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How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop: A Complete Guide For Dog Owners - PawSafe
Dog Training

How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop: A Complete Guide For Dog Owners

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop

Having a dog that eats yucky things is a common problem, so if you are wondering how to stop your dog from eating poop, you are not alone. Not only is this behavior unpleasant and disturbing to see, but it may also pose health risks to your dog. Being proactive about preventing poop eating is essential to deal with this icky behavior.

Common reasons include boredom or stress, attention-seeking behavior, and even just the availability of poop that hasn’t been cleaned up. So always ensure a poop-eating dog has plenty of distractions, such as a puppy snuffle mat.

To answer your questions about why dogs eat poop and how you should respond, we have consulted our expert source, Stop Your Dog Eating Poop: The Complete Guide for Frustrated Dog Owners, by Mia Montagliani and Kath Luty. Read on as we delve further into the issue, learn about the most common causes, and discuss the possible solutions.

So, let’s look at why your dog eats poop and how to stop it. See here.

10 Most Common Reasons a Dog Eats Poop

10 Most Common Reasons a Dog Eats Poop

Reasons for why dogs eat poop (called coprophagy) are not completely understood. About 16% of dogs engage in this behavior and experts have suggested many possibilities. Let’s look at the most common reasons people suggest are the root causes of poop eating in dogs. 

  1. Nutritional deficiencies: Many believe that dogs eat poop to compensate for missing nutrients in their diet. In fact, many people suggest deworming a dog in case parasites are causing a deficiency. However, while a severe vitamin B1 deficiency might cause coprophagia, there really is not a lot of sound research to support that nutritional deficiencies cause this behavior. And this goes for many dietary theories like a lack of fiber, or a diet too high in carbohydrates.
  1. Underlying health problems: Something that may cause a dog to eat poop are health issues like malabsorption issues, chronic pancreatic insufficiency (leading to symptoms like orange poop), enzyme deficiencies, or starvation. If dogs are not able to absorb nutrients properly, and most of it is being excreted, it is possible that they may have incentive to eat it. This is similar to when dogs eat vomit.
  2. Boredom: Dogs may engage in poop eating out of boredom or as entertainment.
  3. Behavioral instinct: Some dogs have an instinctual behavior of consuming feces, which can be challenging to break. This may be why eating poop is more common in female dogs who have a natural instinct to clean up poop from their puppies.
  4. Attention-seeking & Learned Behavior: Dogs may eat poop to gain attention from their owners, even if it’s negative attention. It’s also more common in homes with more than one dog, so it’s possible dogs learn to eat stool from each other. Or it’s a natural pack instinct.
  5. Anxiety, stress & compulsive disorders: Dogs may resort to poop eating as a coping mechanism when feeling anxious or stressed. In fact, this is likely a strong reason since Pica shows up in about 45% of anxious dogs. Pica is a disorder when a dog (or person) eats something that is not considered food. Eating poop can certainly qualify as a subcategory of pica in dogs.
  6. Littermate behavior: Puppies may learn poop-eating from their littermates and continue the habit into adulthood.
  7. Scent attraction: Some dogs are attracted to the smell of feces, which motivates them to eat it.
  8. Environmental factors: If a dog is exposed to a dirty environment or lives with other animals that engage in coprophagia, they may imitate the behavior.
  9. Natural curiosity and instinctive cleaning behavior: Dogs explore their environment through their mouths, and this curiosity can extend to consuming poop. For some dogs, it may be related to instinct to “clean” their area.

Studies show that poop eating behavior is a little more widespread in specific situations. Dogs are more prone to eating poop if:

  • They live in multi-dog households
  • They are castrated
  • They have a greedy style of eating (picky or slow eaters are less likely to eat poop)
  • If they belong to certain breeds, like Retrievers
  • If they chase their chase shadows or their own tails
  • If their mothers were often absent when they were very young

This suggests that stool eating in dogs is probably a mix of factors, related to genetics, compulsive disorders, problems like indiscriminate eating, pica, or even chasing shadows.

