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Why your puppy is eating poop

Puppy Jack Russell eating poop in the grass advice

Puppy eating poop: Behaviour explained

© Shutterstock

Talking about poop isn’t a pleasant topic for anyone! But having a dog or a puppy means dealing with the yucky stuff on a daily basis. Here’s why your dog is eating poop - and how to stop it.

By Alice Lang

Published on the 02/03/2020, 17:24

Coprophagia or eating poop may seem disgusting to us as humans, but for a puppy or even an adult dog, it can be a pretty common habit. It might seem strange that your dog is eating stool, but trust us - this is an extremely common problem in both young and older dogs.

Coprophagia can appear in all sorts of situations: dogs may search the park in order to eat other dogs' poop, may scavenge the cat's litter box to eat cat poop, or even lurk in the yard in search of their own poop to eat. In any case, there are a number of explanations as to why your dog is a so-called 'poop eater', ranging from simple problems like boredom, to medical issues such as diabetes.

The best way to move forward is to figure out the reason why your dog is eating poop as soon as possible. Then, you can take them for appropriate treatment or make a simple switch to his diet or lifestyle to solve the problem. If ignored, it could become a tricky habit to shift.

Reasons why your puppy is eating poop

He’s picked it up from his mother

Your puppy probably started eating poop when he was with all his doggy brothers and sisters in the litter. Mother dogs eat their puppies' poop. While this may seem gross, it’s actually perfectly natural. In a dog’s natural environment, a mother dog does this in order to keep the den clean and also to make sure no predators are drawn to the scent. Your pup, who copies the behaviour of its mother, is just naturally following her lead.

He’s bored

Believe it or not, if your dog is eating poop, he might just be a little bored or even lonely.

He’s stressed

Stress or separation anxiety can cause dogs to display lots of odd behaviours, one of them being eating poop. This is particularly the case for dogs who are adjusting to a new home.

He’s hungry

Puppies develop at the speed of light, and sometimes they need more food than we believe. Your puppy might be eating poop simply because he’s hungry. Similarly, some dogs will eat poop if they're not getting essential nutrients from their diet.

He’s ill

Your pup could be suffering from intestinal parasite infestations or worms, which take nutrients from his body. This could also be caused by diabetes, Cushing's disease, hypothyroidism, or malabsorption syndrome. These conditions will leave him feeling hungry no matter how much he eats - hence why he eats poop.

He’s looking for attention

Has your pup been eating poop for a while? Have you displayed your disappointment by yelling or appearing upset? This may actually be why your dog continues to eat poop. Puppies especially crave attention, and when you react - whether it was positively or negatively - he’ll repeat those behaviours to get your attention again.

Is my dog going to get sick?

The stool itself is relatively harmless. Our dogs have a much sturdier digestive system than we do, and the healthy bacteria in their gut does a really good job of dealing with toxins. However, eating poop transmits worms and parasites, both of which can be passed onto humans. You'll need to find a way to stop your dog from eating poop. In the meantime, make sure you keep your hands clean and sanitised.

What to do if your dog is eating poop

Take him to the vet

If, at any age, your dog is eating poop, you should firstly take him to the vet. You need to rule out any health issue that might be causing this problem.

Keep an eye on his diet

Whether you're feeding your canine dog food or home cooked meals, you need to ensure what you’re giving him is high quality food and that it meets all his nutritional needs. If it seems like he’s constantly hungry, increase the amount of food slightly. As well as this, ensure you’re feeding your dog at regular times.

Increase playtime

It’s so important to keep your dog engaged - both mentally and physically - at all times. Take him on plenty of walks, have regular playtime, and ensure that he has plenty of toys available at all times to keep him entertained. And remember, lots of cuddles will go a long way in keeping your dog happy and stress-free.

My puppy is eating poop
Your puppy might just need some more playtime and cuddles! ©Unsplash

Remove the temptation

Though it may seem obvious, dogs that are allowed unsupervised access to areas where there is poop are more likely to experiment with eating it. Your dog is less likely to develop this habit if you are careful about clearing up his faeces (or the cat's, etc.,) the second he has emptied himself.

If your dog is a fan of eating poop while on walks, try to keep your eye on the horizon at all times. If you spot horse manure in the distance, for example, put your dog on a leash  and lead him away from it, giving him no chance to inspect or eat the poop.

Avoid punishment - reward good behaviour instead

Shouting might deter your dog for a little while, but it will probably make the problem worse in the long run.

Instead, to effectively stop your dog from eating excrements, ignore the behaviour if he slips up. Try to prevent the behaviour from happening by calling your pooch back to you. If he comes straight to you without eating [his] poop, reward him with a tasty treat and a cuddle. The trick is to offer him a better reward for ignoring the object than he would get from eating it!