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Reluctantly Discussing Coprophagy – Why Dogs Eat Their Poop

Okay, so this is not a blog to read at the breakfast table… unless you’re an HB employee, and we…

Reluctantly Discussing Coprophagy

Okay, so this is not a blog to read at the breakfast table… unless you’re an HB employee, and we have become immune to poop talk! Scooping poop, checking it for health problems, is just a part of what we do at the ‘Barn!

Some of us are terribly disturbed that our precious little furbaby eats feces. We place so many human qualities on our little furry children that when they do something as seemingly inhumane as eating poop, sometimes it’s hard for us to….eh…swallow. (sorry)

The reasons why a dog eats his feces (or other animal feces) are varied. Listed below are some of the most popular beliefs:

It Could Be a Sign They’re Sick

Although unlikely, coprophagia (the medical term for eating feces) can be a sign of illness. It could be a sign that your dog is not absorbing enough nutrients in his food, therefore resorting to eating feces to make up the difference. Parasites, worms or pancreatic problems are a few other possible causes. The best rule of thumb: Ask your vet first.

They Could Be Acting on Instinct

Believe it or not, eating poop can be instinctual. A mother with puppies will lick their babies clean, often ingesting their feces in order to keep her “den” clean so the odors will not attract supposed predators. Pups learn how to be dogs from following their mother’s lead, so it is normal for a puppy to copy this behavior. Normally, they grow out of it.

They Learned it From You

Here’s an interesting theory: Eating feces is his interpretation of what he has been taught… by you! If he has been punished for a housebreaking accident by “rubbing his nose in poop”, he may be trying to get rid of the evidence before he gets in trouble! Likewise, a dog who is negligently crate trained and is forced to eliminate therein will also try to clean it up before you see it. On a more positive note, some people think that your dog misunderstands why you pick up his poop and thinks that he needs to pick up after himself!

It’s a Cry for Attention

Some believe that dogs eat poop simply to get attention from their owners. Sad, but true. Even negative attention is better than no attention at all. If you scold them, it can even further reinforce the behavior.

Furthermore, be careful of making too much of his sniffing and consuming the stuff… the shrieking and drama that you exhibit are very fun and exciting for him! Wow, he thinks… It’s a game! Grab it and run with it! Woo-hoo!


It is often believed that dogs were our first garbage collectors… Many, many years ago, their function was to help keep human living areas clean. They did so by ingesting anything and everything. Also, their ancestors, the wolves, would scavenge human settlements and eat whatever garbage and excrement they found. From the wolves came our cute little-domesticated pup who may not so quickly forget that instinctive behavior.

Just Because They Want to Eat the Poop

Finally, some dogs will eat their own stool just because they like to do it. Remember… they enjoy rolling in stinky stuff too. We don’t understand it and there is not always a good explanation for it. It’s not “abnormal” … it’s just very unpleasant. Your job is to stop it before it becomes a disgusting, compulsive habit.

Here are some tips from Holiday Barn’s Training Coordinator/Consultant,Melanie_150 Melanie Benware:

There is no one fix to stop a dog from eating feces but here are some tips that help:

1. Feed a high-quality diet to ensure they are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need.
2. Clean up after your dog, immediately after he defecates.
3. If they eat their own poop, feeding them spinach or pineapple is known to help.
4. If they eat other dog’s feces be aware of your surroundings on walks and do not let your dog wander off to sniff on their own.
5. There are also loads of dog training techniques that can help so do not hesitate to consult a professional. I know it is embarrassing to talk about but it is more common than you think.”

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