Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

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Is your little furry-angel as cute as Christmas-tree robin, but has the most disgusting habit?

Don’t despair. If your dog has a palate for poop, you’re not alone. Although, how much of a comfort it is knowing other dogs have the same stomach-churning hobby is another thing. So why do dogs eat poop and how do you stop them?

To answer that question let’s tuck into some trivia and uncover why it is that dogs love to feast on faeces. Actually, there’s a special word for the gastronomic love of the brown stuff, and it’s coprophagia: “Copro” meaning faeces, and ‘”phagia” meaning to eat.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Since dogs don’t speak (in the traditional way of thinking) no-one knows their motivation for sure. However this does not stop behaviourists making some highly educated guesses. Here’s what they came up with.

  • Misplaced Instinct: A mother dog will eat the poop of her puppies to keep the nest clean.This makes it harder for a predator to find her precious litter. Some dogs retain a vestige of this instinct to keep their environment clean, which means eating poop.
  • Separation Anxiety: A dog that’s extremely anxious when left alone can develop some undesirable habits. This can range from barking to chewing, digging, or eating their own poop.
  • Fear of Punishment: Old-fashioned training methods based on dominance were based on flawed logic. These inappropriate methods meant an owner punished their dog for pooping in the wrong place. This dog may then become fearful of their owner’s irrational dislike of their poop, and attempt to eat the evidence to prevent further punishment
  • Boredom: A bored dog generally will generally make their own entertainment. Bizarrely, it seems eating poop is more interesting than not eating it!
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: In the same way a pregnant woman may have cravings, there is an argument that some dogs crave nutrients missing from their diet. The twist in the tale is that dog then seek the missing minerals or vitamins in faeces.
  • Ill Health: Some medical conditions can give a dog unusual cravings which extend to poop. Examples of these problems include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid glands), Cushing’s disease (an excess of natural steroid in the body), and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (a lack of digestive enzymes.) If in doubt as to your dog’s health, get them checked out by a vet.
  • Poop Tastes Nice: Yes, really! Especially cat poop…which is relatively high in protein, which makes it as appealing to dogs as a Mr Whippy with a double flake on top.
  • They Want What You Want: Ever thought how pooper scooping appears to dogs? When we go to so much effort to pick up waste, it must be really high-value stuff…at least that’s what some dogs think. The very fact that we are so keen to get hold of poop may make it extra desirable to our dogs who think they’re missing out on a treat.

Do You Know…Some Poop-related Trivia

Yep, those research scientists have been at it again…studying canine coprophagia. Here are those not-to-be-missed pearls of wisdom.

#1: Dog Poop is Way Down the Menu

While dogs love to dine on cow dung, horse droppings, sheep pellets…or that outstanding favourite cat poop, eating dog faeces is way down the list.

This may be because of instincts telling them to stay clear of the faeces from their own species, because of the risk of picking up parasites.

However, a significant number of dogs buck this trend and seem unusually attracted to their own faeces. Why do dogs eat poop? See the suggestions above.

#2: Fresh is Best

An extensive study of dogs with a taste for waste was published in Veterinary Medicine and Science, May 2018.

This showed that dogs love fresh faeces. Around 82% of confirmed poop eaters turned their nose up at offerings that are more than two days old. Small comfort!

#3: The Frequency of the Faecal Feast

Of dogs that were confirmed faeces feasters, around 62% indulged their habit daily, with the remaining 38% dining out at least once a week.

How Do you Stop a Dog Eating Poop?

Sadly, the traditional methods of adding something unpleasant tasting to the poop so as to deter the dog, rarely works.

Instead, it’s best to up-the-ante with timing, tactics, and training.

First, try not to make the poop appear high value to the dog, by whipping it out from under their nose. Yes, you are keen to stop their horrid habit, but when you can’t have something it makes you want it even more.

Instead, try to divert the dog with a favourite squeaky toy or a game of ball. Then when the dog is distracted, magic the poop away.

Also, work on obedience commands such as “Look”, to get the dog’s attention on you so they away from the faeces. Again, this gives you the chance to pop the dog on a lead and walk them out of the reach of temptation. Be sure to heap praise on their head and give some truly tasty treats, so they start to look for the reward after relieving themselves, rather than the alternative!

Why do dogs eat poop? No reason that makes sense to us…but if you can’t beat ’em..do .make sure the dog is dewormed regularly!

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