Coprophagia, the term for consumption of feces, is a common issue brought up in the dog world. As a Dog Trainer, I'd estimate that 1 out of every 7 or so of my clients tell me they have issues with their dog eating their own feces, or another dog/animals. It's pretty gross, yes, but why exactly do they do it? Check out below:
It could be health related, but not necessarily. If a dog is having gastrointestinal issues that make them lose important nutrients, they may be more prone to Coprophagia to gain back some of the lost nutrients.
If a dog has a poor diet lacking in vitamins and nutrients, that could also be a reason why they are eating their stools. Certain disorders and diseases like diabetes, Cushing's disease and thyroid disorders, which can cause an unusual or increase in appetite can lead to this as well.
Treat it: Seeing a Veterinarian is a must to rule out medical conditions. After the medical cause is treated, the dog may still eat their stool due to it becoming a learned behavior. Teach a solid leave-it to prevent this, as well as immediately picking up after them.
Monkey see- Monkey do
Dog's are constantly learning from other dogs. If you have a multi dog household, and have noticed one dog picks up on anothers bad behaviors (begging, barking, etc), or even good behaviors (dog was taught to "Sit" by watching the other dog being rewarded when they sat"), you can pretty much attest to this fact. If a dog watches another dog eating poop, it's not a guarantee they will pick up the bad habit, but they may be tempted to try it. If it's reinforcing in some way for the dog, they may have just picked up a new habit. Yuck!
Treat it: Management (immediately picking up after your dogs) and teaching a leave-it are a must.
Incorrect Potty Training
Dogs who were potty trained using the method of "sticking their nose in their poop" if they had an accident, can be more enticed to eating it now.
Treat it: Don't punish your dog for having accidents. Read my article on potty training, here: https://www.jaimedoolittle.com/single-post/2016/12/08/PottyTraining
Coprophagia is extremely common in puppies that most grow out of. Puppies, like human babies, explore everything; textures, tastes, etc. Lots of puppies find their poop or other dogs poop rewarding. Gross!
Treat it: Don't let the puppy practice the behavior. Pick up after them and other dogs immediately after they relieve themselves. Teach a leave-it for the other times. Make the cue "Leave-it" mean that if the puppy leaves the poop, they get rewarded with something even better. After all, if I'm about to eat taco bell and I have to stop eating it, there better be something even better than taco bell in it for me!
I've watched a clients dog try to eat their own poop while they were still defecating. I've heard similar stories, as well as dog's eating other dogs poop while they were still relieving themselves.
As disgusting as this is, some dogs can develop an OCD type behavior to coprophagia and obsessively have to have it.
Treat it: While this one is probably the hardest to treat, follow these steps: After ruling out medical issues, management is a must. It's very important that they not be given the chance to practice the behavior; If your dog goes potty in the backyard, all poop must immediately be picked up, every time. Teach a solid leave it- depending on the severity of the behavior, if your dog attempts to eat it after they go to the bathroom (and not during), build up a solid leave it. Practice inside with different items as a leave-it and then build your way up to practicing with this.
Dogs who go long periods of time without human interaction, or dogs experiencing stress from other things may resort to this to try and relieve the boredom or stress.
Treat it: Try and remove as many stressors from your dogs life as possible. Provide your dog with plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation to reduce boredom. Read more about that, here: https://www.jaimedoolittle.com/single-post/2017/05/24/5-boredom-busters-for-your-dog
**** If all else fails, train your dog to pick up their poop themselves like the dog in the picture. Just kidding- call me!
Photo credit: "Harley Dawg, owned by Jackie Parkin, Lifestyle dog training, Burlington, ON, Canada".
Jaime Devereaux owns Jaime Doolittle Dog Training, in Palm Beach County, Florida. She is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed and trains in the following cities:
Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Wellington, West Palm Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Loxahatchee, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach and Jupiter. 786-521-5023 www.JaimeDoolittle.com