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My dogs eat poop all the time and I couldn't care less. They eat rabbit poop and deer poop. They look like little raisins in the yard and provide our dogs with digestive enzymes. A free supplement that's good for our dogs? Hell yes! Okay, yeah, if you would have asked me 10 years ago if I'd be pointing out deer poop for my dogs, I would have laughed. Earlier today, I hollered for Rodrigo because he needs all the enzymes he can get!
But when dogs eat their own poop. Damn, that's nasty!
It's Gross When Dogs Eat Their Own Poop
I used to hear about dogs eating their poop and cringe. Yuck! I was so thankful that my dogs never did this until they did. I'm a fan of puppy kisses and I don't want to be licked on the face (hand or anywhere else) with a tongue coated in feces. So when one of my dogs comes running in the house with that smell on their breath, I'm so bummed out. Damn, not again!!!
I don't punish my dogs for behavior. I learned a long time ago that punishment confuses them, frustrates me, and doesn't change the behavior. I don't want my dogs to fear me. So, when I see one of them sniffing around their poop, looking like they're about to take a bite, I know I have a training opportunity and more.
Rodrigo started eating his poop in the Fall of 2014 when he was going through serious digestive issues. He was sitting next to me after coming in from a potty break; panting in my face. I sniffed. Then sniffed again. Then I opened his mouth and took a big whiff.
Did you just eat poop?
This was confirmed the next day when I followed him outside and he was gingerly eating his poop like he was trying to get something out of it.
I did three things:
- I said, “Leave It!”
- I made a veterinarian appointment.
- I started researching “dogs eating poop,” i.e. Coprophagia.
By making some changes to his diet and cleaning up the yard daily, I was able to stop the poop eating, but every now and then, he'd eat it again. We went back and forth on this until he was diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). But now our puppy is eating poop. Sigh. And I'll be using the same steps that helped Rodrigo stop this gross habit Apollo has picked up.
Dogs Eat Poop for a Reason
In my experience, dogs eat poop for a variety of reasons and, for me at least, it's important to figure out what's driving my dog before I go for a solution.
1. There's Something Lacking in a Dog's Diet
For Rodrigo, he was looking for the digestive enzymes in the poop. He has a history of digestive issues since he was a puppy. I didn't realize that his pancreas wasn't compromised until a few months ago. However, years ago, I began adding a digestive supplement to his diet that stopped the poop eating. Some people ask why I didn't add fermented foods, raw goat's milk, or kefir – I did and they weren't enough for him.
2. A Dog is Curious
This is more for puppies because they're curious about everything and everything goes in their mouth. When Scout and Zoey were puppies, they went through a brief stint of poop eating (a few days) because they saw Rodrigo doing it and they followed his lead. It drove me crazy to think that I might have three dogs that were eating poop, but thankfully it didn't last with the puppies.
3. A Dog Likes the Taste of Poop
Sadly, there are dogs that like the taste of poop. And that sucks monkey butt. This is definitely the case with cat poop, so our dogs don't have access to the area of our home where the litterbox lives.
4. A Dog Has a Bad Habit
If a dog has a history where they had to eat their stool to keep a kennel clean, then it might be hard to deter this behavior. I've been told that this is seen in rescue a lot with neglected dogs.
5. Your Dog is Hungry
And if a dog is hungry, then he may begin consuming stool. This is something that is also seen with neglected dogs.
How to Stop Dogs from Eating Stool
With my dogs, stopping the stool eating was easy, which is why I'm not freaking out that Apollo has picked up this nasty habit. There are three things I do to curb this habit:
Leave It Training: I watch the dog in question and when I see them going for a bite, I drop a firm “Leave It” – this is a great training opportunity that extends to all fo the dogs.
Clean the Yard: I clean the yard regularly. This is obviously a given, however, I work full time, so I'm not always able to pick up after my dogs immediately after they drop a deuce, but I tackle the yard every day after work. Not my favorite chore, but an important one. Plus, this is also how I can tell how all of the dogs are doing healthwise – poop has a story.
Digestive Supplement: I add a digestive supplement to the diet; my preferred supplement is FullBucket Daily Canine Powder. Rodrigo is on a pancreas enzyme supplement called Bio Case Plus, which he will need daily for the rest of his life due to his EPI diagnosis. And Apollo, and the other dogs, get FullBucket Daily Canine Powder. Apollo might be enjoying an occasional taste of poop out of curiosity, but boosting his gut health won't hurt.
There are other products out there that help to curve the habit of poop eating, but I haven't tried them. Yet. Some people add crushed pineapple to their dog's meals to prevent poop eating. I haven't tried this either.
Can Poop Eating Be a Health Issue?
Damn right, it can. Anything can be a health issue. With Rodrigo, it was a symptom of something more serious. So, if you're concerned about your dog's behavior, it doesn't hurt to run it by your veterinarian. This behavior combined with other symptoms can help your vet determine a diagnosis and treatment protocol.
I have five dogs. Sydney, my princess, doesn't eat poop. But the other four have dined out on stool and only one has a health issue. So poop eating doesn't necessarily mean that your dog is sick, but why not have the conversation so that you can cross that off the list when trying to figure what is up.