What Can You Do If Your Dog Eats Poop ?

Typically, a dog is a rather cuddly companion, so pet owners are usually fairly disgusted when they discover that their dog eats poop.

Dog coprophagia

Dog coprophagia: Odie Eating Molly\’s Poop—Howard O Young (Flickr.com)

Why Do Some Dogs Eat Feces?

Eating of feces or coprophagia, is a common behavior for dogs, but also for other species.  Dogs eat their own feces or that of other canines and other animal species.


 When is Coprophagia Normal?

Coprophagia is a normal behavior for a bitch with very young puppies: she is cleaning them by licking the perineal area so that the puppies are stimulated to urinate and defecate. This will keep the nest box tidy and clean.

Some puppies, when they start to explore their environment play with and eat feces.


 When Will It Turn Into An Abnormal Behavior?

Eating feces starts to become an abnormal behavior if your dog has developed a medical condition, such as malabsorption due to different reasons, which leaves her very hungry all the time.

Dog coprophagia, Beagle Coprophagia

Dog coprophagia, Beagle Coprophagia—fuzzcat (Flickr.com)

There are also theories about missing nutrients and vitamins, but there is not a lot of evidence found in the literature to back this up.

A more common reason are behavioural problems:

Dogs are trying to eat their own feces or that of house mates and their owners are rather dismayed by it. In their attempts to stop this, they help to increase often the desire of their dog to eat poop and this can sometimes even become a more or less competitive game for the dog, as their owners are also involved in it. (We won’t know this, because we usually don’t really know the rules of the game…).


What Are Dos And Don’ts ?

If you are able to catch your dog when she is doing it that moment try not to make a huge negative event out of it. Preferably distract the dog from eating poop.

In the moment you see your dog eating feces  if she has got a very good recall command give her their favored treat  instead. This may actually be quite effective, but as always, perfect timing will bring you there.

If you are aware that your dog has developed this kind of behavior, clean up any feces in your yard and garden immediately, to prevent any access to feces for your dog.

Clean up dog poop

Clean up dog poop—don wing45

Although most pet owners may find this to be very disgusting,  it is not an unhealthy behavior as such, depending on how gross you find that behavior.

But it is certainly not really a  behavior that keeps your dog healthy, because of the increased risk of exposure to a whole range of external and internal parasites, especially when your pet dog is eating poop from other dogs, cats or any animals that are unknown to you, living in the wild or stray.

Where Else Should You Seek For Advice?

If you find that eating poop is becoming a real problem and feel that training, positive rewards and other distraction won’t stop this behavior in your dog, seek professional help.

Best is to get advice from your vet who will at first examine your dog to exclude any underlying medical problems and diseases.

Your vet can also give additional advice about behavior modification that might work for your dog or recommend a referral to a vet who specializes in animal behavior therapy.


22 Responses to What Can You Do If Your Dog Eats Poop ?

  1. PuppyHowTo September 29, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

    This behavior could be a symptom of a larger issue. We had a dog that ate her poop, then developed diarrhea and severe weight loss. She had a disease called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or EPI. Her pancreas wasn’t creating the enzymes she needed to digest her food. If the behavior continues, take your dog to the vet for an evaluation.
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  2. Olivia Jenkins September 9, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    My dog sometimes eats poop. I am very nervous. I can’t stand seeing my dog doing this. I always find ways preventing him. I love my dog so much but I don’t want he does this. Can you tell me some ways for my dog’s activity?
    Olivia Jenkins recently posted…What You Need To Know About Gestation Period For DogsMy Profile

  3. Paul
    June 23, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these tips Ellen!

    I know a few German Shepherd owners who are facing the same problem with their dogs. One of the things that worked for us is as you mentioned, distracting the dog if he/she is caught red-handed. This can be sort of classified as negative reinforcement training, but obviously in a good way!

  4. animal care August 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Thanks for the valuable information but I never seen my dog doing this kind of thing or I can say I haven’t seen him doing this. The distractions can play a vital role and taking advice from a professional is a good idea because this is what I can not allow him.

  5. Ruan
    February 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    Yeah, this is not abnormal behavior at all for dogs, but I agree; it ain’t healthy either. I think the best possible advice one can give to stop this kind of behavior is to try and substitute it with something pleasant, such as a treat, like you’ve mentioned. Then, making sure your yard stays as clean as possible for as long as possible. Restrict access to poop that she can eat, in other words.

