The first time I saw a dog eating its own poop, I definitely came close to throwing up. Coprophagia, or dogs eating their own poop, is an unfortunately common phenomenon that frustrates dog owners all over the world.
What causes coprophagia?
Coprophagia can have medical causes, but it is also not quite as unnatural to dogs as it is to us. Female dogs eat their puppies’ feces, and many dogs eat poop and other nonfood substances as part of exploratory behavior according to experts. If your vet has ruled out a medical cause for your dog’s coprophagia, then there is only one thing that matters: stopping it. Because let’s face it. Coprophagia is gross.
Pick poop up immediately
The easiest way to eliminate coprophagia is to pick up after your dog immediately. For people living in apartment buildings or in cities, this is second nature, but for those of us with large yards and doggy doors, this can seem a little inconvenient. Just remember that your dog can’t eat poop if you pick it up first.
Most dogs poop on a regular schedule. Observe your dog to find out how often they poop and where they like to poop, and follow them. Once they go, scoop it up and dispose of it in a place where your dog cannot get to it.
Walk your dog on a leash
Walking your dog on a leash gives you control over where they go and what they eat. If you really want to get a handle on your dog’s unappetizing appetites, leash walking is the surest way to prevent it. Tie a baggy to your leash so you are always prepared to clean up after your dog too, and your dog won’t have any more chances to eat poop.
Dogs are intelligent animals, capable of learning commands. You can use this to your advantage. There are several different ways you can discourage coprophagia, so talk with a trainer or a veterinarian about the best technique for your dog.
Basic obedience training can help you overcome this nasty habit. Training your dog to potty on command is a good way to start. Once your dog has pooped, call him back to you and reward him, then have him sit and stay while you clean up after him.
Some online sources recommend adding things to your dog’s diet or spraying feces with things like hot sauce. Veterinarians don’t necessarily recommend this, as dogs may become tolerant to the deterrent and it is not a very effective strategy. Adding a laxative like pumpkin might deter your dog from eating poop, as most dogs seem to prefer well-formed stool, but then you have to deal with cleaning up messy poop.
The best ways to stop coprophagia in dogs are prevention and behavior modification. Pick up after your dog and supervise him whenever possible, and use your obedience training to your advantage to stop coprophagia in its tracks.