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Why Dogs Eat Poop
and 5 tips to make him stop it

color illustration of dog with two dog food bowls and steak
Try these instead

Coprophagia is the medical term for dog poop eating. In any language, it's disgusting to everyone but the dog.

Sadly, it's not uncommon but the reasons for it vary. Keep in mind our little canines are descended from wild wolves and some animal experts believe it's a holdover from having to scrounge whatever and whenever they could. Hence the expression, 'wolf it down.'

Sometimes it's the result of a puppy in the oral investigatory stage of puppyhood and he's apt to outgrow it. A mother dog may eat poop to keep her puppies' area clean.

Sometimes it's a dog instinctively trying to get minerals or nutrients he is missing in his regular food. He may have worms or other parasites or have an internal illness. It's always a good idea to have your vet rule out any disease if your dog starts eating poop.

Although it's not uncommon, it shouldn't be encouraged. A dog may ingest parasites from another dog's poop or even his own if it's been on the ground for some time.

There are ways to curb this.

1. Don't give your dog the opportunity

Scoop up your dog's poop promptly and don't let him have unsupervised access to areas where he's likely to run across another dog's poop; i.e., a dog park.

2. Try the old natural remedies

If your dog is eating his own poop, try adding one teaspoon of crushed pineapple or one teaspoon of canned pumpkin to your dog's regular food.

I've known people who've had better results adding a bit of cooked spinach to their dog's food. That should be fine unless your dog has a medical condition such as bladder stones or kidney problems. As always, when in doubt, check with your vet.

Sometimes one of these works; sometimes none does.

WARNING: Sometimes I hear people suggesting other ingredients including garlic or meat tenderizer. Garlic as well as onion and other spices are listed as potentially dangerous for dogs by the ASPCA. I don't know what might be in meat tenderizer but spices can upset a dog's stomach. I'd stick to plain natural foods like canned pumpkin, pineapple or cooked spinach.

3. Try a commercial product (although I've found these often don't work any better than the natural remedies above)

  • Alpar For-Bid per packet Training & Behavioral Aids - this is single packet. Try it and see if it works on your dog before you buy a whole box. Like so many products, this works well for some and not at all for others.
  • Prozyme - even if it doesn't stop his bad habit, it will make his breath smell good. That's not unimportant if he likes to lick you (and thereby clean his tongue) after he eats his poop!
  • Potty Mouth - it smells awful (to me) but some dogs consider it a treat.
  • Solid Gold S.E.P. (Stop Eating Poop) - in powder form that is easy to add to canned dog food.

Those are among the most popular or recommended products to try.

4. Teach him the "Drop It" and "Leave It" commands.

These are great commands to teach a dog that goes for walks. Even if he isn't a poop eater, he may try to swallow some other awful thing. My veterinarian has a chart in her office that shows some of the things dogs have swallowed. Among them were coins, dead bird body parts, shoe laces, feathers, and stones. None of these are good for a dog.

See my articles on tips to help with these commands: Drop It and Leave It.

5. Try a remote citronella collar

A veterinarian advised me that there's been at least one recent study that showed the scent of citronella while dogs were eating poop stopped this behavior. If none of the remedies, natural or purchased, worked, it might be worth trying. The best one of the remote collars is the Dog Training Remote Spray Collar Multivet Petsafe Innotek Spray Commander If you can catch your dog in the act, this may stop the poop eating.

The best advice I can give is be vigilant and keep trying.

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