Why is My Dog Eating Poop?
Expert advice on coprophagia in dogs
Q: We love, love, love Stewart, our senior Miniature dapple Dachshund. We have had him for a year and a half now. He is a perfect boy in every way…well, almost. He is a poop eater…BIG TIME! I would love to see this issue addressed. It drives me crazy! —Barbara Vasquez
A: I hear you—puppy kisses and poop eating certainly do NOT go hand in hand! This disgusting habit is VERY upsetting and can really affect your relationship with your dog. The nasty behaviour can have many origins. Why do some dogs eat poop? Mother dogs clean their puppies and the whelping area by licking up everything. If puppies are separated from their mothers and their area is not kept clean, some puppies take this job on themselves, as will some dogs who are caged and not cleaned up after; it can then become a habit. Adult dogs that have been allowed to dip into this gnarly delicacy by spending many hours solo in the yard may also have developed a near-intractable taste for it. Sometimes a combo issue can be the culprit, part habit, part yearning for something lacking in their diet. Some dogs have difficulty with how their bodies digest food and compensate by eating poop, which then becomes their M.O. The fewer nutrients absorbed in food’s journey through the digestive tract, the more appealing it is once its come out the other end.
So how to break this bad habit? Step one is prevention. Any doggie doors need to be closed temporarily to prevent unsupervised potty breaks. Begin guiding your dog outside for potty time on-leash only several times a day. Keep your yard fastidiously clean. Sure, allow playtime in the backyard but only after your dog has pooped and its been cleaned up. If you have many dogs theneveryone should be on the same potty schedule. And yes, that’s possible. Off-leash dog parks are off the menu for now.
Starting a new potty pattern with your dog enables you to isolate on-leash what he should not do. Yelling at a distance doesn’t work. You need to be clear that you’re not saying don’t go to the bathroom. You need to isolate the two acts—eliminating vs. eating the results—and the leash helps your dog tell which part of the equation is a no-no. If your dog attempts to eat poop while on a leash you can give a quick, gentle tug and firm NO as a proper correction. The leash prevents your dog from being able to run away and misunderstand the reprimand, as well as allows you to guide your dog in a positive way outdoors to go potty. To have clarity is key in any behaviour modification.
This new ritual should be backed up with a trip to the vet. Ask about FOR-BID, which is a safe food supplement that makes poop taste bad. Last but not least, ask your vet about your dog’s diet and brand of dog food. Your vet may be able to suggest a natural enzyme that’s missing from your dog’s diet that can aid in digestion. Adding enzymes may drastically improve your dog’s absorption of nutrients, thereby helping in the quest to stop the poop eating. All three tips together will solve the poop problem and replace it with pure puppy love.
Inger Martens is a celebrity dog trainer and behavioral expert. An author, television and radio personality, she has been dubbed “Best Dog Trainer in LA” by Los Angeles magazine. She is currently excited to announce her new online resourcefor dog owners, pawsforaminute.com.