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It's tough having a dog who eats poop, but it's more common than you think. This condition is known as coprophagia and while it's not exactly appealing to humans, it's a perfectly normal behavior for animals.

There are many reasons why a dog may eat it's own feces. The behavior can be seen in nursing mothers who must stimulate their puppies to defecate and urinate until the puppy is old enough to utilize the muscles on their own. This ingestion of feces also helps keep the "nest" clean and reduce the chance of predators sniffing out their puppies.

But, what of adult dogs who eat feces? Some can become quite compulsive and will even follow other dogs around to be able to eat their feces. It's also quite common in puppies, although we don't know why exactly.

While oftentimes there is no obvious health reason for this behavior, it's important to have your pet checked out to eliminate the chance that a malabsorption disorder or nutritional deficiency is causing the behavior.

Coprophagia can sometimes be motivated by diet although no scientific link has been established. Diets that are very high in protein have been suspected to cause this behavior as dogs may want to reabsorb undigested protein. Bad diets, such as those with many filers, have also been thought to contribute to the condition. and there are a few things you can do that have helped some dogs overcome the disorder. Supplements can sometimes help, depending on the dog.

It's worth trying one of the following:

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables: A small piece of fresh pineapple (about a teaspoon) given to your dog each day may help. Brussels sprouts, cabbage or other foods high in sulfur have also been shown to help in a few cases. You can also try sprinkling a little meat tenderizer on your pet's food (but be sure to use a LOW SODIUM type).

Commercial Supplements: Commercial supplements such as Potty Mouth, ForBid or Determay help in some cases. Other natural supplements include Only Natural Pet Stool Eating Deterrent or

Enzymatic Supplements: Natural enzyme supplements like Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics, Prozyme Original All-Natural Enzyme Supplement or Trophy Prozyme Powder can sometimes help.

There is also a belief that dogs in poor living conditions may be more prone to this behavior. There is also some potential for it being a simple compulsive disorder and for those dogs, training may be a way to keep them from consuming their waste. Remember, while these possible solutions may help stop your pet from eating their own poop, it will do nothing to stop them from eating other animal's feces. 

How to Prevent the Problem in Puppies

The best and most effective solution is a training approach that works. So, what can we do about poop eating in puppies?

1. Remove poop as soon as it appears.

2. Don’t make a big fuss if the puppy does find some poop.

3. Distract, redirect and reward the puppy for stopping what they’re doing and listening to you.

4. Feed your dog the best quality food you possibly can. Proper nutrition is very important for pets. Avoid inexpensive foods or foods that have many fillers. These foods have very low nutritional value which can cause your dog to eat his own poop in an effort to reabsorb needed nutrients.

5. Feed your dog 2-3 times per day (as opposed to once per day), and give her plenty of things she can chew on like low-calorie treats (or even sliced carrots, celery sticks, garbanzo beans or frozen peas) in smart toys.

6. Make sure she’s getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Increase walks and try taking your pets on "scent walks" where they are allowed to just wander and sniff things.

How to tackle the problem of the dog who has been doing it for a while:

1. Keep her on a leash whenever she’s out to prevent her from practicing the unwanted behavior while you go through the training process.

2. WHILE she’s pooping, feed her some delicious food and pick up her poop before she gets finished with the yummy food. That way she gets rewarded for pooping and rewarded for not eating it.

3. As training practice, take her on leash to where there is some poop and let her get close enough so she can smell it and see it but NOT eat it. She might be straining at the end of the leash. Just stand there and wait for her to give up and turn away and then reward the heck out of her with whatever floats her boat – i.e. if food works, make it something really delicious that she doesn’t usually get, or if she prefers verbal praise or playing with toys do whatever she wants most.

4. Lots of repetitions of her getting rewarded for CHOOSING to look away, walk away, and eventually when she sees poop she’ll probably be looking for you to see if you’ll give her something yummy.

5. Once you see the behavior is established you can start to go for random rewards. But you must be unpredictable and generous or she’ll revert to the previous behavior.

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kbreeden
Author: kbreeden
Contributor
About the Author

Kathrine Breeden is a certified trainer based in Chandler, Arizona. Kathrine is one of the first trainers to be Licensed by Victoria Stilwell from the TV Show on Animal Planet's, “It’s Me Or The Dog” and is proud to be part of the Positively Dog Training Team. Kathrine is a Full Member of the Pet Professional Guild, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and Truly Dog Friendly. She is also a supporting Member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Learn more about her and pick up useful training trips at Be Kind to Dogs, and join her Facebook group: "Be Kind to Dogs".


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