How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop

Ever wonder why a dog will eat his or her own excrement and other dog's as well? Read on and find out how to stop your dog from engaging in this disgusting habit.

My Dog Murphy and his "Interesting" Habit

Three years ago, my family got a newborn shih tzu puppy whom we named Murphy. We could not ask for anything more out of a dog. Murphy was cute, cuddly and always around looking to be scratched. The breeder we got him from nicknamed him "Rolly" as he would always roll over to have his stomach scratched whenever any human got within 10 feet of him. However, we soon learned of another habit our new companion had; Murphy would eat his own excrement any chance he got.

To say it bluntly, Murphy would poop, turn around, and eat a new snack. Needless to say, our family found this to be rather revolting and sought to rid him of this habit. After a few months, we were successful. If you are a dog lover and owner such as myself and have encountered a similar problem, then read on to discover why dogs eat their own poop and how to stop them from doing this.

7 Big Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop

Coprophagia is a condition in dogs that causes them to habitually and deliberately eat their own and other's poop (1). This habit can be brought about from a number of reasons.

  • Young puppies and dogs may sometimes eat poop as an experiment. That is, they don't know any better and are unaware of how eating poop may be unhealthy for them. To them, poop may look and be no different than the dog food you are feeding them.
  • When a young puppy is brought home for the first time, he or she will inevitably poop in the house before they learn it is wrong. If the owner scolds the puppy about this, the puppy may eat the poop to try and "hide the evidence" if it happens again in the future.
  • Some dogs eat poop in an attempt to gain nutrients the food you are providing may lack. If the food you give your dog is sub-par or not appropriate for your dog's breed or age, your dog may try to instinctually make up for it by eating its poop.
  • If you only feed your dog once a day, the dog may simply get hungry and want to eat more. By eating its own poop, your dog may be signaling to you that he or she is not satisfied with the amount of food you are providing.
  • In households where there are two or more dogs, some dogs may eat the poop of the "dominant dog" of the group. The dog who eats the poop may be more submissive and tend to eat the poop of a more dominant animal.
  • When the family of the dog is gone at work or school for long periods of time, the dog may become emotionally stressed and eat his or her own poop to relieve that stress.
  • If you chain or leave your dog in an enclosed area, the dog may feel the need to "clean up" that area any time he or she poops.

3 Easy Ways to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Poop

  • Always be sure your dog has the best food you can provide him. This means feeding your dog appropriate food for its breed and age. By doing this, you are making sure your dog is as healthy as possible.
  • Sometimes your dog simply cannot hold it in when confined to a house for long periods of time. If a dog poops and eats the poop to hide the evidence, this could mean that maybe you are not taking him or her outside often enough to go to the bathroom. If you and your family are out of the house at work or school all day, be sure to let your dog outside to eliminate before you go to work and after you come home.
  • If your dog eats his own poop when outside, quietly discourage that behavior when he goes to the bathroom by saying "No!" in a strict voice when he begins to go for the poop. When your dog gets the message, have a treat ready for him to reward him for staying away from the poop. Eventually, your dog will condition himself to think that by not eating the poop, he will get a reward and that if he eats the poop, he will be punished.

Getting Murphy to Stop Eating Poop

It seems Murphy may have been simply curious about eating poop at first, but when scolded for pooping in the house, he began to eat his poop as a defense mechanism to avoid punishment. What I did to help Murphy was to give him a beggin strip (his favorite treat) every time I came home from school and he did not poop in the house. When I took Murphy outside to go to the bathroom I would always discourage him from going near other pieces of poop and reward him with a treat when he avoided eating his own poop. I also made a few changes on my own end in that I did my best to take him outside right before I left in the morning and immediately after I got home. Finally, I did my best to provide Murphy with the best food I could offer him.

If you have a canine pal who seems to have developed this revolting habit, you can help him to stop by following some of the hints outlined here. I hope the best for you and your dog!