If you're wondering why do puppies eat their poop you're in the right place. Whether it's dining on their own doo doo, chomping on a bit of horse poop during walkies, or having a penchant for their kitty siblings' litter tray, it's unlikely a habit you want to encourage. In fact, you probably think it's totally gross. First, we'd like to comfort you that it's actually very normal and common for puppies and dogs to eat poop. The real questions are why they do it, whether it may make them sick, and how can you prevent the behaviour?
Why does my puppy or dog eat poo?
You're buying the tastiest puppy food around [cough, cough, Scrumbles], and treating your puppy with the finest natural dog treats. So, why on earth is your puppy choosing to eat poo of all things? Whilst it might seem like a strange and disgusting behaviour to us, it's not to the rest of the animal world. So much so, there's even a name for it: Copraphagia.
Coprophagia derives from Ancient Greek, a fancy word for "the consumption of faeces". Depending on who's poop you eat, it's even got its own variations; Heterospecifics (other species), Allocoprophagy (other individuals of the same species), or Autocoprophagy (your own).
There are a number of reasons your puppy may be doing it, the main ones being:
Greed or hunger
Greed is the most common reason that dogs eat poop. There's even scientific evidence to back this up, as a study found that dogs described as being "greedy eaters" were also the most likely to eat poop.
If you don't think your pup is particularly greedy, eating poop could also be a sign of hunger. Check you're feeding the correct quantity of pet food, as all brands and recipes vary. For example, lower quality pet food tends to require larger feeding amounts, as the recipes are less nutrient-dense. As well as checking that another household pet isn't stealing their food.
If this isn't the issue, it could be down to your feeding routine. If it's not regular, your puppy or dog might be going too long in between meals. Again this can also be exacerbated if you're feeding low-quality pet food, which isn't providing the right level of nutrients to keep them full. You can tell this by looking at the ingredients list. A good quality source of animal protein should be the first mentioned (and therefore most prominent) ingredient, and the recipe shouldn't just be bulked out with cereals.
It Tastes Good
Another reason could simply be that your puppy likes the taste and texture of poop. Don't forget that your puppy has very different tastes to your own, so poop to them could be the equivalent of a freshly baked, wood-fired Neapolitan pizza to you. No, I'm not drooling you are.
As poop ages so does it's texture, and (we're guessing) flavour. So your puppy may also have a preference for certain vintages of poop. Although typically they go for the firmer kinds that are less than 2 days old. Unsurprisingly when they're still at their smelliest!
Whilst it may seem like they like the taste, your puppy could also just be an avid explorer. Mouths are dogs' number one exploration tool, and they can find out a heap of information by giving a poop a bite. Just think of all those other strange things they've licked or nibbled on!
As newborns, mummy dogs help keep cribs clean and hygienic by eating their baby's poops. Just like birds do in their nests. During this time, your puppy will also be learning everything they need to know by copying their mum's every move. So naturally, they could end up copying their poop-eating.
Once puppies move onto solid food or can leave their crib, most lose interest in poo, but some puppies' habits die hard.
Boredom or stress
As with so many behaviours, stress could also be the contributory factor to why your dog is eating poop. It could simply be that eating poop is the only activity to keep them entertained whilst you're away. To prevent against this make sure your pooch is getting their recommended daily exercise, and schedule extra playtime. You can also stimulate their brain with enrichment games, like hiding treats under cups and making them guess which it's hidden under.
The final reason could be down to an illness or medical issue. Many believe that eating poop is because of a dietary deficiency, however, due to the number of dogs that do it, this is most likely not the reason. Medical conditions that do make puppies more like to eat poop are:
- Brain conditions like dementia
- Diseases that increase appetites like diabetes or worms
- Poor digestion (we recommend a diet including pre and probiotics for dogs!)
- Medication, like steroids
So, do all dogs eat poo then?
Whilst we've just provided a whole array of reasons as to why dogs eat poop, we're certainly not inferring that all dogs eat poop. Some scientists were so keen to understand the exact proportion, they carried out a poop study back in 2018. Their results were that 23% of their 1.5k sample had eaten poop at least once, and 16% were regular poop munchers. With the most common breeds being terriers or hounds, as well as Sheepdogs and French Bulldogs.
Can eating poop make my dog sick?
It's quite normal for puppies and dogs to eat poo, so if done infrequently, usually won't have any negative repercussions. Due to the nature of poop though, there is some risk of infection from bacteria and parasites, so it's best to prevent and discourage it. If your dog has eaten poop, wash their face and give them a drink to wash out their mouth. And maybe wait a few minutes before your next sloppy kiss...
How to respond to your dog eating poop
To discourage and prevent your dog from eating poo, here are some of the tips we've used ourselves:
- Keep your puppy or dog on a lead to easily be able to pull them away
- Always pick up poops asap rocky!
- Give a firm command like "Leave it" whenever they do try
- Make sure to reward with plenty of praise and a tasty dog treat for good behaviour
- Use a muzzle whilst out on walks
- Feed more regularly
- Try a more nutritious diet (don't forget to transition over slowly though)
- Extend walkies for extra physical stimulation
- Play lots of games and try some enrichment toys for extra mental stimulation
- Leave toys out if you do have to leave them on their own
- Never punish or shout at your dog, as to them they've done nothing wrong and you could just cause more behavioural issues
Another method we've seen online is feeding your dog something to make their poops taste worse. However, we wouldn't recommend this as it could cause an upset tum, and just present you with a new problem!
We hope you now feel more at ease with your dog's secret vice, and hopefully one of these tips will help you nip it in the bud. If not, as a last resort, speak to your vet or a dog behaviourist.
1. Why does my dog eat cat poop?
Your dog eats cat poop because it has a strong and interesting smell.
2. Why do dogs eat their own poo?
There are a number of reasons your dog may eat their own poo, including stress, boredom, or even attention-seeking!