If you’ve ever seen your dog rummage the yard for pieces of poop, you’ll understand how frustrating and stomach turning it can be. Rest assured, this actually is a normal type of behavior for dogs, even if it disgusts us. Even though it can be normal, it’s best to try to deter this sort of behavior as it can lead to continued reinfection of parasites and cause intestinal disturbances. There are some actions you can take to try to break this habit, which we’ll discuss below.
What is so enticing about the Poop?
Coprophagy is the term used to describe the act of eating poop. Although it’s common for people to think a dog eats poop because they have some sort of nutrient deficiency, this is usually not the case. Poop scavengers are typically eating poop as a sign of dominance, indicating to others that they are in charge. When puppies eat poop, it’s more so out of curiosity and play. Other dogs may eat poop merely because it tastes good to them and is extremely malodorous. We all know how dogs love to chew on things that smell bad, such as worn socks, shoes, and dirty laundry (including underwear- that’s a common cause of intestinal obstruction in dogs). Finally, some dogs eat poop merely out of boredom or frustration.
What can I do to stop my dog from eating poop?
Getting your dog to stop eating poop (stool) will take a combinations of deterrence, training, and quick movement on your part. We’ll break these down below.
This is the act of making eating the poop less attractive, rewarding, and enticing for your dog. There are actually products made specifically for this reason- to get your dog to stop eating their stool or the stool of another pet. There are a few options out there, but the oldest and most effective one is called For-Bid (https://www.for-bid.com/).
For-Bid is a highly purified edible protein that comes in powder form. When eaten, it causes the dog’s stool to taste very bad. It’s important to note that even though we as humans may think stool already tastes bad, this is not necessarily the case for dogs, but the For-Bid powder causes the stool to be distasteful to dogs’ taste buds.
If your dog is eating their own stool, you sprinkle the powder into your dog’s food daily until your dog stops eating their poop. If the behavior begins again, you start the process over. If your dog is eating another dog’s poop, then you sprinkle the powder into the other dog’s food daily until your dog stops eating the other dog’s poop. You can also give this to your cats to eat if the problem is that your dog is getting into their litter box and eating their poop.
If your dog is eating their own poop or other dogs’ poop as a sign of dominance, out of frustration or boredom, or due to another behavioral issue, it is a good idea to seek out the help of either a certified dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. They can come to your home and spend some time with your dog and other pets in the home. They can get an idea of the social hierarchy and any stressors that may be present, while working with you to provide recommendations and changes in the environment.
Make sure your dog has lots of toys and enrichment to keep their body and mind entertained. If your schedule allows, try to play with them regularly and take them on daily walks. If your budget allows, taking them to regular dog training classes, dog parks, or agility courses will also help keep them stimulated and less inclined to eat their poop.
Remove their poop as fast as you can from the ground. This is the number one best way to prevent them from eating their poop. If it’s not there, they can’t eat it! This, of course, means that you have to go outside with them during each potty break, take a glove and a bag, and scoop up their poop right as they are laying it down. This takes much more work on your part, but is the best preventative measure you have.
Every dog is different and these measures may or may not work completely for your individual dog. If you are worried your dog is eating poop because of something painful in their mouth or a medical condition, it’s also always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so they can do a thorough examination on your dog and discuss if bloodwork may be needed.
Leslie Brooks graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. After graduation she did a one-year intensive rotating clinical internship, with rotations in various specialties. She has been working in small animal clinical medicine ever since and ran her own house call practice for three years. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, son, and cat named Callie. She spends much of her free time volunteering in the community, from Meals on Wheels to working with pets of the homeless and vulnerable. She also loves to travel and read.