Puppies that eat their own poop is actually a natural phenomenon. This behavior normally happens in pups ranging from four months old up to nine months old. Though it can be disgusting, it’s common. The worst is when a puppy takes a little nibble of their poo, and then runs up to you and slobbers all over your face with exuberant delight. That is definitely not the most pleasant experience, from a pet owner’s standpoint! So them , why do dogs eat their poop? Below we will discuss all the possibilities as to why your dog partakes in this gross habit.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
The technical term for a dog that eats poop (any poop) is called coporphagia. Mommy dogs will often eat their pup’s poop as a way to clean up after their babies and keep their bedding and den area clean.
Mother dogs also appear to eat their pups poop in response to a natural instinct that is designed to help protect their babies from nasty predators. This is because the smell of puppy poop can attract them in the wild. Obviously, this wouldn’t be a problem in your home, but your dog doesn’t know that. It appears to be a primitive behavior from the days when dogs were wild that has now carried over into the lives of domestic dogs.
Thankfully, a female dog will usually stop eating her pup’s poop once her babies have begun to eat solids on their own and leave the den area to poop on their own. However, the puppy may continue eating his own poop until he becomes more mature, since this is a behavior he has learned from his mother.
Possible Reasons Puppies Eat Poop
There can be a variety of reasons dogs eat poop, outside of learning the behavior from their mom. Some of these reasons include:
Learned Behavior from Other Dogs
Not only can puppies learn to eat poop from their mothers, they can learn to eat poop from other dogs as well. They will very likely carry the habit over into adulthood if it is not broken quickly. Puppies are highly curious creatures which means they will taste, smell, and eat anything and everything they can possibly find. This includes their own poop, the poop of other dogs, and even the poop of other animals.
Your Pup May Have Poor Digestion
Sometimes puppies have trouble digesting their food properly, either because of a problem with their little digestive systems, or because your pup may be eating food that is fairly low in nutritional value. For this reason, it is very important that you know what to feed a puppy while he is still developing. When your pup eats food with little to no nutritional value (which is common with many canned or dry kibbles), the food comes out one end not much different than how it went in from the other. So basically, it still tastes like “food.”
To combat this, you could try giving your pup a brand of food that is of higher quality and offers more nutritional value than the current brand to help alleviate this behavior. However, if you think your pup has a real problem with his digestive system, it would be wise to see your vet for help in resolving the issue.
Your Pup May Be Stressed Out and Anxious
Though you may not realize it, puppies can suffer from stress and canine anxiety the same way adult dogs do and the same way people do. They may even eat their own poop because of it. Stress can be related to being placed in a new home, being separated from their mother or siblings, and any number of different reasons. If your home environment changes in any way, even just moving furniture around, it can be stressful. If you bring home a new family member, whether it’s a human or canine, it can trigger stress. Even weather changes can cause stress in some puppies, especially if you have a lot of storms and your pup is afraid of the sound of thunder. As you can see, there are many causes of stress in dogs, which is why you need to be a proactive pet owner and take note of any changes in behavior with your furry companion.
Your Pup May Be Bored
if your puppy is not given enough exercise and attention, they may eat their poop and even play with their poop for entertainment. This is common in dogs that are left home alone for long periods of time and don’t have a pal to keep them company, or in pups that are contained in kennels for long periods of time. You would be bored staring through bars all day, and that’s what happens with puppies. They need attention, stimulation, and plenty of exercise and play time to be well-rounded and behaved companions. Otherwise they develop unsavory habits, like chewing things they shouldn’t and eating poop.
Your Pup May Be Confused
Puppies can become inoculated to the smell and taste of their own poop because of their mother’s habit of eating it when they were young. This also happens frequently because mother dogs regurgitate food to feed their pups, and sometimes that regurgitated food is mixed with puppy poop, making the smell of poop seem like food instead. So, they eat the poop, thinking it’s food.
Your Pup May Just Like the Taste of Poop
Sometimes puppies eat their poop because it tastes good. This may also be the reason if they eat another animal’s feces as well. Eating poop is like coming across an unexpected snack for your pup. It is possible they may smell or sense certain nutrients or flavors in another animal’s feces that they are simply not getting in their own food. This is especially common with puppies that eat cat poop, because cat food often has more protein contained in it than typically puppy kibble. This added protein makes the resulting cat feces extremely tasty for some puppies.
