Puppies are adorable, fluffy little goofballs, but all that charisma and charm goes out the window when you see them eating poop. However, it’s considered normal behavior, and most puppies and dogs go through a “poop eating” phase and eventually stop. But why do puppies eat their poop at all?
There are several reasons that we go over here, and we also give you tips and tricks on how to stop or at least discourage this behavior.
What Is Up With This Eating Poop Behavior?
The official name for when a dog (or anyone) eats poop is coprophagia. There are biological and behavioral reasons that dogs persist in devouring feces.
This 2018 study from the journal of Veterinary Medicine and Science conducted two surveys with 3,000 North American dog owners regarding dogs that eat stool.
While these numbers aren’t that high, they also show that you’re definitely not alone. Now on to the explanations.
The 7 Reasons Why Puppies Eat Poop
1. Copying Mom
Part of looking after their puppies includes cleaning their bums and keeping the den area clean. The mother licks the puppy’s back end, partly to keep it clean but also to encourage toileting. The ingestion of their puppy’s stool happens naturally.
In the wild, eating the poop also serves the purpose of keeping the den clean, which will prevent any predators from hunting them down through the smell of feces.
While the mother does tend to stop cleaning up after their puppies once they are on solid food, some puppies will mimic their mother’s behavior and eat their poop.
2. Issues With Digestion
In some cases, there might be a digestion issue that’s causing the behavior. If you know that your puppy is eating a healthy diet with the right nutrients but is still eating poop, they may be having digestion issues.
It’s also possible the puppy’s food is missing important nutrients.
If you suspect that your puppy might have a health issue, speak to your vet as soon as you can.
3. Anxiety Problems
Getting angry at a puppy for eating poop or punishing them for pooping in the house can lead to some puppies just eating up their feces to get rid of the evidence. This could lead to more punishment, and it turns into an endless cycle of coprophagia behavior and punishment.
Puppies might eat their poop because they know that they’ll get a reaction out of you. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a negative reaction — attention is attention.
5. Separation Anxiety
Puppies that are kept isolated or just left alone for too long might be stressed or bored and will eat their poop as a way to entertain themselves. Stress-eating poop can also come from other reasons, like being new to your home or from harsh punishment.
6. Not Enough Food
If a puppy is hungry and not getting enough food throughout the day, they will resort to eating what they can. On average, most puppies need to be fed at least two to three times a day (toy breeds usually need to be fed four times a day).
Conversely, if a puppy has intestinal parasites or worms, many nutrients in their diet will be leached from the puppy’s digestive system. This can leave the puppy perpetually hungry and seeking out anything to eat.
7. For No Reason at All
Sometimes there’s just no explanation for it. Some puppies eat poop because they want to and it’s there.
Now let’s look at ways to stop your puppy from continuing to eat their poop or at least reduce the behavior.
The 6 Ways to Prevent a Puppy From Eating Poop
Most of these tips will address the aforementioned issues.
1. Give Your Puppy Attention
If you ensure that your puppy is getting plenty of exercise and playtime, they probably won’t eat poop out of boredom or stress. Be sure to provide your puppy with enough toys if you need to leave them alone for a while. This way, the puppy will be able to entertain themselves by chewing on and playing with toys and generally keep themselves distracted.
There are supplements on the market designed to turn a dog’s poop into something that they won’t want to eat — basically, a less tasty snack. This supplement is a treat but shouldn’t be given to puppies under 6 months of age. While they can work for some dogs, they won’t work for all.
3. High-Quality Puppy Food
If your puppy isn’t getting the right well-balanced and nutritious diet, buying high-quality food might help stop the poop eating. Proper nutrition for a puppy is vital for their physical well-being. If you’re worried about your puppy’s appetite or if they aren’t gaining weight, speak to your vet.
4. Clean Up That Poop
Once your puppy has a bowel movement, have a few treats handy and call your pup away from the poop. Don’t allow the puppy to even inspect the feces.
Reward your puppy when they come over and immediately take them inside. You can then go out and remove the stool immediately, so there’s no chance of your puppy playing with it, let alone eating it later.
If your puppy takes to eating your cat’s poop, you’ll need to find ways of hiding it from your puppy but not from your cat. There are cat litter boxes that can help prevent your pup from getting into it, and you can also look into the diversion method with a treat tactic.
5. Use a Leash
Anytime that you go out with your puppy, whether it’s in your backyard or on a walk, always keep them on a leash. This way, your puppy won’t have the opportunity to eat their own poop, let alone any other poop.
If your puppy starts to sniff another animal’s feces, gently pull the puppy away and use redirection, treats, and praise once they walk away from the poop. Once the poop-eating issue is resolved, you won’t have to keep up with such rigid rules, and you can give your pup more freedom.
6. See Your Vet
Seeing your vet when all else fails is a good idea. You want to discount any health concerns, and your vet can help you rule out any other problems that might be affecting your puppy. The vet can also advise you on your puppy’s diet.
Most puppies will grow out of this not-so-wonderful behavior, but some dogs will continue it into adulthood or will develop the habit out of the blue. Prevention is the best medicine and so is taking your dog to see your veterinarian.
If you suspect that your puppy is bored, spend extra time playing and walking them. If your puppy seems hungry, speak to your vet about how much and what kind of food you should be providing. Remember, if you catch your puppy in the act of eating poop, don’t freak out and scold them. That is where the vicious circle can start.
Featured Image Credit: Thorsten Grohse, Shutterstock