How to stop dogs from eating poop

Turd-ally Gross: How to Stop Dogs from Eating Poop

It’s not something any dog owner wants to see, yet it’s almost inevitable that you’ll have to deal with it at some point: your dog sniffing a turd and then, before you can stop him, gobbling it down.

Science confirms that dogs love eating poop. In a 2012 study, 24% of dogs were observed eating poop at least once, and 16% ate poop at least 5 times.

The study showed that over 90% of dogs prefer poop no older than 2 days, and 85% of dogs prefer eating other dogs’ poop. Some breeds like poop more than others: 40% of shelties and 38% of border collies were poop-eaters.

These statistics illustrate that poop eating is hardwired into the canine brain. It’s displayed by dogs of all ages, temperaments and health levels, and there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to it.

But there must be a way to stop your dog from eating poop… right? Let’s get to the bottom of this disgusting habit and find out how to make it stop, for the good of your dog — and your sanity.

Call It Coprophagia

The dog lies and eats on the grass

We have many terms for the act of eating poop, some more vulgar than others. But the scientific term for it is coprophagia — “copro” meaning poop and “phagia” meaning eating.

Dogs aren’t the only animals that can exhibit coprophagia, but they’re among the most likely to. There are several reasons for this, and you’ll need to pinpoint the right one to put a stop to your dog’s behavior.

Natural Instinct

Your dog is lucky: he gets reliable, nutritious meals handed to him on a platter multiple times a day. His ancestors didn’t live such cushy lives; they had to take what they could get, and those circumstances could be the root of coprophagia.

When food was scarce, ancient dogs would turn to less-desirable food sources to survive. Often, this meant poop, and today’s dogs may retain those ancestral poop-eating drives.

Poop-eating may also have been a preventative measure taken by ancestral canines. Feces often contains harmful parasites and bacteria, so rather than leaving it in their dens, ancient dogs may have eaten it instead to prevent the young, sick and elderly pack members from contracting anything nasty.

Learned Behavior

The drive to eat poop may also begin early in puppyhood. Mother dogs will lick their puppies’ butts to encourage them to poop; the puppies may pick up on this and develop an early taste for feces themselves.

Many puppies grow out of this behavior by the time they’re a year old. But for some, these early tastings spark a lifelong craving for poop of all kinds.

Hungry for More

When dogs are lacking in nutrients or calories, they’re happy to gobble down some poop. Nutritional deficiencies, particularly of protein and vitamin B, can drive a dog to eat poop.

Sick Habits

Some illnesses, such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease, cause an increase in appetite. When the kibble’s all gone and the treat supply has dried up, dogs with these conditions will put just about anything in their stomachs, including poop.

Stress Eating

Stress can prompt a dog to do some strange things: pace in circles for hours, chew on himself and, yes, eat poop,

It’s not clear why stress causes coprophagia, but if your dog is highly anxious or undergoing stressful situations like moving or ongoing medical treatment, he may turn to poop eating to cope.

Stopping Your Dog from Eating Poop

Stopping your dog from eating poop

Breaking the poop-eating habit means treating the problem at the source. Once you’ve figured out why your dog is eating poop, try one of these methods to nip the behavior in the bud.

Boost Nutrition

Coprophagia caused by nutritional deficiencies is usually easy to resolve once the deficiency is remedied. If you’re feeding low-quality food, consider upgrading your dog’s diet to one that contains more vitamins and protein, or supplement with fresh vegetables and meat for treats.

Internal parasites like worms can leech nutrients from your dog’s GI tract, making him hungry and malnourished no matter how much he eats. If you suspect worms, see a vet to determine the type of worms and get the appropriate treatment.

Manage Medical Issues

Untreated or unmanaged medical conditions can make your dog feel like he’s starving all the time, increasing the likelihood that he’ll eat poop. If you notice other symptoms like weakness, weight loss, increased thirst or mood changes, see a vet for diagnosis.

Reduce Stress

Stress-induced coprophagia can be remedied by removing the stressor or providing other anxiety relief. If it seems related to a recent change, like furniture rearranging, try reverting back to how it was and see if that helps.

Situational stress, like moving or a new baby, often resolves itself with time. If it doesn’t, or if you can’t figure out the cause, see a vet for anti-anxiety medication.

Use a Taste Aversion Product

When all else fails, you can stop your dog from eating poop by making it taste bad… er, worse, that is. Dogs hate the taste of hot peppers and citrus, so a few drops of hot sauce or lemon juice on a turd will keep your dog away from it.

Commercial products like For-Bid can be added to your dog’s food to make his poops less palatable. It can also be added to other animals’ food, so if your dog likes to eat out of the cat’s litterbox, adding some deterrent to your cat’s food should stop the behavior.

"If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them."
--Phil Pastoret

7 thoughts on “Whose Dog Is it Anyway: What Determines Ownership of a Dog?”

  1. Hi my co-worker got a dog for her grandpa from an individual that rescues stray dogs and finds them homes. This dog was found in January in the snows with a bad ear infection. My co-worker and her grandpa took the dog to a vet, that vet scanned the dog for a chip and was told there was no information on the chip. My co-workers grandpa was also told that the dog had an ear infection. The grandpa paid for treatment and medication. They then returned to their home and the ear infection had not resolved so the grandpa took the dog to another vet. This vet scanned the dog again and it turns out the microchip actually had the owners information. The previous owner now wishes to claim the dog. The dog in question has been fed, taken care and given medical attention by the grandpa since January 2020 does previous owner still have a right to the dog?

    1. Me and my partner have separated and have two dogs. They’re both registered in the vets in my name and I’ve paid for there medical records since day one. She’s trying to say she has a claim to him as it’s hers and gone as far as to cancel a vet appointment for him to try set her own up. Is she allowed to just take him or can him keep him as I don’t want to separate them. They’ve been together since birth and need each other

  2. I would say yes. The first vet either did not scan and said he but the dog was chipped. There could be many reasons why the dog was lost. Return the dog and have the people pay for your vet visits.

  3. A registered non-profit organization receives dogs from kill shelters in other states, rehabbing them and then putting them up for adoption. This process is all done legally. Some of the dogs go up for adoption in a few months, some are pregnant and must have litters, whelp pups, etc and are be with the group for many months, some have serious behavior or health problems and are with the group for 2 years or more. My question is: Who legally owns the dogs between the time that they are turned over to this organization and the time that they are adopted? Is their ownership in the name of the organization?

  4. A friend of mines dog went missing after a house fire, the dog was missing for just under a year, when they finally found it a shelter had sold him to another family. The dog was trained in show and had numerous titles, and the new owners have even admitted there is no mistaking its the same dog, yet are refusing to give him back, would the law side with my friend?

  5. My son broke off his relationship and the girlfriend moved out. Feeling guilty, he allowed her to continue seeing the dog for emotional support. They “shared” the dog for almost a year. Now, he’s in a new relationship and planning to move to another state. He told the Ex, and she has decided to keep the dog, stating that the dog is better off with her. She had a lawyer draw up a contract for him to sign giving up all ownership of the dog. Of course, he refused. Now, he has filed to take her to court. The dog was a gift to my son from us and the Ex for Christmas. Everything, i.e. license, vet records, microchip, AKC papers, are ALL in his name only. With the current pandemic, court cases are taking extra long. I’m considering asking friends and family to write statements affirming that the dog belongs to him. Any advice?

  6. My girlfriend and I have been together for almost 4 years.
    She’s amazing, but truthfully, if we ever broke up and I had to give up my dog to her, I’d lose my mind. I had no idea dog ownership was so involved.
    The next time we go to the vet, I’m paying! 😉

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