Ask Dr. Chris

Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?

pooping dogQuestion from one of our readers:

My dog will not stop eating his own poop!! I tried giving him pineapple, some meat tenderizer as per vets instructions, forbid…nothing is working. He has the best food on the market, multivitamins and even gets yogurt every day and still no luck. If he goes out in the yard in the morning, he will just poop and eat it right away without us even knowing until his breath smells! Any ideas?

Hi,

This is a great question and one that many other readers would be interested in hearing about!

When your dog eats its own or another animal’s feces (cat feces are irresistible to all dogs), it is a difficult and disgusting problem to deal with. I feel your pain as my own german shepherd, Jake, used to do the same thing. The scientific name for this behavior is coprophagia and despite what you may have read on the internet, it is natural behavior for dogs.

Dogs instinctively do it when nursing puppies and cleaning their “den” and is not typically a sign of poor nutrition or a nutritional deficiency. It really needs to be addressed as a behavioral problem, just as jumping up or going to the bathroom in the house are often seen as undesirable behaviors that can be worked on through training.

Dietary modifications have only been shown to help in approximately 2% of cases. This includes changes in dog food as well as manipulations such as feeding pineapple, meat tenderizer, yucca as well as the products that are sold in stores for coprophagia.

Keep in mind that things like meat tenderizer and supplements are thought to work by making the stools taste bad. Really?! Shouldn’t it taste bad enough? Some dogs just like it!

Training

The best way to handle this is to offer him no opportunity to eat his or anyone else’s bowel movement.

Take him out on a leash and keep him away from the bowel movement after he has gone. If he tries to go for it, say “leave it” and pull him away. Over time, you should teach him this command, to help you in other situations where he may pick up something he shouldn’t eat.

Next, remove your precious puppy from the area and clean up the feces as soon as possible.

Consider designating an area in the yard for bowel movements to make it easier for you to know where he defecated, making clean-up easier.

There unfortunately is no magic answer to this problem. It is a natural instinct and some dogs continue to eat their stools their whole lives. Please remember it isn’t typically related to the diet you are feeding or anything that you are doing wrong, it’s just a natural behavior that is more persistent in some dogs compared to others.

Work on these training ideas and if you continue to have trouble, consider an appointment with a veterinarian that is an animal behavior specialist. Kisses from your furry best friend are not as much fun when you know they’ve been eating poop.

Best Regards,
Christopher Smith VMD

56 Comments

56 Comments

  1. Howard

    Aug 24, 2014 at 2:22 am

    The question of why dogs eat feces (coprophagia) is pretty much irrelevant in today’s society. The question of more relevance is “why do humans eat feces (aka poop?)” Go to your local McDonalds or Burger King. Have you ever seen a listing of the ingredients? This listing is required by law on cereal boxes, and just about anything else that you can buy at the grocery store. There reason that McDonald’s and similar fast food joints don’t list their ingredients is due to a powerful, well-compensated Washington DC lobby that’s gotten around that requirement for these establishments. In fact, the typical fast-food burger contains anywhere from 40 – 60% animal feces (pre-cooked weight). They don’t want you to know that, of course. When it comes to adding human feces to fast-food restaurant items, in fact the FDA does have some fairly strict guidances, and fast food burgers are prohibited by law from containing more than 3% human feces. But they cram in all of the animal poop that they can. No one can tell the taste difference, anyway – the burgers are pretty disgusting – and it certainly cuts down on food costs. Just thought I’d let you know….

    • Whenward

      Sep 4, 2014 at 3:47 am

      This is a load of bollocks, don’t be such a smart-arse

  2. Big Joe

    May 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Some human children also eat their own poop. I have personally watched two boys eating poop out of the toilet, smiling and laughing. How do you explain that?

    • Small Joe

      Sep 4, 2014 at 3:46 am

      You are a rubbish parent

  3. Trish

    May 16, 2014 at 1:29 am

    I find the assertion that it’s not related to diet suspicious … or at least the claim that it’s only inborn with no other known causes. My own pup never touched or expressed interest in his or any other animal’s feces for years … and then became interested in doing so after a move to a new region with a considerably different climate. By this time, he was already an older dog and well trained across the board. Yet, he began seeking other animals’ dropped feces out on our walks … and this occurred around age 10. I will say … once I began to modify his food supply, this activity ceased. Articles can only explore so much … and this topic deserves a more detailed discussion … incorporating multiple scenarios, etc.

  4. nancy

    May 14, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    I have basset hounds, and they love eating from the “kitty crunchy café” aka litter box… And I have tried everything to make them stop eating each others poop

  5. Debbie Magnin

    May 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    all of my chihuahuas do this it is excessively gross, i have to stay on top of them but we have an acre of land so it is impossible to stop them all but when i catch them trying to do it i firmly tell them leave it and chase them away they are slowly getting better.

