doggy banner

Poop Eating -- Break the Habit


Eating poop is socially unacceptable and exposes your dog to parasites and diseases.

If your dog is eating poop (coprophagy), rule out a medical cause with your veterinarian. Sometimes an underlying illness or disease may be the cause, such as disorders of the intestinal tract, diabetes mellitus, a deficiency in some vital nutrient such as iron, or other causes.

Upgrade your dog's diet by replacing his grain-based kibble with a complete nutrient-packed and balanced diet.

Sometimes puppies pick up the habit from their mother at a very young age. When puppies are first born, they cannot defecate or urinate on their own. Mother dogs must stimulate their newborns to defecate and will then clean their nursing puppies and eat the feces.

This canine behavior goes back to when dogs were wolves. It is still seen routinely in wild wolves and feral dogs. With puppies in the den, the mother would remove the feces of her young by eating it to keep the area clean, but also to avoid any smell that might be picked up by a predator. Because dogs are pack animals, other adult dogs will sometimes help in rearing the young and help keep the den clean through the same process. So through evolution, dogs eating feces is quite customary from a dog's point of view.

Many puppies outgrow this behavior by 6 months of age with mild discouragement from their owners.

If a veterinarian visit determines no disease is found, poop eating is considered a behavioral problem. Eating poop is a problem that is easier to prevent than cure, so don't allow the opportunity to arise. Keep your dog's yard clean by disposing of feces promptly, by using a pooper scooper or litter bags.

If he is paper trained, clean up the stool so he isn't tempted to eat it. Try to clean up the feces when your dog is not watching you, because sometimes a dog will imitate what his owner is doing.

If your dog tries to eat his poop after it has left his body, take him out on the leash every time, and teach him the "Leave it" command.

Eating poop can be an attention getting behavior. If this is the case, try to startle your dog with a loud noise or clap your hands when you catch him. If possible, avoid letting him know that the startling noise came from you. If your dog knows a command such as "Leave it!" say that. Praise your dog when he drops it and give him an acceptable item to chew or play with.

If it is play behavior, keep plenty of toys in the yard for your dog to play with. Make sure your dog has good, tough chew toys to relieve doggy tensions. Praise your dog when he is playing with his toys outside. Prevent bordeom -- set aside time during the day for plenty of attention, exercise, and interaction. A tired dog is a good dog!

Keep living spaces, crates, kennels, and yard clean by removing stool right away.

Stool eating deterrents that give poop a very bad taste can be added to your dog's food or given as a treat. These are digested by the animal, and results in giving the feces a very bad taste. They also freshen your dog's breath!

Do-it-yourself treatments to stop poop eating can be added to your dog's food include sprinkling Accent (flavor enhancer), a drop of anise essential oil, or adding garlic, pumpkin, pineapple, or meat tenderizer. These methods work for some dogs but not for all.

Put Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper (chili powder) on the poop -- not the food.

Verbal scolding, yelling, or punishment may be interpreted by your dog as attention. This approach won't resolve the problem and is likely to produce either fearful or aggressive responses from your dog.

Have your veterinarian do a fecal flotation examination every 6 - 12 months. This will screen your dog for exposure to intestinal parasites or worms such as hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.

If you suspect that anxiety, stress, or frustration is the reason for poop eating, the cause should be identified and the behavior changed by using obedience modification techniques -- positive reinforcement clicker training.

Many animals learn to refrain from the behavior when their owner is present, but still engage in the problem behavior when their owner is absent. So any reaction from you after the fact is never helpful. Animals don't understand why you are upset for something they did hours, minutes, or even seconds before.