reaction from you. Your dog now finds that they will take any attention when they are bored, thus creating the vicious attention-seeking cycle of eating poop to get your reaction.
How To Stop a Dog From Eating Poop
Even though poop eating seems to be a common and instinctual behavior in dogs, it is a behavior that we would like our dogs to avoid. Not only for the general ick factor but the fact that your dog likes to lick you.
It has been hypothesized that puppies and adult dogs ingest their own feces to obtain nutrients, especially ingesting the poop of other dogs who may have different diets. If your dog is eating poop, taking them to the veterinarian to ensure they are receiving all the nutrients they need can be helpful.
Your DVM will be able to run all the necessary tests to see if there is anything missing in your dog’s diet and can make any recommendations. Your vet can also diagnose any digestive issues your dog may have, like conditions that may cause the malabsorption of nutrients.
Pick Up Duty
Your dog cannot get into poop if there isn’t any poop around. While it can be a pain, ensuring that your yard is clear of poop keeps your dog from ingesting any. If your dog relieves themselves on puppy pads, dispose of the pads properly and secure the trash.
This pickup duty extends to other animals. If you have cats in the home, make sure that their litter box is always clear of cat poop or is hard to access by your dog.
Leash & Treats
If your dog tries to eat their poop as soon as it has been deposited, take your dog out on a leash. As soon as they are finished with their business, lead them away from this forbidden snack. Redirect them to a more palatable treat to reward them for leaving the poop alone. Pretty soon, they’ll learn to associate that anytime they poop, they will receive a tastier treat from you.
Keeping your dog on a leash is also very important when going for walks. Redirect your dog anytime they come across another animal’s droppings, and again offer them a high-value treat as an alternative.
Always check with your veterinarian about this topic; there are additives that can be added to your dog’s food that will make their feces less desirable to ingest.
Play and Exercise
Ensuring that your dog has plenty of opportunities to play and walk will keep them from being bored at home. Use toys that give your dog mental and physical stimulation, like treat puzzles, to help them avoid boredom during the day.
AskVet: Your Pet Answer Paradise
While eating poop is gross to us, dogs have a different idea of what is palatable. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but a dog with a powerful nose will find palatable things amongst the gross.
Preventing your dog from ingesting poop will be all about being proactive and keeping them from having the opportunity to get into anything undesirable.
If your dog has been partaking in this behavior for a while, it may seem like it will take a miracle to break the habit. Have no worries, though. Your pals at AskVet are the perfect resource when it comes to any pet question you may have, as well as tips and tricks when it comes to training and behavior issues.
Our Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ can help create a pet lifestyle plan tailored to your pup’s needs and strengths, which will help you and your pet thrive. As you very well know, sometimes your dog can act like an animal. With our behavioral experts, you’ll learn and put into place basic obedience and positive reinforcement techniques.
Schedule a virtual session with a CPLC™, and put your dog’s habit of eating poop behind you both!
Why Does My Dog Eat Poop? | American Kennel Club (AKC)
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? | Mallard Creek Animal Hospital