    Perhaps there are some dog-safe products available from veterinarians one can use a few times which will give a dog a rather “unpleasant experience” and they refrain from doing it again because they can clearly remember what happened last time. A vet might be able to give more light on this, I’m sure.

    Thanks for sharing, interesting indeed.

  6. Chloe Smith January 17, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    I cannot stand seeing my dog doing this. It has to stop. Whenever I see him do this, I’d shoo him right away. I’ll go try your distract approach and hope it works. Thank you.
    Chloe Smith recently posted…8 German Shepherd Training Tips You Can UseMy Profile

  7. Julie November 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    Pet owners have the responsibility to maintain cleanliness on their pet’s surrounding. To avoid this kind of problem, they have to dispose dog’s poop accordingly because this behavior can cause health problem not only to their pets but even to the pet owners as well.

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  8. farryn October 1, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Thank you for this useful article! I recently had a client who’s dog was engaging in such behavior. After altering his diet, I helped her enforce the “leave it” command when out walking, as well as put together a backyard clean up plan to minimize poo in the yard.
    farryn recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

  9. GeelongVet October 1, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Last word on poop eating? Almost no behavior makes it clearer that dogs are different from us. Feces disgusts us. Not so for dogs. Eating feces is dangerous to humans, mostly not to dogs. Prevent access as much as you can, teach your dog a strong “Leave it” cue, and bear in mind that dogs are dogs and sometimes we have to shrug and say “Oh well.”
    GeelongVet recently posted…Trainee Vet Nurse of the Year.My Profile

  10. Dave Walker August 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Apparently if the dogs diet is lacking in protein they can get some some the dog poop too – they’re basically recycling in their own odd way.

    What I’ve noticed as well with my JRTx is that she goes through phases where for about one week in the entire year she’ll do her absolute best to find the stinkiest piece of poop she can and then chows down on it.

    For the rest of the year she has no interest…except when she finds something nasty to roll in although she’s not doing that as much now either thankfully! ewwww! lol

  11. Louise Lewis July 14, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    I see, now I have a better understanding on how to react to dogs eating their feces. I remember my friend complaining about this but the sad thing she don’t know what to do to stop her dog. So, I’ll try to inform her by sharing this post.
    Louise Lewis recently posted…Judges Orders Stryker Lawsuit Consolidation in MinnesotaMy Profile

  12. Sue Huss March 12, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    My dogs do not eat dog poop but will eat the cat’s. I just keep a gate up in front of their litter box so cat’s can jump over it and my dogs can’t.
    Sue Huss recently posted…A Laugh For MondaysMy Profile

  13. Lee March 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Unfortunately a high percentage of dogs seem to undertake in this behaviour some time or another. One of the great benefits of most dog owners now picking up and disposing of their dogs faeces apart from the obvious is that there is much less dog faeces on the ground for other dogs to get hold of. Just need to train the remaining stubborn owners who think it is acceptable to let their dogs foul where they like and leave it there.

    Thanks lee

    • Dog Lover November 7, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      I agree with Lee. There definitely is a large percentage of dogs that take on this behavior. As a dog trainer I see this all the time.

  14. mikaylavet March 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    They eat their poop for many reason possibly due to lack of nutrients, habbit, mother will eat her youngs poo (Instinct) there really is many reasons including a condition the dog could have.

    Central Coast Vet

  15. Kriss January 25, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Coprophagia is also actually considerd as normal dog behavior. For instance: mother dogs lick their little puppies clean so, they eat the puppies’ poop too.

    Owners have to understand the difference between natural poop eating, and unhealthy. Behavioral problems such as anxiety, fear and stress can prompt your pet dog to eat its own poop, this is just one of a medical issue that can cause unhealthy Coprophagia.

    Anyways, thanks for this useful Article.

  16. hakeryan December 23, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    A dog that eats the feces of another animal (or even his own) can contract an illness or pick up worms and other bacterial stuff. He can even re-infect himself with worms, if he has been recently de-wormed and is shedding worms and eggs into his own feces. A dog that has eaten feces, and then has contact with humans, can transmit parasites and other stuff. Thanks for sharing this informative post very helpful..

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