Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

How to stop your dog eating poo

How to stop your dog from eating poo

Here we explore why your dog eats their own poop, and how you can stop it!

Why do dogs eat their own poo?

Poop eating is a fairly common condition, it is called coprophagia. There can be many reasons a dog might do this:

  • Eating poo is normal for dogs at certain life stages, e.g a mother dog will lick up their puppies’ faeces 
  • Dogs evolved as scavengers, eating whatever they could find on the ground or in the rubbish pile
  • In puppies, it can be part of the process of them exploring their world
  • It can be related to health issues like parasites, a deficiency in nutrients and calories in the diet, malabsorption syndromes or other conditions 
  • It can also be related to environmental factors e.g. being isolated, being kept in a small restricted space or living in a stressful environment. This is especially seen with pups and dogs in a breeder’s environment if they don’t keep the area clean of faeces, or dogs kept in small quarters that aren’t regularly cleaned.

How to stop your dog eating poo

This habit can be very unappealing, especially if your dog loves to gives you big licks afterward! Here’s how you can stop your dog from engaging in this unpleasant habit.

Keep the area clean

The best option is to clean up the poo regularly and not have faeces around and available. Also increase the stimulation and enrichment thats available to your pup in your backyard so theres lots of stuff for them to chew on!

If you can have your pup’s toileting area further away from the main play area where they spend most of their time, this may also help.

Catch it before they do

If out on a walk, as soon as your dog finishes their business, hurry in to pick it up before they get a chance to eat it. Use a firm “leave it” command if you need to.

Clicker train

You can use clicker training to teach your dog to leave their poo alone. When you’re with them and they’re doing their business, click when they’ve finished and give a high value food reward. In time this will teach them to run to you for their treat after they’ve finished, rather than turning to eat their own poo.

Make the poo unpleasant

There are bitter tasting sprays you can buy that you can spray on the poop, which can act as a deterrent and over time put them off eating it altogether.  You can also try something like cayenne pepper. You can test if this will be effective by spraying the product on something that your pup would usually like, such as a chew bone. If they then wont touch it, then the product has been effective and you can use it on the poop. However some dogs will work their way through a lot of bad taste to get to the “treat” they want!  To do this, you’ll have to get to a poo before your dog does in order to apply the product.

Add a deterrent to your dog’s food

You can also buy products to add to your dog’s food to make the resulting poo less appealing to eat. Google “poo eating deterrent” and you’ll find plenty of options you can buy locally to try out.

Teach the “leave it” command

Make sure you’ve taught your dog a good strong “leave it” command so you can use this if you ever catch them in the act. But given poop-eating mainly occurs when youre not watching, this isnt always the easiest one!

Correct the behaviour remotely

Correct the behaviour with a high powered water pistol. This requires a bit of a set up, as you’ll need a poo for your dog to go for and often they won’t do it while you’re there. But if they will, quietly watch your dog, and when they go to eat a poop give them a good squirt with the water gun to give them a bit of a fright and interrupt. Dont give any commands, you want to remain unassociated to that squirt. By doing this, the correction appears to have come from the poo itself rather than from you, so your pup learns that the poo is dangerous” and doesnt associate the negative consequence with you. This means theyll learn not to eat poo even when you are not around.

 

See a vet if necessary

If this behaviour has started suddenly or seems compulsive, you may wish to speak to a vet about potential underlying health concerns. 

Ensure your dog’s environment is appropriate

Dogs that are kept in isolation for long periods of time, or dogs that are kept in a small, confined space may be more likely to eat their poo. Consider if this might be a factor for your dog, and work to give them more freedom and space when you need to leave them alone. 

Need more help?

If you need more help with this issue, check out our Virtual Training Schools, all of which will give you video guidance on the specific training techniques you can use to address this.  If you do decide to join, you’ll also get access to myself and our trainers to ask questions as you go so that we can help you through the course.  Check out the options for puppies, teenage puppies and adult dogs here.

Good luck working on this unpleasant habit!

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