Your Pup May Be Hungry
Keep in mind that puppies grow at a very rapid rate, and it’s entirely possible they are just not getting enough to eat every day. If they are hungry enough, then they will eat poop to fill their bellies, both their own poop as well as the feces of other dogs and other animals. They will also eat other things to fill their bellies as well, which is why it’s important they are being fed the proper amount each and every day.
Most pups need to eat at least 2 to 3 times per day and drink a plenty amount of water to stay hydrated. Additionally, if your pup is infested with canine worms or puppy intestinal parasites, any nutrients they are getting from their current diet may be getting leached from their system. If this happens, it will prompt them to seek those nutrients elsewhere, and they will nosh on whatever they can find to eat.
Your Pup May Be Seeking Attention
Puppies are very active as a rule and they require a lot of love, care, and time. If you are gone for most of the day, maybe bringing home a puppy is not the right decision for you. When left to his own devices, he will get into anything and everything, including his poop.
Additionally, your puppy may decide it’s great fun to eat his poop and watch how you respond, especially if you have responded negatively in the past. When you jump around like a crazy person and wave your hands, shouting at your pup to desist, or you chase your puppy all over the yard in an attempt to stop him from eating his poop, that’s premium entertainment right there for your furry friend.
This kind of reaction and negative attention can actually teach your pup to continue eating their poop, if only to watch you get all riled up enough to chase them. This unfortunately encourages the unwanted behavior.
Your Pup May Be Cleaning Up
Finally, sometimes pups may simply be trying to clean up after themselves. If they are left in a crate for long periods of time, they might accidentally soil in their bed. When that happens, they will eat their own poop as a way to clean up after themselves or hide the evidence of their wrongdoing. This is especially true if they have gotten in trouble in the past for soiling in their crate.
Puppies are sly little creatures, and if they think eating their poop will keep them out of trouble, they will do it. They will do the same thing if they aren’t fully housebroken and accidentally soil in the home somewhere. If they are afraid of getting in trouble, they will just eat the evidence, so no one ever knows.
Ways to Discourage Your Pup from Eating Poop
Though it may sound like a no-brainer, it’s important to clean up after your pup right away if you want to prevent him from eating his poop.
You should also walk your puppy on a leash and keep him away from the feces of other animals, if possible. If you do allow him outside unleashed, make sure he is closely supervised.
You can also reward your pup for leaving his own stools behind and offer him an even better treat while you pick up the stool and dispose it. This will teach him that ignoring his stool gets him a treat which is even better than eating the dubious treat of eating his poop!
If your puppy is eating his poop to get your attention, it’s important that you don’t react or even make eye contact when he is caught in the act. Even negative attention will entice pups to continue acting out, because to them, attention is attention. Instead, do something unexpected and startling, like clapping your hands loudly to interrupt him.
You can also try filling a can with loose change and using it as a shaker to startle him in the act. The goal is to jar him out of what he’s doing without actually giving him your full attention.
If you suspect your puppy is eating poop because he is bored, try increasing his play time. You can also give your dog more toys and chews to keep him distracted. Be creative and offer him toys with treats inside that he has to work to get to in order to keep him busy.
Sometimes, a pup may eat his poop because he is being fed a food that is not fully digestible for his little tummy. If the food he is eating isn’t being fully digested, then it comes out pretty much the same way it went in. This means that your pup will eat it a second time, because to his nose, it’s still food.
One thing to keep in mind is that dogs are picky about consistency. They typically won’t eat poop that is soft, preferring instead stools that are firm and even frozen! Give a dog some frozen poop and they are in doggie heaven. So, you can help to make your pup’s stools soft and unappealing by adding ingredients to their food to change its consistency, like canned pumpkin, canned pineapple, and even spinach.
If you have a cat and your pup has a taste for cat feces, make sure you keep the litter box well out of his reach. You can do this by setting it up somewhere high that only your cat can access, or by using baby gates to keep your pup contained to certain parts of your home and well away from your cat’s litter area. Also, be sure to keep your cat’s litter box clean and tidy, because the longer you leave poop sitting in it, the more enticing it becomes to your pup.
As you can see, there are many reasons puppies eat poop, and many reasons they shouldn’t if you want them to remain as healthy as possible. Follow these tips above to help discourage your dog’s behavior. Fortunately, with time and patience, even the most stubborn of poop lovers can be retrained and redirected toward healthier (and cleaner) habits.