Poop Eating (Coprophagia)

Photo by Keith Cannataro | www.mrhoni-photography.com

Humans find the thought of dogs eating poop (called coprophagia) disgusting, but the unsavory fact is that some dogs find eating their own feces or the feces of another animal, pleasurable.

A dog may eat her own stool or that of another animal simply because she likes the taste. For example, cat poop is high on the list of tasty treats because of its high protein content and smell, but dogs consider deer and rabbit poop pretty scrumptious, too.

Although coprophagia is sometimes the result of a variety of medical conditions (including pancreatitis, intestinal infection or food allergies), most cases are behavioral in nature.

Some Facts About Coprophagia

  • Some people think that dogs eat their poop because the dog instinctively knows when the food she is fed lacks a certain nutrient, but even dogs that are fed high quality diets packed with nutrients will eat their poop or the feces of other animals.
  • Dogs will play or eat their poop if they are bored or have no toys to play with. The poop becomes a substitute toy that is played with before being eaten.
  • Dogs are creatures of habit so poop eating can become a pleasurable habit that is hard to break.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?

  • The only really effective treatment for a poop-eating dog is to be vigilant and remove the feces as soon as the dog has toileted so there is no chance of reinforcement.
  • As much as you can manage it, remove the poop as soon as it hits the ground so that your dog can’t indulge in the behavior.
  • There are some foods that you can add to your dog’s meal such as pineapple which apparently makes the poop taste unpleasant, but some dogs won’t eat their food with pineapple added to it. There are some substances that can be purchased from a veterinarian that can also be added to food and make the poop taste unpleasant, but this only works for some dogs.
  • If your dog eats the poop of other animals, keep her on leash outdoors to prevent her from practicing her unpleasant habit.

Related Reading:

tweet it post it Share It Plus It Print It

13 thoughts on “Poop Eating (Coprophagia)

  1. Dana N Jesse Kendall

    I've had great results with teaching dogs to "tattle" on themselves when they poop, for stopping coprophagia. It takes supervision for the first week or so, but by calling the dog to you and rewarding them for going poop, immediately, and doing the same anytime they encounter poop while on a walk, they learn to leave the poop alone and seek their human out for a reward instead. One case was a GSD who used to eat every pile he saw, and after being rewarded for pooping, started searching the yard for poop, then racing to the patio door to bark at his owner until she came out, then he'd go back to the pile and return to her and sit

  2. Shanzabar Gernon

    That is a fantastic idea, could you pm me on Facebook and tell me more about how you trained the dog 🙂

  3. Vince Fleming

    Agreed - I have had many cockers (5 of my own, and have fostered 7), and two of them did this - someone mentioned hunger, so I increased their rations, and they stopped immediately. It's hard to tell when you're underfeeding them - they both were already eating more than what I typically give, and were still hungry. Neither became overweight either - I guess some just need more food than others. Case in point, my Ginger gets about 3/4 what my others do, and still gains weight. (she does not eat poo, nor is she inactive, either - just a slower metabolism, I guess)

  4. Emy

    My biggest issue is that when we're out on walks, my large german shepherd will stop and try to eat the poop that other irresponsible dog owners have left behind (obviously the poop of a small or smallish dog - there's several offenders I think) and for some reason not even treats will deter him. I've seen the vet and there are no problems, and he eats better than I do. I've been good about catching him before consumption, but it certainly makes walks very trying.

  5. Steffanie Moccia

    My rescued dog was loosewith his mother before I adopted him. I think that is where he picked up this bad habbit of eating poop, as him and his mother probably did so to survive. I adopted him at 7 ish month and now aalmost 3 years old still eats poop. My other dogspoop, his poop, animal poop. I give him and my other dog pills for it but it hasn't stopped him. I have given up.

  6. Nina

    As someone who has worked in the pet care industry for nineteen years, I have never come across a dog or cat that eats their own faeces until we welcomed our fourth GSD into our home almost eight years ago. From day one, he ate not just his faeces, but also our cats and I have never managed to find the cause of this behaviour.

