If you are like most people, then you probably find it both disgusting and concerning to see your dog eating feces. While some animals can survive by eating poop alone, such as Dung Beetles, dogs are certainly not one of those animals. In fact, one of the main concerns about dogs eating poop is that it may make them sick. There are a variety of reasons why a dog may eat feces which are their age, training, diet and living conditions. In order to stop your dog from eating poop, you must first determine the reason that they are eating it.
Reasons Why Dogs Eat Feces
While it may not make sense to us, there are a wide range of reasons that a dog may be eating poop. By understanding why your dog is eating feces, you can then take proactive measures to deter this unsightly habit.
Eating feces can have a lot to do with a dog’s natural instincts. In fact, it is common for mother dogs to clean up after their young by eating their puppies’ poop. This instinct may have to do with the fact that dogs were hunters and scavengers for thousands of years before being domesticated by humans.
In the same way that babies explore their world by touching and tasting everything they can, dogs also explore and learn about their environment this way. This is especially true for puppies who may eat poop as a learning experience. You can try to avoid this learning experience turning into a habit by ensuring that all feces is removed from the environment.
Dogs may also learn this habit by watching other dogs eating feces, or even from watching their owners clean it up. If you clean up behind your dog and they see it, then they may misinterpret your actions and begin to ‘clean up after themselves’ by eating their poop.
Poor Nutrient Absorption
In some cases, eating poop may be a habit that is developed due to poor nutrient absorption. There are a variety of health conditions which may cause a dog to begin eating poop. This is because certain health conditions can cause your dog’s body to have trouble absorbing the nutrients that it needs. While the thought of eating feces is revolting to humans, a dog may eat poop in order to replenish enzymes that they need for their bodies to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. In rarer cases, a dog that is overfed is unable to properly digest all of the nutrients in their food and may begin eating their poop as a way to recycle the undigested nutrients.
Lack of Food or Nutrients
A dog that is lacking certain nutrients or is underfed may begin eating poop in order to satisfy their hunger and dietary needs. If your dog is hungry, underfed or eating a diet that is insufficient in proper nutrients, then they may begin eating feces in order to satisfy their hunger and try to fulfill their nutritional needs. When dogs find that eating feces is satisfying and fulfilling, then they will repeat this undesired behavior until it develops into a bad habit.
Cleaning Their Environment
Some dogs may eat poop as a way to keep their living space clean. For dogs who are restricted to a small yard or channel, eating feces may serve as a way to occupy themselves and keep their personal space clean. In some cases, dogs who are punished for defecating inside the house will eat their feces in order to deal with the evidence and avoid punishment.
For dogs who do not receive enough exercise and social interaction, consuming feces may be a side effect of boredom, loneliness or stress. A dog that does not receive enough exercise will look for ways to entertain themselves. Unfortunately, they may find that playing with and eating their poop is entertaining. Dogs that are lacking in social interaction may find that eating feces is a way to receive attention from their owner, even if that attention is negative.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop
Once you understand the motivations behind such undesirable behaviors as eating poop, you can begin taking proactive measures to get rid of this habit.
Here are a few possible solutions:
Change Your Dog’s Diet
Both overfeeding and under-feeding can potentially cause a dog to eat feces. In order to ensure that your dog is receiving the appropriate amount of food, you should consider their breed, age and size. Some breeds are prone to overeating and obesity, and should be kept on a strict diet to maintain a healthy weight. Other breeds may require high-protein dog food or specially formulated blends. You may also wish to consider adding a couple tablespoons of pumpkin to your dog’s food in order to aid digestion and produce repugnant excrement that is unappealing to your dog.
Get Enough Exercise
Going on daily walks is one of the best possible ways to ensure that your dog is receiving enough exercise. In addition to providing exercise, going on daily walks provides your dog with the opportunity to defecate outside. Walking your dog regularly provides them with the interesting activities that they need in order to keep their body healthy and their mind alert. Regular walking also reinforces your dog’s house-training rules by providing them with regular opportunities to eliminate outside.
Keep Your Dog’s Living Area Clean
If your dog is eating their waste in order to keep their living area clean, then cleaning it as soon as they have finished their business will help to eliminate this habit. Teaching your dog to eliminate outside will also help to reduce the opportunities that they have to eat feces. If your dog uses indoor ‘potty pads,’ then removing the waste as soon as they are finished will help prevent them from indulging this habit.
By providing your dog with appropriate obedience training, you can set the groundwork for avoiding these nasty little habits in the future. For example, training your dog to ‘leave it’ is especially beneficial when teaching your dog to stay away from feces.
Many pet supply stores now carry a variety of products that are specially designed to discourage dogs from eating excrement. If you are looking for easy-to-use at home deterrents, then you may consider adding small portions of pineapple, pumpkin or meat tenderizer that contains papain to your dog’s food will give their excrement an extremely bitter taste. Another effective deterrent is to carry a bottle of hot sauce or lemon juice with you when you walk your dog. Whenever your dog defecates, coat the droppings with the deterrent.
You should never physically punish your dog for eating poop. While we consider feces as both disgusting, dogs have a different way of thinking. If you are concerned that your dog may be eating feces in response to a medical condition, then you should take them to see a veterinarian for a checkup. Otherwise, you should determine the motivation that is causing your dog to eat poop and work to correct this habit. Correcting a dog’s bad habit takes a great deal of time and patience. Try more than one of the above mentioned methods, or even a combination of methods, and even if it doesn’t work completely you have still reduced the chances of your dog eating feces.