What can happen if my dog keeps eating poop?

Remember that poop eating is fairly dangerous for dogs. Deadly diseases like Parvo are primarily spread through infected feces. Poop can also carry parasites, like worms. Not to mention the hygiene issues that can arise from your dog kissing your face or licking something in your house (see our article on why dogs lick feet!).

Other health hazards in dog poop include:

  • Hookworms, tapeworms, and roundworms
  • Salmonella and E. Coli, and
  • Giardia

How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop: 11 Top Tips

There’s no easy answer on how to stop coprophagia (eating poop) altogether. It’s a complex issue influenced by various factors. After all, you may teach your dog the “leave it” command to stop them in the act, but this won’t guarantee that they won’t do it when you’re not there. So, the key to stopping your dog eating poop lies primarily in being proactive about management and prevention.

Please remember, there is a link between poop eating and anxiety or compulsive behaviors in dogs. For this reason, punishment is not a good tool to use for this. Punishment can increase their anxiety and exacerbate the issue. It can also become a source of negative attention for dogs who are happy with any kind of attention they can get.

1. Supervision and Intervention 

Keep a close eye on your dog, especially during potty breaks or outdoor activities. Respond promptly if you notice them showing interest in feces by redirecting their attention or using verbal cues to discourage the behavior.

2. Keep your yard clean & limit access

If your dog is a serial poop eater, the best way to stop it is to prevent it. Keep your yard clean and remove any stools promptly. You may want to train your dogs to only poop in one spot to make it easier to clean up after them. You can even fence this area off so that the dogs don’t have access to the pooping area and they go potty at specific times in the day. They video below shows how to teach a dog to poop in one area:

3. Keep your dog on leash in public (and use muzzles)

When you have a poop eater, it’s best not to take them to the local dog park and let them off leash. Instead, keep your dog on leash unless you are certain they are in an area that is free of feces. 

Also invest in muzzle training your dog to be able to physically create a barrier that blocks them from eating poop if they are off leash.

4. Manage your dog’s routine

While upping the amount of time you spend on fun activities with your dog, like playtime and exercise can help divert them from a compulsive need to eat poop, managing their routine is also helpful. This means specific crate times and specific times to go potty. This also means you can clean up any poop immediately after they potty, which prevents access.

5. Redirecting to a better activity

Having crate time during the day and teaching your dog to settle, is also a great time to offer them a better alternativ-e-archive to eating poop. Chew toys, puzzle toys, and other appropriate items for them to eat means that you can redirect their natural urges to something less dangerous and unpleasant.

6. Positive Reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement techniques to reward your dog for appropriate behaviors and obedience. That can include treats, praise, or playtime to reinforce good behavior and create positive associations.

7. Command Training (Leave It!)

Teach your dog basic commands such as “leave it” or “drop it” and practice them consistently. These commands can help redirect your dog’s attention away from feces and reinforce more desirable behaviors.

8. Increased Exercise and Mental Stimulation 

Ensure your dog receives daily physical and mental stimulation. A tired and mentally stimulated dog is less likely to engage in undesirable behaviors like coprophagia.

9. Regular Veterinary Check-ups & Deworming

Schedule regular veterinary check-ups to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to coprophagia. Your vet can guide potential medical causes and recommend appropriate treatment options. Check for issues that may be causing your dog to struggle to absorb nutrients, like pancreatic problems or malabsorption syndrome. Also keep your dog up-to-date on deworming and make sure they eat a high-quality diet to avoid any deficiences.

10. Address Anxiety and Stress

If your dog exhibits signs of anxiety or stress, work on addressing the underlying causes through techniques such as desensitization, counterconditioning, or seeking professional help from a qualified dog behaviorist.

11. Socialization and Training Classes

Enroll your dog in socialization or obedience training sessions to improve their behavior, responsiveness, and overall well-being. These classes provide structure, guidance, and opportunities for positive social interactions.