    He received regular stimulation, has a good balanced diet and I work from home, so have discounted boredom as a factor. We can only manage the situation by removing his faeces after every bowel movement and doing the same for our cats litter box.

    I have to say that I have always found this a truly disgusting habit and would love to discover the true cause of such a horrid habit!

  7. Goo

    I wonder why this article doesn't mention teaching "leave it" with clicker training around poop. Of course you'd have to remove the poop often to make sure the dog can't self-reinforce when you aren't around or aren't training, and it would take a long time to proof completely, perhaps more than many dog owners have the time and self-discipline for. But I think training a good 'leave it' should at least be on the list of possible solutions.

  8. Sarah Woodburn

    I have just adopted an 18 month old Chihuahua who is from the home of a breeder and show dogs, the chihuahua himself has been to crufts and is male and I think he may have this problem but I don't know for sure or how to help him.
    The reason I have him is because he was getting bullied at his own home and "didn't enjoy showing" but I have noticed some days when I get in his crate the newspaper has dirty feet marks, and what looks like splodges probably from faeces, but there is no actual faeces. I leave him for 4 hours and come home for 30 minutes then leave him for another 4 or so, but with plans to have a dog walker / sitter when he is less nervous and scared of everything/everyone. His feet are also always really clean which is odd because there have been paw prints, and there is no other marks in his bed or anywhere as far as I can see. He currently is quite skinny (though my parents' chihuahua is probably overweight so his weight might be fine I'm just used to fat little things) but I can feel his spine bone when I stroke him but I've been feeding him more than I was told and he even left some food today and still did the disappearing poop thing. I just really don't know what to do because the lady I got him from told me to keep him in his crate because he'd like the enclosed space but if he's going to poo then walk it all over everything in his crate every day then that's going to be a problem, likewise, I'd rather he didn't do that on my carpet. He also only seems to do this during the day; specifically the morning for the first 4 hours I leave him, and never at night, but of course he might be doing it in the house all the time and just eating it so fast I don't see. I take him outside and he always does lots of poo but never eats it. His breath also stinks to high heaven and has done since I got him. I have my doubts about how well he was cared for in his old home because they had LOTS of dogs and his behaviour most the time is that of an absolutely terrified dog, he mainly follows me around and stares at me, but runs away initially as I walk in his direction and he also doesn't seem to play. I just really don't know what's going on or how to help him. :'(

  9. Jane

    Honestly I expected a bit more from this article.
    In most cases, at least in my experience, dog doesn't eat their own poop rather find some other poop during the walks. So all the advices are useless.
    There must be better reason for it bad habit and better ways to stop it than keep the dog on the leash....

  10. Mari Anne

    We rescued a Greek stray last year, he was always whining around the chicken run and wanting to get in...I assumed to eat the hen's. But one day when the door to their run wasn't shut properly they all got out into the garden together - i expected the worst - but the hens were happily eating from our veggie patch whilst the dog was inside the run eating their poop like it was prize dog food. He doesn't eat any other animal's poo, but i think he must have survived on it when he had no home.

  11. Sue

    I wondered this for a long time too. What I have found after working in the pet care world over the past 12 years is that Many dogs who eat their feces came from an environment that wasn't cleaned up enough. Dogs hate to have the "den"/crate soiled, so if they were from a pet store, puppy mill, caged situation where they had to poop in the cage, many will eat it to make sure their sleeping area is clean. It also seems to happen in litters from breeders who had them possibly in a pen and didn't pick up enough when the puppies would poop, so the dogs take it upon themselves to clean the area. Agreed, it's disgusting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Instagram Instagram Instagram Instagram

Episode 838 - Nicky Campbell

What do the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Long Lost Family have to do with dogs? BAFTA winning radio and TV presenter, Nicky...

Episode 837 – Beyond the Operant

Obedience training has long been the accepted path to teaching dogs’ manners, but the concept of obedience might be doing dogs a...

Episode 836 – Free Work and Adolescent Dogs

What is Free Work and how do dogs benefit? Dog behaviour expert Sarah Fisher joins Holly and Victoria to discuss how Free Work is...

find a vspdt trainer
Schedule a consultation via skype or phone