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How to Stop Dogs From Eating Poop

Updated on October 6, 2011

An eagle eye is needed to stop your dog from eating poop

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Why do Dogs Eat POOP?

Most dogs like to lick their owners as a way to greet them. Licking is often a sign of submission and it is not unusual to see dogs licking their owners when they are showing affection. Like it or not, licking becomes a major problem when dogs engage in not-so-lovely behaviors such as ''coprophagia''. But what exactly is coprophagia?

Coprophagia is the fancy name for eating poop. Not all dogs like to eat poop, but some have a real liking to it. Mother dogs are a good example of eating poop, when they eat the puppy's feces , but this serves the purpose of keeping the den clean and activate the puppy's defecation system as they grow. Real ''poop eating'' occurs in dogs in different scenarios and the causes for this behavior may be several stemming from health, nutritional and behavioral problems, and last but not least, simply the scavenger nature of dogs. Let's take a look to some of the most common causes.

  • Nutritional Causes

Some dogs suffer from nutritional deficiencies or nutritional disorders that may make them prone to finding their poop appealing. Malabsorption, malnutrition, deficiencies, and other nutritional disorders that cause a decrease in the absorption of nutrients may cause a dog to seek out poop to ''supplement'' their diets. Also, if a dog eats too fast, the food may make its way through the digestive tract undigested, and therefore it may retain an appealing flavor. Slowing a dog down using a ''brake-fast'' bowl may prevent your dog from wolfing down its meal. Investing in a high quality kibble that is digestible can also help.

  • Health Causes

Along with nutritional causes, there are several health causes that may be causing the poop eating behavior. As mentioned earlier, any health problem leading to a decreased absorption of nutrients or to a in increased appetite, may lead to coprophagia. Parasites, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, diabetes, Cushing's disease, thyroid disease and even some medications, may be other causes. It is always worth it to have a dog suffering from coprophagia to see a vet so medical conditions can be ruled out.

  • Behavioral Problems

Boredom, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, and just simple curiosity, may be the culprits for coprophagia. Puppies tend to eat their feces simply out of curiosity or for fun, but most eventually grow out of it. Some pups may even feel encouraged to eat poop from watching their mom eat poop when cleaning up. Sticking a puppy's face in the poop for messing may actually increase the bad habit of poop eating since the poop feels compelled to eat the poop to ''hide it'' and avoid being reprimanded.

How to Stop Poop Eating

Based on the causes of poop eating, the treatment plans for coprophagia will vary. Obviously, medical causes need to be treated so to go to the root for the problem. Behavioral problems must also be addressed, and if severe enough, may require the intervention of a reputable dog behaviorist. Nutritional causes may require an upgrade into a premium diet and perhaps vet-recommended supplements. Regardless of the cause, one thing is for sure; the dog's environment will need to be managed. Following are some tips to stop, or at least reduce, this annoying behavior.

  • Invest in Poop Deterrents

One way to reduce poop eating is to make poop no longer appealing. One way to accomplish this is to invest in products that make the poop taste bad. Products such as ''Forbid'' or ''Deter'' may be helpful. These products, once ingested, make the dog's poop taste bad so the behavior of poop eating is discouraged. Dog trainer Victoria Stillwell recommends to feed dogs pineapple to make the stool taste bad.

Products do not have to necessarily be ingested to make the poop taste bad, you can also spray the poop with bitter apple spray or Tabasco sauce after being expelled, but this main disadvantage of this is that you would have to be chasing your dog around to do this and you may miss some poops that will still be appealing to your dog.

  • Manage the Area

You must be extra diligent to pick up after your dog to reduce the poop eating eating behavior. If you have a large yard, it may be challenging finding each and every turd. Walking your dog on the leash will help you find the poop right away for easy clean up, and offers the advantage of giving a swift leash correction should your dog try to go for its daily snack.

  • Train the ''Leave it'' Command

Not all harm comes for bad.. you can take advantage of this problem to teach a solid ''leave it command''. Right after your dog poops, spray some bitter apple on it or some Tabasco sauce, don't pick it up. Instead, use it to teach an important life lesson. Then as your dog casually gets near it, say ''leave it'' and lure him away from it with a tasty treat. Your dog will learn that ''leave it'' means ''if you don't' eat the poop something real good is available to you''.

The bitter apple or hot sauce will be there just in case your dog is hard headed and does not listen to your ''leave it'' warning. If he tries to eat the poop at this stage, totally ignoring your command to leave it, he will learn that he is better off listening to you and that poop no longer has an appealing flavor as before. ''Mom knows better, better put on those listening ears!

Of course, you cannot spray all the poop all the time. But you can set up ''poop stations'' on purpose at times as a refresher and then hide for the purpose of ''proofing'' the training and watch your dog's behavior around these poops. Thinking you are not there, your dog may appear to be interested in the poops and tried to get a bite. This is when you would come out fast from your hiding space and say a firm ''leave it!'' before your dog is even able to open its mouth. You really need to be quick to do this! This teaches your dog dogs two things: to not eat poop and that you are 'watching him even when he thinks you are not around''- Your dog will think of you as some sort of ubiquitous being like a god- But this training obviously works both ways, if you catch your dog ignoring the poop, out you come praising for making the right choice!





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    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      My goldens loved the poop from the horses behind my home. Oh, yick! Great hub. A difficult and delicate subject you handled gracefully.

    • Cresentmoon2007 profile image

      Cresentmoon2007 

      7 years ago from Caledonia, MI

      I'm trying to stop my dog from eating poop, she's done so since I've gotten her. She has several different obsessive tendencies. Constantly grooming, chasing after her tail. Thanks for writing this hub, may have to try a deterrent.

    • Etherealenigma profile image

      Sandra M. Urquhart 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Wow. Didn't know there were deterrents out there. Haven't had my own dog in a while. I have cats, but when I did have a dog, he was always going into the litter box after the cat poop. This was an interesting, but informative choice in an article. Thanks.

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      7 years ago from Northeastern United States

      I think we'll be taking our dog to the vet about this. She grew up in captivity...mommy dog in a puppy mill. We rescued her when she was about 4 years old but her poop eating was already well established. Till now I hadn't thought of a physical need being the problem but we'll check it out. Useful hub!

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      7 years ago from Northeastern United States

      I think we'll be taking our dog to the vet about this. She grew up in captivity...mommy dog in a puppy mill. We rescued her when she was about 4 years old but her poop eating was already well established. Till now I hadn't thought of a physical need being the problem but we'll check it out. Useful hub!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      My dog has become obsessed with the rabbit droppings in our yard. He seeks them out like a blood hound. I'm constantly chasing him down to scoop it up quickly when he finds a pile. Maybe I'll try the hot sauce instead of raking it up next time.

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 

      7 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      Funny, I had this problem with two of my well-loved dogs. I found the habit really gross and even thought that my dogs were so "special" that it was only them who had that habit. I'm kinda relieved to know that other pet owners also have this same problem :)

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