The Importance of Patience and Persistence

It’s important to remember that completely stopping coprophagia can be very difficult. Results may not happen overnight, so staying patient and persistent is crucial. Celebrate even the most minor victories and consistently reinforce positive behaviors while discouraging unwanted ones.

The Complexity of Coprophagia: When to Consult Professionals

Given the complexity of coprophagia, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a veterinarian or a qualified dog behavior specialist. They can evaluate your dog’s unique situation, rule out any underlying medical issues, and provide tips on how to stop your dog from eating poop.

Help! My Pregnant Dog is Eating Poop!

Pregnant dogs may exhibit coprophagia (eating poop) for various reasons. The primary reason is probably that mother dogs clean up their puppies’ poop naturally, so this instinct may just be kicking in when a dog is pregnant. A female dog that is cleaning up after her puppies is natural behavior and even important, as puppies need their mothers to stimulate their bowels to work with licking. Other reasons a pregnant dog may eat feces include:

  1. Nutritional Deficiencies
  2. Hormonal Changes
  3. Stress or Anxiety
  4. Environmental Factors

Should I Prevent My Pregnant Dog From Eating Poop?

You should discourage and prevent a pregnant dog from eating poop. Coprophagia poses potential risks to the health of the pregnant dog and her developing puppies. However, remember that when the puppies are born, eating their poop is a natural part of the cleaning process.

My Dog Is Eating Her Puppies’ Poop! Is It Normal?

It is common for a mother dog to consume her puppies’ poop, especially during the early stages of their lives. While it may seem strange or concerning, this behavior can be a normal maternal instinct in dogs. 

Here are a few reasons why a mother dog might eat her puppies’ poop:

  1. Cleanliness and Protection: Mother dogs naturally want to keep their den or living area clean to protect their puppies from potential predators or diseases
  2. Stimulating Elimination: In the first few weeks of a puppy’s life, the mother stimulates their elimination by licking their genital and anal areas.
  3. Nutritional Recycling: Mother dogs instinctively try to recycle nutrients by consuming the feces of their puppies. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I spray on my dog or give my dog to stop eating poop?

Many products exist that claim to stop dogs eating poop. The truth is that unless you are walking around your yard and spraying poop with anti-chew spray, there is no scientifically proven product to stop a dog eating poop. Limiting access to feces is the most reliable way to stop this behavior.

Does pineapple stop a dog eating poop?

Some believe that feeding dog pineapple will make the poop taste bad and stop poop eating. Small amounts of pineapple are relatively safe for dogs to eat (if you can persuade them to eat it), but the evidence for this working is unclear and anecdotal. It will also not stop your dog from eating poop in places like dog parks.

What vitamins do dogs need to stop them eating poop?

In the past, some veterinarians have believed that thiamine or vitamin B1 deficiencies may cause a dog to eat poop. There is no real scientific evidence to support this and it’s best to have your dog tested if you suspect they do have a nutritional deficiency. Thiamine deficiencies in particular can be deadly and if your dog is deficient in vitamin B1, coprophagia is not the biggest concern.

Giving your dog a daily multivitamin chew however, is usually more than enough for most dogs to avoid any nutritional deficiency.

What can happen if my dog keeps eating poop?

When a dog eats poop, there are several potential risks and health concerns. These include gastrointestinal upset, the spread of parasites, infections, poisoning, nutritional imbalances, and behavioral issues.

How do I clean my dog’s mouth after they’ve eaten poop?

Dampen a clean towel or washcloth with a pet-safe mouthwash or oral rinse and gently wipe their teeth, gums, tongue, and inside of the cheeks. Rinse with a damp cloth using clean water and provide access to fresh drinking water. Use a dental hygiene additive in their water bowl to kill germs in their mouth when they drink.

In Conclusion

Stopping your dog from eating poop can be challenging due to the various underlying causes and individual differences. However, you can manage this behavior by managing their environment.

You should also provide distractions, address any nutritional deficiencies, and seek professional guidance. Remember to be patient and persistent, and celebrate small victories. 

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.