Why does my dog eat poo?

By | Published On: June 27, 2023 | Categories: Behaviour, Dogs |

It affects so many, but it’s hardly talked about. Our lovely furry cuddly friends prove themselves to be revolting scavengers – but why?

More importantly, is there anything we can do to stop it?

First of all – DON’T PANIC.

Whilst they appear to enjoy it, it’s worth taking a look (not too close…) at what might be some causes.

Does your dog have a medical problem?

There are medical conditions and some medications themselves that can cause a dog to feel more hungry. Allergies and other problems that can cause the food to be malabsorbed could be a factor, so it’s always a good idea to ask your Vet, especially if the problem has suddenly started in an older dog.

Does your dog have the right diet?

Partly linked to the above, but it may be that your dog is not getting the right nutrients it needs. Nutritional deficiency may cause your dog to want to supplement its diet with that little extra something. They may even be a bit bored with the same food every day, and are looking for variety of taste and texture!

Is your dog digesting the food properly?

Well, it may just be that what comes out still tastes and smells like it did going in! Some foods are highly palatable and remain so after they have ’emerged’. You could take a look at whether or not your dog is digesting the food properly if they are eating their own faeces. If they are eating that of other species, such as horse, cat or fox, then there may be other factors. Commercial cat food is quite strong smelling in order to make it attractive to cats, for example.

Is your dog hungry?

Dogs, as we know, will scavenge. Some dogs value food highly and may simply see this as a case of ‘waste not, want not’.

Is it a dog house training problem?

Are they ‘destroying the evidence’? If a dog has been punished by an owner for toileting in the home, they may wuickly eat any signs of the faeces in order to avoid future trouble.

Is it harmful?

There is of course bacteria in faeces as well as germs, and also parasites such as worms can be passed along in this way. Some of these are not harmful to the dogs but they are harmful to humans so be very aware of hygiene. Especially if you have a ‘licky’ dog and young children! Our natural reaction is ‘ugh’ and that’s for a good reason, as we may not be as immune to some infections as a dog might be.

Is your dog competing for resources?

If a dog thinks they are going to be beaten to their ‘prize’ by the owner, or perhaps by other dogs, they will quickly gobble it up. This is particularly so in certain dogs who really do see food as a very valuable resource.

What do I do about it?

Along with some of the reasons above, your question will next be – how do I deal with it?

If it is a dietary or medical issue then your Vet will help.

Adding things to the faeces:

It is possible to add a nasty taste to the poo to deter your dog. This may or may not work, given the reasons above. Sometimes a dog will eat it anyway, which is not at all nice and shows the dog really must be keen and/or desperate. I believe that with the amount of effort this takes it is probably just as easy, and certainly more long-term useful, to train the dog with the suggestions below.

Improving digestion

There is a theory that adding pineapple, or courgette, to your dog’s diet may help with digestion and therefore make the resulting faeces less palatable.

Will a muzzle help?

If you have a particularly greedy dog who also gobbles up stones and everything else, after checking with your Vet, you may wish to use a muzzle out on walks to at least buy you some time to get on with training. It’s really only a part-solution but it prevents unwanted Vets bills in the meantime.

Provide a toilet area in the garden, as this is easiest to control and supervise. And of course, it may seem obvious, but do pick up regularly, especially if you have a young puppy. This will help to stop a habit becoming established.

Train your dog to leave it, and a great recall too

It is always better to distract and reward your dog with something that is a lot better. Something that YOU control. Some tasty, smelly treats in your hand, can work wonders. Don’t try boring biscuit!

Teach your dog the OFF command, and a Rock Solid Recall, too (manual available to download here). This saves you shouting or getting stressed yourself, and gives you the power to enforce what it is you want. Using a long line is also a really important part of this training with a persistent dog.

Teach the dog that you are predictably going to give a command, followed by something better, including actually not allowing them to get into foraging behaviour. Act early and act positively. Be more persistent and determined than they are, and always ensure you are likely to succeed.

A good recall is an absolute must for any dog, and this is another use for it. Teaching the ‘Off’ or Leave command really ends up being more of a negotiation. ‘If you leave that and back away, I have got something better over here’.

– Karen Wild

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