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Why your puppy is eating poop

Puppy Jack Russell eating poop in the grass advice
© Shutterstock

Let’s be real here; 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 puppy is eating poop - and how to stop it.

By Alice Lang

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 puppy 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 puppy 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 puppy 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 has probably been eating poop since 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 puppy is eating poop, he might just be a little bored or even lonely. This can be the case for dogs or puppies of any age.

He’s stressed

The start of a dog’s life can be a rather stressful time. There are lots of new things to learn, lots of adjusting to do, and new people to get to know. Stress or separation anxiety can cause puppies to display lots of odd behaviours, one of them being eating poop.

He’s hungry

Puppies develop at the speed of light, and sometimes they need more food than we believe. Your puppy might be eating his poop simply because he’s hungry.

He’s ill

Your pup could also be suffering from intestinal parasite infestations or worms, which take nutrients from your cute little pup’s body. This leaves him starving 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 puppy continues to eat poop. Puppies crave attention, and when you react - whether it was positively or negatively - he’ll repeat those behaviours to get your attention again.

What to do if your puppy 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

What food are you giving your pup? Whether you are feeding him 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 little one at regular times. As soon as your pup gets peckish, he’s likely to see his poop as another food source.

Increase puppy playtime

It’s so important to keep your puppy 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 pup happy and stress-free.

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

Remove the temptation

Pippa Mattinson, author of The Happy Puppy Handbook: Your Definitive Guide to Puppy Care and Early Training, said: “It may seem obvious, but your dog is less likely to develop a coprophagia habit if you are very committed to clearing up his faeces the second he has emptied himself.”
She added, “Puppies that are allowed unsupervised access to parts of the garden for longish periods of time are more likely to experiment with eating poo.”

Clean up your puppy’s poop as soon as he has done it, so he has no chance to play with it or eat it. You could try putting your dog on a leash when taking him outside to the toilet and leading him away as soon as he’s finished, giving him no chance to inspect or eat his poop.

Don’t shout - reward good behaviour instead

Pippa advises that “Modifying your puppy’s horrible habit means offering him a better reward for ignoring the object of his desires than the one he is helping himself to." As we mentioned earlier, your puppy is likely to replicate any kind of behaviour which earned him your attention. Shouting might deter him for a little while, but it will probably make the problem worse in the long run.

Instead, to effectively stop your dog from eating his excrements, ignore the behaviour if he slips up. Try to prevent the behaviour from happening by calling your pooch inside as soon as he’s finished. If he comes straight inside without eating his poop, reward him with a tasty treat and a cuddle.