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Very occasionally, my dog eats poop that has been outside for a while. Usually it is a dried-up piece that insects have long-since abandoned. This is appalling behavior and my only way to prevent it is to be diligent about yard cleanup.

He also occasionally eats dirt. I feed him well, he gets vitamins and food, but I think he might be a little nuts.

Why is he doing this?

  • 3
    Is it his own poop, or another dog's? – Steve D Oct 10 '13 at 19:54
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    I think it's his own, but sometimes it is others. Just wait, I have one about pee, too. – JoshDM Oct 10 '13 at 19:58
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Like you have noted, coprophagia (the technical term for feces-eating) can, like dirt eating, be a response to a dietary need (often stuff like missing enzymes and the like in their diet). If the dog eats a dry-food only diet, they will be missing certain things that might make them more prone to seeking out poop as a way of filling that need for digestive enzymes.

It can also be a stress response - dogs who are anxious or stressed have a tendency to eat poop more often, as do dogs who have been excessively punished for making messes in the house, for example.

Attention seeking can also account for it as well - negative attention is still attention after all! I can also just be an oral fixation, which usually can be solved with giving the dog something better to chew on than poop.

There are a few things you can do to stop the behaviour. If you know the dog is eating its own poop, there are products you can add to its food to make the poop taste undesirable. You can also work with your dog to teach it a "leave it" command, but if the dog is outside without you present, this will be less effective, as then you won't be around to stop the dog from eating it. There are also things (such as bitter apple and bitter orange spray) that you can put on the poop itself to make it less interesting to the dog.

In general, the best suggestions are to keep the yard poop-free, or to train your dog to leave things alone on command.

  • "there are products you can add to its food to make the poop" - multiple sites I've looked at for this have suggested adding pumpkin pulp; 'tis the season. He doesn't do it regularly (that I've noticed). He does eat a dry meal, so maybe I will consider adding a wet meal. Pend for a subsequent question about that tomorrow. – JoshDM Oct 10 '13 at 20:38
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    In addition to the answer, what I've heard is that dogs always try to get the stronger scents on them (which they cannot overcome) and to lose their own, it is very similar to the rolling on the grass. It even happened to me that not only it ate other dogs poop, but it rolled in it, about two-three times.. Also encountered human excremental rolling and eating, which was explained as 'normal' by a pro vet. But told me to try and train the dog to leave things on command from distance. And avoid areas with human poop, cuz it is big issue :D – DaGhostman Dimitrov Oct 12 '13 at 16:04
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A female dog will eat the feces of her puppies. It starts as soon as the newly born puppies start producing stool and it continues until the puppies have been left to their new owners. In case a puppy stays with its mother the poop-eating may continue for a rather long time. I've witnessed a mother-dog still eating her puppy's poop when the puppy was five months old, being almost the same size as its mother.

Reason for this is to prevent predators from finding her puppies by the smell of their poop.

Adult dogs mark their territory with urine, but also with feces. It could be that eating another dog's poop would happen in order to disclaim the other dog's territorial rights, but I have no proof to support this as a valid possibility. The other answers to your question seem to have more credibility when it comes to a dog eating old dried-up poop.

  • Since the question title is simply "Why is my dog eating poop?" it seems to include this type of poop-eating, though in the question body the issue is explained in more detail and it becomes obvious that my answer is not the right one for this case. – Esa Paulasto Feb 20 '14 at 6:05
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    Keep it around; it might help someone. – JoshDM Feb 22 '14 at 5:32
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Dog poo eating is a common problem with dog owners, especially with some breeds. My sister's Labrador had the same problem and it took quite a long time (few months) to control this habit. The problem is, some dog breeds are unable to understand the difference between edible and inedible things, which is very common in Labrador, Golden Retrievers, etc. For that you need proper training for him; negative enforcement should be not used.

A few tips from my own case:

  • Poo place and eating place should be different or far apart.
  • Keeping a fixed poo place and removal of your dog from that place immediately can also help
  • Don't give him any chance to eat his poo. Clean it immediately.
  • Little shouting can be helpful if not overdone.

It can take time depending from dog to dog, but you required little care as you said, he eats his old poo which can be very unhealthy due to germs, etc.

-1

There are some cases when dogs eat excrements in an almost compulsive way. You can recognize these cases because the dog spots every single piece of poop lying around and actually hurries to get there before you do. It can sometimes feel like racing a petulent child to the candy store that is always faster and always swallows treats without chewing.

These cases have nothing to do with nutritional needs and chances are high that although you try to prevent your dog eating poop, you are actually reinforcing the behavior.

Let me give you an example:

  • Some time, long ago, you witnessed your dog eating poop.
  • A while later you see poop lying around. Your dog walks towards it because it wants to sniff it. You remember the poop eating event and think "Oh no, not again". You stiffen up, pull the leash or even try to take the poop away before your dog can reach it.
  • One of two things happen: In your dogs brain the stimulus of "poop" is connected to either "something valuable" because you always steal the poop or to "something bad" because you always react negatively.
  • If "poop" = "something valuable", your dog will actually hurry up, snatch and swallow it down just to get "something valuable" before you take it away.
  • If "poop" = "something bad" your dog will swallow it to make it disappear.

The way out of this cycle is behavior adjustment training. Basically you train a desired behavior with your dog (like obedience training or a certain game) and every time you encounter the stimulus, you initiate the desired behavior instead of the undesired poop eating. Unfortunately the topic of behavior adjustment training is too broad to discuss here, but there are many sources like books, blogs and videos out there to help you. A talk to a professional dog trainer can be very helpfull, too.

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