Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Poopsicles…they’d make a million dollars for anyone who had the gumption to sell them. Dogs that eat poop are even wilder about the morsels when they’re frozen which makes us wonder why…but then we wonder why on earth they eat poop to begin with.  Here are 6 possibilities and some thoughts:


1. Boredom


2. Do away with evidence that can bring punishment (even disapproval may be seen as punishment)


3. Because the dog thinks it tastes good. Let’s face it – dog’s don’t have the same taste preferences we do.


4. Nutritional deficiency and/or malabsoprtion (therefor, hunger is a possibility)


5. It’s viewed as a toy


6. Arguably, a survival instinct to do away with any scent or evidence that would allow a predator to find the dog.


Obviously, boredom will depend on the breed and individual dog’s needs. Being a Cavalier, my Tori’s answer to boredom is to sleep it off, or paw at a ball. Another dog might bark, whine, become destructive and/or eat poop. Keeping the dog occupied can be helpful in curbing the poop-eating behavior, but it’s not the real answer. Once a dog learns to like doing it, no amount of distraction is likely to help because it’s simply too easy for the dog to grab the delicacy and gulp.



Disapproval can be a biggie for many dogs. I recall our Cassie when she was a puppy being potty trained, and my husband showing obvious disapproval when she “went” in the house. Cassie understood this to mean that pooping in front of my husband was not allowed, so she wouldn’t do her business during a walk. Instead, she’d go in the house and swat at the poop over and over again until it rolled into the heating vent. I took over that part of her training from that moment on and Cassie relaxed and “got it” in no time, but it shows you how sensitive some dogs are, and what length they’ll go to in order to avoid any kind of perceived confrontation. It was a stoke of luck that she didn’t eat her own poop instead of trying to hide it.



Whether the dog thinks it tastes good, is a toy, or is trying to hide their whereabouts from imagined predators is beyond the scope of what I do, but the dietary connection fits. I’ve seen this behavior in dogs with anemia, autoimmune diseases, and gastrointestinal problems. Nobody knows if they’re looking for nutrients, but it seems like a reasonable guess to me. After all, if absorption isn’t great and much of the nutrition is in stool, that poop must smell different, and or better ( if you’re a dog). I tend to take a holistic approach to this. Address the underlying cause if it can be determined (vet visit time!), and deal with what the gut needs in order to heal. Digestive enzymes, L-glutamine and acidophilus have helped a lot of dogs, but so have B vitamins, and good fats like wild salmon oil and coconut oil. The last two items should be considered only if the dog isn’t dealing with an intestinal disease that contraindicates dietary fat (think pancreatits, IBD, colits, EPI et al) Finally, and arguably most importantly is to try and improve your dog’s current diet. It’s amazing what a great diet can do.



All this said, I have it on good authority that cat poop is irresistible to most dogs, while deer and rabbit poop are prizes to be treasured. Not much to be done about that other than keeping the cat litter box perfectly clean (a muzzle might be necessary for those dogs with intestinal diseases that are thrown over the edge after eating rabbit or deer poop), and improving the diet and supplement regime. There are products on the market that are sold as a way to get the dog to stop the behavior, but I’ve never come across one that works for all dogs. It goes without saying that cleaning up after your dog makes it impossible for him or her to eat the poop, but some dogs are so fast that they can grab it before you have the chance, and none of this matters if your dog prefers the stool of other dogs. Best bet in my opinion is to try and curb it with nutrition.



What about eating grass? Want to know why dogs eat grass?