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