Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Poop eating is probably every dog owner’s least favorite behavior problem. Not every dog does it but if you have a dog who likes to eat poop, it can be a real trial. Why do dogs eat poop? It’s one of those behaviors where there are lots of theories but not a lot of definite answers. No on really knows why dogs do it. Here are some of the ideas people have proposed to explain coprophagia, or poop eating.

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Puppy behavior. This is the theory that everything goes back to the mother, or the litter box. When puppies are very small, their mothers lick them and clean up after them, including their bowel movements. Maybe some mothers carry this behavior too far and continue to eat poop after their puppies are gone. Maybe some puppies mimic the behavior they see their mother doing and try to “clean up” poop when they are older.

It tastes good. Hard to believe, but your dog has different ideas about what tastes good than you do. Dogs are scavengers. Some dogs might eat poop because it tastes good to them. Depending on the food that was eaten, they might like what is being produced, especially if there are chunks in it. This theory can really apply to dogs who love cat poop – and all dogs seem to love cat poop. Not only does it come from cats – SCORE! But cat food has lots more protein and fat in it than dog food, so the cat poop might be very tasty to your dog.

Hunger or nutritional deficiencies. It’s possible that some dogs eat poop because they are hungry or because there are nutritional deficiencies in their dog food. This would occur in extreme cases. Most dog foods today are, if anything, over-saturated with added vitamins and minerals. However, if a dog was starving, he might eat dog poop because he was hungry. It’s possible but it probably doesn’t explain why most dogs eat poop.

Boredom. Dogs can eat poop because they are bored. Dogs do a lot of weird things when they are bored. They chew woodwork, eat furniture, develop obsessive-compulsive disorders, become nuisance barkers. A bored dog could develop a habit of eating poop to amuse himself.

Multiple dog households. If you have multiple dogs then lower ranking dogs might eat the poop of the higher ranking dogs. Are they performing a service? Trying to gain favor? It’s unclear, but it sometimes happens.

Hiding evidence. A dog that is normally housetrained who poops in the house might eat the poop to try to hide the evidence of their accident.

Health reasons. In some cases a dog may eat poop because of health reasons. A dog with some kinds of parasites or a dog with pancreatic problems may start eating poop. Some dogs might have trouble digesting their food so they are not getting the proper nutrients in their diet – and they start trying to get them by eating poop. It’s a good idea for your vet to examine your dog if he suddenly begins to eat poop.

There are lots of possible reasons why a dog might eat poop. They can vary from dog to dog. Poop eating is a hard habit to break. It helps to know why your dog is eating poop. Start by having your dog examined by your vet so you can rule out any health problems that might be causing the behavior. Then you can try some common methods to stop the poop eating such as adding meat tenderizer or pineapple to your dog’s food to make his poop taste bad to him.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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