Out of all the behaviors that your dog may exhibit, eating their own poop is probably the most concerning. If you’ve caught your dog eating their poop, or the stool of another animal, you may be wondering why your furry friend does this, is it dangerous, and should you try to get them to stop? So, why do dogs eat their own poop?
Dogs eat their own poop (feces) for a number of reasons, including:
- Minor Illness/Not Feeling Well
- Instinctual Nutrient Seeking
- Hiding the Poop if They Think They Pooped Somewhere Inappropriate
Dog owners should note that it is perfectly normal and generally harmless for dogs to eat their OWN poop. However, dogs should NOT be allowed to eat the poop of other animals, such as cat poo, as this can cause major health problems from intestinal parasites.
In this article, we’ll explore the question: Why do dogs eat their own poop? We’ll explore some of the many reasons why dogs, whether puppies or an adult dog, eat their fresh poop, as well as what you can do to discourage this behavior. Most importantly, remember that the behavior is normal for domesticated dogs, so please do not punish or make them feel horrible about engaging in poop eating.
Facts About Dogs That Eat Poop
As we stated above, there are numerous reasons you may catch your dog eating their own poop. While some of these reasons are quite normal, there can be room for concern in some cases.
Below, we’ll explore more about what you should know about dogs that eat their own poop and what you should know if your furry friend is a serious stool eater.
Coprophagia: The Scientific Term for Dogs Eating Their Own Feces
The scientific name for a dog eating poop is coprophagia, and there are many psychological and behavioral components at play. While dog owners have plenty of options in terms of discouraging this behavior, your dog’s desire to eat poop is not uncommon…if fact, it’s perfectly normal.
According to a study done by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviors, one in six dogs is classified as severe stool eaters, meaning they’ve been caught in the act five or more times. The same study found that one in four dogs have been spotted eating feces at least once.
While there are many different factors at play, it’s clear to see this behavior isn’t entirely uncommon, and you may have even spotted your furry friend acting out unwanted behaviors such as this.
Female Dogs Are More Likely To Eat Their Own Stool
Research also shows that female dogs are twice as likely to exhibit coprophagia behaviors compared to male dogs. Scientists also found that even if they had never eaten poop before, nursing female dogs become serious stool eaters once their pups are born.
Female dogs eat their young’s stool as a way to clean their den. The mother dog has the instinct that removing the pups’ feces will keep predators away since there is no poop scent to lead predators to the young.
Even though this is normal for nursing mommy dogs, if you notice that your furry friend takes part in stool eating more often than not, including now eating her own poop, it’s best to contact your vet to get their opinion on the matter.
Certain Breeds Are More Likely To Eat Their Own Stool
It’s also been found that certain breeds are more guilty of getting their own stool than others. For example, the biggest offenders of this behavior are hounds and terriers. If your pet falls under this category and is prone to snacking on its stool, this should be no surprise.
As for dogs that were the least likely to exhibit coprophagic, poodles fell into last place. While many breeds have been caught in the act of eating their stool, it’s best to be mindful of the biggest offenders. If your breed falls into any of these categories, pay attention to what they get into while they’re outdoors.
Why Do Dog Eat Their Own Poop: A Few Reasons
Above, we explored some facts about dogs that eat poop and what studies related to the matter. While this may seem like abnormal behavior, there are plenty of typical reasons your dog is interested in its stool.
Let’s explore some of the emotions and environments that your pup may be experiencing that would spark their interest in this behavior.
If your pup had a rough go of it when it came to potty training, this could lead to future anxiety when it comes to relieving themselves. Many puppies end up defecating in places where they shouldn’t once house training begins.
Suppose your dog experienced a lot of fear and anxiety during house training; they may be more likely to eat their stool. Puppies and even older dogs end up performing these kinds of behaviors to remove any evidence of improper pooping.
This, in turn, causes more shame and further punishment when owners catch their dog eating their stool. If you have an anxious pup, it’s best to gently discourage this kind of behavior instead of reacting loudly.
Some dogs are prone to eating their own stool when they notice it’ll get the attention of their owners. This is another common reason you may find your furry friend sticking their nose somewhere it doesn’t belong.
Many dogs may also recognize their owner’s reaction to them eating their poop as a game. Usually, when your dog is eating their stool, your first reaction would be to tell them to drop it or approach them quickly to discourage the behavior.
Many dogs may interpret their owner’s reaction as play and take off running. If you feel like your pup is looking for attention or doesn’t understand that their behavior is unnecessary, it’s best to be stern with your dog to ensure the action doesn’t continue. Remember, training your dog is key.
When wondering why do dogs eat their own poop, a very common reason pertains to motherhood. As we stated earlier, many nursing mother pups will likely eat the poop of their young. This all leads back to ancestral behaviors that nursing dogs practiced to clean out their dens. While not necessarily harmful, mother pups don’t gain nutritional value from this behavior either.
The only con to nursing mothers eating their stool is usually the reaction from their owners. While this behavior may remain unwanted, mother pups are only doing what’s natural to them.
How To Discourage Poop Eating Behavior
It can be quite displeasing to watch your pup do something as revolting as scarfing down their own feces. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can gently discourage this behavior. Let’s explore some of the options dog owners have to stop this unwanted behavior in its tracks.
Add Supplements to Their Diet
Supplements are a great way to discourage your dog from eating their poop. There are plenty of supplements dogs owners can choose from that will not only keep their dogs from becoming interested in their feces but will have plenty of long-term benefits on their dog’s health.
If your dog is a notorious poop eater, think about adding some type of Vitamin-B supplement to your dog’s diet. Vitamin-B supplements will ensure that your dog has plenty of energy and is also crucial for the nervous system.
Adding supplements to dog food can be a very effective way to get your pup any needed nutrients that they might be deficient in. But always practice responsible dog ownership and consult your vet before addressing any suspected nutritional deficiencies.
There are plenty of products designed for dogs that exhibit coprophagy-type behaviors.
Adding this deterrent to your pet’s food or snacks will make the poop they produce less desirable. This is a quick and generally effective way to keep this habit out of your house and out of your dog’s mouth!
A caveat: when using these products, more is NOT better. If your dog were to ignore the deterrent and eat the poop anyway, too much of many of these deterrent products can cause gastric distress. It is best to use the product exactly as the label instructs.
Keep Your Dog’s “Going” Spaces Clean & Clear
Ensuring that your dog’s space remains clean and free of feces is another foolproof way to stop this behavior. Cleaning up after your dog immediately after they relieve themselves will keep them away from this kind of dirty habit. After all, your dog can’t eat poop that isn’t there!
By cleaning, we mean just disposing of the feces, not chemically cleaning the area (unless it is an inappropriate spot, such as inside the house). We want the scent to remain in appropriate places so that your dog will go to the same spot each time. This makes it easier for cleaning and monitoring your dog’s pooping behavior.
Your “Potty Mouth” Dog: Our Final Thoughts and Conclusion
In this article, we explored the question: why do dogs eat their own poop and what you can do to discourage this kind of behavior. It’s clear to see that there are many different factors at play that may cause your pup to find its feces appetizing.
If you have a severe stool eater at home, there are plenty of ways you can gently discourage this habit. Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of why dogs eat poop and some of the facts that dog owners should be aware of. Finally, as with any concern a dog owner might have, when in doubt, call your vet. Speaking of calling your vet, if the expense of veterinary care are adding up for you like so many others, you might want to consider getting pet insurance.
- PetMD: Reasons Dog Eat Poop and How You Can Stop It
- AKC: Why Dogs Eat Poop and How to Stop It
- Psychology Today: Which Dogs Eat Poop and Why Do They Do It?