  6. Marla

    May 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    I have a schnauzer Yorkie mix. She only does it when she has pooped in the house. She tries to get rid of the evidence. I scold her for pooping in the house, so she gets rid of the evidence. It almost always makes her sick.and she pukes it up, which is very hard to clean up. She ven does it with my other dog’s poop if he has an accident. If I stop scolding her for pooping in the house, she stops eating it! What can I do? It’s a catch 22.

    • sh

      May 15, 2014 at 1:53 am

      I believe you have answered your own question. Obviously Stop scolding her!
      Dosen’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out! The feces is much easier to clean up too. Pretty much a no brainer. Maybe taking them on scheduled walks would help as well.

  7. Madeline St Onge

    May 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    My vet gave me a 2 week supply of Forbid to put in his good twice a day, worked like a charm, has never done it again

    http://www.amazon.com/ForBid-Stop-Stool-Eating-pkg/dp/B000RI63N8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400089197&sr=8-1&keywords=forbid

  8. Marsha

    Mar 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Maybe it’s the dogs’ version of picking up after themselves? Don’t forget they do it for their puppies.

  9. SoupFork

    Mar 12, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Some think that the purpose of the human appendix is to store bennificial bacteria. Dogs don’t have an appendix. Maybe they eat poop in order to replenish their own intestinal bacteria.

  10. Greg Olsen

    Mar 12, 2014 at 12:23 am

    My male Sibe won’t touch any poop. Will even leap over the top of it to ensure he doesn’t touch it! The Chug puppy, however, loves cat poop but not dog!

  11. Kimmy

    Mar 11, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    My dog will be 8 years old in June, she is half German Sheppard and half Siberian Husky. My son rescues cats, well mainly a moma and her babies. So your looking at 4 to 5 litter boxes being used any given time. Now my dog, Jasmine, mainly in the last few years has started sneaking in the litter boxes at night and munching on some kitty poo. She doesn’t always do this and I’ve tried to see if there is a pattern. I have punished her for doing it and gave her treats when she hasn’t with no luck. Only thing I have come up with is jealousy. Please help me.

    • Lisa Kreipe

      May 14, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      It is extremely difficult to get a dog to give up an instinctive behavior…kitty roca is very dangerous if you use clay litter as it can cause a bowel obstruction…I started using the “world’s best kitty litter” as it is 100% corn and will not cause problems when eaten.

  12. Barbara

    Feb 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Our issue is with one of our dags raiding the letter box. Despite our vigilant efforts, he gets in there before us occasionally. I have a covered nox placed in the corner giving the cat barely enough room to get in it himself. I have been told cats don’t completely digest food so I’m the dogs mind it’s like being cooked. Training isn’t the issue. It’s a behavior that has to have a way to stop it. He knows he gets scolded when he does it. But he’s a sneak. We feed the cat and if we stand over the cat while he eats, the dog will sneak a bite and run. We’re right there but if we happen to look away for one second, he’s there and chops til he knows we could smack his butt. He has this daring side and pushes the limits to the max. I wonder if this behavior comes from possibly coming from a puppy mill-something I can’t prove but he acts like he has to fight for each meal. They’re on a top quality freeze dried food and get carrots or lettuce for treats. All healthy diet. But it’s like he has it in his head he has to eat while it’s there, and he eats fast. He’s so stubborn and extremely smart.

  13. Cathy McGrath

    Feb 18, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I have a doggy nursing home in my home. Four of the elderly dogs eat poop. I wonder if this behavior gets worse with age.

    • Sheryl Stevenson

      Apr 7, 2014 at 9:35 am

      My oldest dog did not start doing this till he hit the age of 12. He never did it before so it can not be behavioral. He has always been a dog that goes out and does his business and comes right back in and now he goes out there like its a scavenger hunt for tasty treats. I have to stay out there with him while he is on a lead and pull the lead so he gets away from the poop.

      • Lori Hauck

        May 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm

        Mine eats it too. 12 yr old German shepherd. Her mother did it also ..what a gross habit and I try to scoop it as she is going and I put it in a pail and dump in the fields. Where she doesn’t go. She still will eat any poop via rabbit dog etc. I can’t let her near the ferrets cage or she will like thier pan. Ahahaha she is a smart girl because when outside I say drop it and she either will or run ….smh good luck I just pick up from her immediately but she sometimes stashes poop I tell ya I try and with four acres of farmland it isn’t easy.

        • Lori Hauck

          May 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm

          Sorry I meant lick their pan, voice recognition makes more errors them I do.

