What to do if your dog eats poo

Dogs have some habits that we find less than endearing.

Eating their own poo, or other dogs’ for that matter is right at the top of the list. You may feel your dog is the only one that does it but it’s a lot more common than you’d think.

Why do dogs eat poo?

There are many reasons for dogs eating poo. It could be a dietary problem, it could have a medical cause, and sometimes there’s a behavioural reason. It’s really important to look into the cause as this will help find a solution.

Diet and health reasons for dogs to eat poo

  • Make sure your dog is on the right diet for their life stage. Dogs who aren’t getting the right nutrients often eat other dog’s poo, as it may contain the nutrients they’re lacking
  • Make sure your dog’s parasite control us up to date
  • Many medical conditions cause dogs to eat poo. For example they could have an enzyme deficiency. This means they’re unable to absorb the nutrients from their food, so they pass the undigested nutrients in their poo and consume it again
  • See your vet if your dog eats poo – don’t worry about asking them, they’ll have been asked many times before. Keep a record of when and how often it’s happening and if it’s just your dog’s own poo, or the poo of other dogs
  • Dogs who eat poo due to a medical cause often look perfectly fit and healthy so it’s important to check it out even if they’re in tip top condition.

Behavioural reasons for dogs to eat poo

  • Dogs who have experienced punishment, especially during their housetraining can learn to eat their own poo, heartbreakingly this is possibly to hide the evidence. During housetraining always ignore when your dog does it in the wrong place and praise when they go where you want them to
  • Like toddlers, puppies are curious and often everything new they experience ends up in their mouths. Picking up in the garden and being around your puppy most of the time to clear up after an accident is usually enough to prevent this becoming a long term issue
  • Dogs who spend lots of time on their own become bored and this can increase the risk of poo eating becoming a habit. Ensure your dog is happy and content and making feeding more interesting will help solve this
  • Occasionally a dog learns to get a reaction by eating poo, this is attention-seeking behaviour. Don’t get angry or chase them away from it as this is the attention they crave.If your dog does this, wait until they’re finished then call them and reward them for coming. Teaching them an alternative rewarding behaviour normally stops attention-seeking poo eating. Training your dog to leave on command really helps here
  • Female dogs and occasionally males in the home clean up after young puppies, this is normal instinctive behaviour to keep the nest and puppies clean. Ignore this behaviour and once the puppies are weaned it should stop on its own.

How to stop your dog eating poo

No matter what the cause, ensure your dog’s environment is clean and you go with them when they go out to the toilet. Once the causes are addressed, reducing your dog’s opportunity to eat poo considerably speeds up changing the habit.

Eating poo is a common issue, and you should investigate it as it might indicate something is wrong with your dog. But it isn’t that difficult to solve – simply look for the cause then follow the steps above to address it.

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