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Why does Your Dog Eat Poop?
How to stop a dog from eating poop? Seeing one’s dog eating poop would be a disgusting sight for any dog owner. As far as dogs are concerned, it seems to be “just one of those things” dogs do. Poop eating (called coprophagia) is an enigmatic behavior that mystifies veterinarians and dog trainers worldwide.
Most dogs will eat the droppings of other creatures (especially other dogs, cats and farm animals – even ducks – with enthusiasm whenever they have the opportunity. Although it’s a very common canine behavior, it’s not very well understood. No-one quite understands why a dog would be attracted to a pile of feces that’s lying on the grass.
Almost all dogs will want to sniff the poop, as a dog’s anal glands leave a kind of message there for other dogs to decipher. It seems equally natural for some dogs to want to consume these little notices.
Whether a dog actually consumes the poop or not appears to be a matter of personal preference. Some derive great satisfaction from eating poop while others seem to be more fastidious.
So, why do dogs eat poop? There are several popular theories about what causes this odd habit:
Popular Theories about Poop-Eating
To supplement his nutrition-deficient diet: If he’s not getting sufficient vitamins or minerals from the food he’s given at home, he’ll try to obtain some leftover nutrition from the poop of other animals (usually cats and dogs).
Apart from the fact that studies done on well-nourished dogs and dogs suffering from malnutrition show that coprophagia occurs with virtually equal frequency in both groups, this is still a mildly credible theory.
He’s doing what his ancestors did in the wild: When carnivores make a kill, they typically consume the entire carcass. They eat the actual flesh, the tendons and sinews and “offal”, which includes the digestive tract and its contents. Some experts suggest that coprophagia is simply a natural extension of this inherited behavior.
He could be bored or stressed: The details of this theory are not clear. However, essentially, bored or stressed dogs – for example, those that spend too much time on their own, those that lead under-exercised, under-stimulated lives and those that don’t receive adequate human affection and attention – often resort to strange and compulsive behavior, such as spinning in circles for hours on end, pulling out their fur or (at least theoretically) poop eating.
Simply stated, he will eat poop simply because there’s nothing else for him to do.
Beware of Parasites!
Internal parasites may be present: There might be worms leaching nutrients from his digestive tract. A dog that has worms will typically have a ravenous appetite and will consume anything edible that he can find. In more serious cases, the infested dog will fill the gap by turning to substances that are technically edible but that he would not normally consider eating, such as poop.
Attempting to conceal an “accident” in the house: Sometimes a dog that has not been adequately housetrained will try to “cover up the crime” by eating the evidence to avoid detection. This is often the case where owners tend to punish their dogs for breaking housetraining rules. The owner might do so out of frustration or impatience; some even believe that the dog is somehow doing it out of spite.
When a dog poops inappropriately indoors he has either not been correctly housetrained (in which case he is not to blame for the “accident”) or the reason is of a medical nature. To exclude the latter possibility, take your dog to the vet for a check-up, especially if the indoor accidents have started suddenly and without warning.
Poop-eating puppies could be emulating their mother’s behavior: Nursing female dogs keep the den area clean by eating the poop of their puppies. It also helps to hide her puppies’ existence from potential predators. Some people think that one of the reasons why coprophagia is so common amongst puppies is that they are emulating their mothers’ behavior.
There are clearly many theories on the subject of coprophagia in dogs. Unfortunately, most of them are without merit. The simple truth is that no-one knows with any degree of certainty why they do it.
How to Stop a Dog from Eating Poop
It’s virtually impossible to “cure” a dog’s poop-eating habit. However, there are a few actions you can take to minimize the problem as much as possible.
As soon as your dog does his business outside, remove and discard it. If he can’t reach it, he won’t be able to eat it. It’ll also save you the trouble of dealing with flies, the smell and the possibility of someone treading on it.
Teach your dog the “Leave it!” command for the times when you take him walking off-lead. The reliability of “leave-it” obedience training makes off-lead walks a real pleasure. It’s also a lot safer for your dog. The “leave-it” command is also useful for protecting your dog against substances such as herbicides, snail- and pest bait and broken glass.
You can booby-trap the backyard poop with things like lemon juice and Tabasco sauce. Still, it’s so much less trouble to just pick it up. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to have been much success with the booby-trap method. In most cases, it turns out that dogs bent on this nasty habit are not put off by a brief burning sensation in their mouths.
Add substances to their food that will make their poop unappealing. Your local vet clinic or pet store should be able to supply you with a product that, when added to your dog’s food (or your cat’s food, if it’s the cat’s stools that he’s eating), will make the poop taste and smell very unappealing to dogs. One recommended product is NaturVet Stool-Eating Deterrent Plus Breath Aid for Dogs (this one’s not for cats):
If it’s cat stools you’re wanting to deter from, you can try For-Bid, also available from Amazon.
Experiment with adding some natural ingredients to your dog’s meals. Try crushed pineapple, a few tablespoonfuls of canned pumpkin or freshly-grated zucchini, for example. Again, evidence indicates that most dogs will readily consume these substances but their presence in poop makes it unpalatable to them.
For more Information
To discover more ways to remedy weird canine behaviors – what they are and how to recognize them, why they happen and how to effectively deal with them – check out Secrets to Dog Training. Written by an experienced dog trainer, it’s packed with valuable information that you can use to train your dog and deal with problematic behaviors. No responsible dog owner should be without a copy!
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