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.

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  • 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

  • Shanzabar Gernon

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

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • Dusty

    Forbid in the other dogs food, has worked for me 2 dogs in a row.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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