Why do dogs eat poop? - James Wellbeloved UK

Why do dogs eat poop?

If you are lucky enough to own a dog, you may have experienced them eating - or at least attempting to eat - poop. But why? There are a couple of possible explanations for why your dog eats dog poop, such as hunger or that they learned this behaviour from their mums who would do it to ‘clean up’ after her puppies. The habit can include eating poop from dogs, horses, cows and other animals and although it may seem disgusting to us, many argue that it’s a common and natural feature of a dog’s life. Read on as we explore why dogs like to eat poop and how to stop the habit.

Why does my dog eat poop?

The list of potential reasons why dogs eat poop is long. As well as hunger and copying other dogs, your dog’s mental health may also be a factor. Boredom, stress and anxiety can be underlying causes and some owners even put it down to attention-seeking when their pampered pooch is not their primary focus. There may also be medical reasons why your dog eats poop. So here are some of the many reasons that could explain your dog's surprising habit:

Hungrier dogs are more likely to eat poop

If your dog has been badly treated in the past or re-homed from a shelter, poop-eating may indicate their survival instinct kicking in, as poop may have been the only viable source of food at the time. In well-fed happy dogs, however, it’s a little more complicated. One theory is that your dog’s diet doesn’t contain enough Vitamin B. Another is that if your dog is consuming food that is difficult to digest, their poop will contain a higher level of the original food eaten and be appealing to eat. Certain conditions that make your dog hungrier may also be the cause, such as digestive enzyme deficiencies, parasites and diabetes. It’s a good idea to talk to your vet so that tests can be carried out to determine any potential medical reasons why your puppy or dog eats poop, such as a parasite or hormonal issues.

Dogs learn to eat poop from other dogs

As scavengers by nature, dogs often eat anything they come across, including poop. In fact, as many as 1 in 6 dogs eat poop according to The Kennel Club. And it’s no wonder that one of the common reasons why dogs eat poop is to mimic what they’ve seen many of their canine chums do, especially in a ‘pack’ environment. A puppy that’s eating poop could have learned the behaviour from their mum who will often clean up mess from their litter to keep their den tidy and guard against puppy-predators attracted by the smell.

Boredom causes dogs to eat poop

Lack of mental and physical stimulation, such as spending long periods alone or confined in the home, is another reason why dogs eat poop. While it’s tempting to discipline them, it could actually be a cry for help. In this case, the owner will need to change their habits, rather than the dog. Make sure your dog is walked every day, stimulated by regular playtime and given treats to keep their diet interesting for them. If they need to be left alone, make sure they’re entertained with plenty of toys to play with while you’re away.

Anxious dogs can often be poop-eaters

Like children, dogs often feel their safest when they have your full attention. An anxious dog that needs to be sure of your love may eat poop to get your focus back on them, even if it leads to a telling off! Dogs that have been previously told off for eating poop, especially indoors, may also get stressed after going to the toilet, and eat their mess in an effort to clean up after themselves.

Is it normal for dogs to eat poop?

It’s certainly common for dogs to eat poop, including other dogs’ poop, as it’s packed full of interesting information about a fellow canine, including what they have been eating. As odd as it may seem to us, why dogs eat poop may simply be explained by them liking the taste and texture of it. If the habit feels natural, it could be a difficult one to break, but you should try to stop them.

Is it safe for my dog to eat poop?

While much of the time it can be harmless, it’s not always safe for dogs to eat poop. The bacteria and parasites in dog poop can lead to viral infections and diseases. It may also contain remnants of medication that is not safe for other dogs to digest. Although it may be common behaviour and even contain some nutritional value, poop as a food source should always be avoided, so try to break the habit.

Can my dog get sick from eating poop?

Yes, your dog can get sick from eating poop, as bacterial diseases and parasitic infections such as worms can be passed on through it. Although poop-eating is never to be encouraged, it can be argued that a dog eating their own poop is better than eating another dog’s poop. This is because poop from other dogs is more likely to contain alien bacteria that are harmful to them. It might also contain remnants of the other dog’s medication that can be passed on to your pet and be toxic to an unintended recipient.

How to stop my puppy from eating poop?

There are a range of effective techniques you can try to stop your puppy from eating poop and the earlier you start, the better. A little trial and error will be involved as each puppy will respond differently. Don’t be disheartened if the first couple of techniques you try don’t work; keep going and you will almost certainly find a solution that suits you and your pooch. As poop-eating is often learned from their mothers, positive reinforcement of good behaviour will work better than a stern telling off. Here’s our top poop-eating prevention tips for you to try:

  1. Restrict access to poop
  2. Put them on a lead
  3. Use a ‘leave it’ command & recall training
  4. Don’t leave your dog alone and bored for too long
  5. Use a taste aversion technique
  6. Maintain a healthy diet with supplements where necessary

1. Restrict access to poop

Regularly cleaning up your dog’s mess from inside the house and your garden is crucial. No poop means there is no temptation!

2. Put them on a lead

When you’re out walking, use a short training lead and positive encouragement whilst keeping an eye out for other dogs poop to avoid the problem. When you’re out walking, keep an eye out for dog mess and swerve the problem, using a short training lead while positively encouraging your dog to keep walking.

3. Use a ‘leave it’ command & recall training

By employing a command like ‘leave it’ to get their attention, you can practice recall to beckon your dog over, leaving any tempting poop behind.

4. Don’t leave your dog alone and bored for too long

The reason why your puppy or dog is eating poop could be that they want your attention or to be more active or sociable. Dogs are natural pack animals so make sure you spend quality time together. 

5. Use a taste aversion technique

Dogs can eat pineapple, pumpkin or spinach as a deterrent, as they change the taste of poop, making it less appealing to eat. You could also try stool eating deterrents in capsule form, which often contain probiotics and a breath freshener.

6. Maintain a healthy diet with supplements where necessary

A good quality dog food with premium, natural ingredients will aid your dog’s digestion and support gut health, making their poop less like the food they’ve eaten and less tempting. If your dog is eating poop because of diet deficiencies, talk to your vet about supplements such as Vitamin B.

Keep your dog's mouth clean after eating poop

Poop can stick to your dog’s teeth, causing bacteria growth and contributing to your dog’s breath smelling stale and nasty. Although a dog’s saliva is a natural cleaner, Although a dog’s saliva is a natural cleaner, it is recommended to use oral health products or brushing your dog’s teeth to help keep your dogs mouth clean & hygienic. Always use a specially-formulated dog toothpaste or mouthwash, as the human variety with fluoride isn’t good for our canine chums. Find out more about maintaining your dog's dental hygiene in our article covering the top tips for cleaning your dog's teeth.