  14. Kris

    Feb 18, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    My dogs love litter box crunchies, the fresher the better. My oldest dog loves it so much that he is eating while the cat is still pooping. We have tried covered litter boxes. (Despite getting his head stuck numerous times), putting a gate around the boxes etc but nothing works.

  15. Millie

    Jan 23, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Lol, These Responses Are Hilarious.I Agree, The Only Thing You Can Do IS Immediate Clean Up. UnfortunitLy We Have A Lot Of Rabbits Using Our Yard As A Potty.So I Clean Up Theirs But They Still Gobble The Rabbit Turds.

  16. KIt Van Niman

    Jan 23, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Thank you for an intelligent answer. I have read and heard so many ridiculous ‘answers’ to this question over the years. My bitches never ate stool until they did so with their puppies. And,keeping some of the puppies, they learned from Momma who kept up the habit. Finally, someone who understands dogs. Again, thank you.

    • Kelly

      Feb 18, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      Yea. Best answer I have heard.

  17. susan

    Jan 23, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    I’ve tried putting hot sauce on poop to keep my one little JRT from eating it, and she seems to like it even more with some Tabasco on it. So far, training is the only thing I’ve found to work.

  18. Laura

    Jan 23, 2014 at 5:34 am

    How funny! I am an RVT with a poop-eating dog. Frozen poop DOES seem to be even more tempting – I get questions about this from clients at the clinic. Sorry there is no magic answer – not even the pills to “make it taste bad”. As in one of the previous posts – why does it taste good in the first place?!! I also find it amusing that people in our profession have so many discussions about gross stuff with straight faces. Gotta love the veterinary world 🙂

    • Lori Hauck

      May 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Lol so true..nothing helps. Just picking up as fast as you can to prevent it . I’ve tried everything on their market with no avail.

  19. Leann

    Jan 22, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    My poodle is 9 years old and we did not adopt her until 3 years ago after she was rescued from a puppy mill. She does eat poop and it just kills me!! I’m sure this is from not knowing when her next meal would come. We feed her on a regular schedule now. The problem is we aren’t always around when she poops and she WON’T do it in front of us when we can reprimand her. If I can’t train her not to do it how can I stop her???

    • Erin P

      Jan 23, 2014 at 10:42 pm

      Sounds like you should spend more time with your dog. Or try a sitter or daycare

      • Kelly

        Feb 18, 2014 at 7:21 pm

        why do you say things like that? This person is trying to find an answer. I had a dog that liked others poop, try what I might I could not break him.

  20. Deb

    Jan 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    We have had issues with this with our lab. When poop gets frozen in winter – our dog thinks it’s a frozen treat- easy solution is of course to pickup vigilantly but in the woods offlead we have to keep a close eye out and use the “ahah – yucky” command – he usually listens and we give him a treat. If he doesn’t listen he is put back on the lead to refocus him. I do think putting him on digestive enzymes/ probiotics helped curb his sudden obsession this winter but he still thinks frozen poop is a delicacy and can remember exactly where he found one weeks later in the woods…

  21. Jake

    Jan 22, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Hey Tara, can you not read?
    You’re an idiot!

  22. Nadine Buckman

    Jan 21, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I was always told if it was a mother and her puppies, it may have more to do with over feeding your dog.

  23. tracy mccormack

    Jan 21, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    oh boy. My vet told me that my now 1 year old puppy had whip worms from eating his poop. Because I literally followed him around the yard (even in the dark with a flashlight) to pick-up every single poop. we were able to get an all clear report, but we have to watch every time he is outside to keep him from eating his own And our other 2 dogs’ poop. After nearly 6 weeks of following him, he will Still search for dog poop. I’ve done the leave-it commands and substitute little treats, but he Still wants that poop. I guess I’ll try the pineapple idea but I doubt that would change his mind about it ~ he’d probably just like the new flavor.

    • Erin P

      Jan 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Not all dogs are treat motivated. He might enjoy bones, toys, or positive loving attention instead. Might try that with the leave its

  24. Kevin DeLay

    Jan 21, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Our chihuahua would (and still sometimes does) eat her own. She came from a hoarding situation and we just figured she did this because she got to the point where she didn’t know when, or if, she would get her next meal so had to eat what she could.

  25. tara

    Jan 21, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    they can’t be “trained” to not do something that they are psychologically conditioned to do…..clean up poop!!! it’s the owners issue, not the dog’s.
    they are trying to help with the clean up, but the owners are obviously not happy about the “how”….so do yourself, and your beloved pet, a favor…get off your butt, and clean it up for them…..
    THAT is how to train….the owner!!!!

  26. oldmandave

    Jan 21, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    i have Pittbulls and some my pups would eat thier own poop
    i was told by a friend to get Brewers yeasy pills and give them one daily for a few days and they will stop
    it worked for my pitt

  27. annette roydon

    Jan 21, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    I had a puppy that ate her poop. I called Nature’s Farmacy (they have a website) and they suggested giving Probiotic Max in her food. I had been walking her on a leash and carrying multiple poop bags so there was nothing on the ground. Within 3 weeks she ceased and never showed any interest at all.

  28. Chloe

    Jan 21, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    In my experience with teaching a solid “leave it”, it is always beneficial to spend time understanding what your dog values. You are asking your dog to replace one behaviour (eating poop) with another behaviour (leaving the poop alone). To make this much, much easier for your pup to understand and be successful with, it is better to offer your dog a higher value option along with the “leave it” command rather than simply pulling on his leash and saying the words. This is not a bribe if done correctly (thru luring and proper positive reinforcement)–it is using the dog’s inherent learning capabilities. It is always best to practice “leave it” in environment where the dog is guaranteed to succeed and not try it first when they are faced with the delectable poop. This is called Errorless Learning and leads to fast, solid commands.

  29. Pam Bradley

    Jan 21, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    our dog use to eat his bowel movements till our vet told us put crushed pinapple
    in his feed ,we did that for some time and it worked wonders .

  30. Maureen

    Jan 21, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    My corgi mix like to eat others droppings. We hike in the hills and many time come across Coyote droppings. If it’s somewhat “Fresh”and even if it’s not, she will gobble it down as if it were a T bone steak.
    I’ve discussed this with her vet and she said that the biggest problem is if the other animal has worms or other parasites.
    Since my dog takes Trifexis and up to date on all her shots and sees the vet regularly she should be safe except for the fact that she’s grossing her momma out.
    I regularly check her feces for signs of parasites and when I’m worried I have it checked out.

    • Len Gaskill

      Jan 23, 2014 at 10:54 am

      My corgi only licks pee

    • Karen

      Feb 18, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Trifexis works well for my dog, too. Has never had a positive fecal since we started it.

  31. Margaret

    Jan 21, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    We have a little Yorkie mix, 6 years old who has been with us for about 4 months. When we are out he has to be watched constantly as he will eat ANY feces he comes across. It’s very hard to enjoy a walk when I have to watch him constantly. Of course, his bowel movement is picked up right away but when we are walking I never realized how much animal feces is out there in that nice green grass…
    I always give him a sharp NO! and pull him away and I guess from what I’ve read that’s all you can do to train him. He probably has been doing this all his life so it might take a long time to train him I have heard of pills and have been tempted to try them just to see even though according to this article they don’t work.

    • Cindy

      Jan 21, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      Don’t forget to reward your dog for NOT touching the stool. He will learn much faster what No or Leave It means if he gets rewarded for doing what you want.

      • Karen

        Feb 18, 2014 at 7:44 pm

        Also carry some treats with you on the walk. After you tell him to “leave” the poop, give him a treat. That way he won’t feel like he’s missing something!

  32. Jeri Kastner

    Jan 21, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    My little Chi mix only ate her feces when she went in the house. I always blamed it on “hiding the evidence”! 🙂

  33. Jim Swanson

    Jan 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve heard of something called “Forbid” to feed your dog for four days in their regular food. They should then stop doing this. Is this a viable solution to the problem?

    • Julie Vandegrift

      Jan 21, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Forbid did not work for my dog. I’ve tried every one of the “tricks” I’ve read about and none have worked. Therefore I agree with the above. It takes training.

    • James Perkins

      Mar 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      I’m trying this now with my youngest Beagle,to soon ro tell if it works.

    • Harriet Aaron

      Mar 11, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      It worked for my dog for the number of days I was using it but you are only supposed to use it for a limited time. When I reached the end of the time, the dog resumed her habit. My puppy did not do it at first. The vet thought that she was cleaning up because she’d seen me clean up.

  34. Kathy D

    Jan 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Jaco, my 7-year old Shepherd mix, does not demonstrate coprophagia – BUT – he is constantly compelled to bury the cats’ duty in their litter box using his snout. He does not actually snack on kitty turds, however, and most often, there are no deposits in the box – as I am constantly scooping. So he is just rearranging the litter, and I can always tell by the coating of litter stuck to his snout. — Furthermore,– when Jaco poops and/or pees – if there are leaves on the ground – or snow, as there is now — he uses his snout to bury his own waste. — I’ve never seen/heard of a dog using his snout to bury his/other animals’ waste!

  35. Denise

    Jan 21, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    How do you send a email message to Christopher Smith VMD?

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