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First off, relax. A lot of dogs do this. It’s called coprophagia, which means… well, which means that your dog eats poo. It’s a very common issue, and it is actually perfectly natural even though you find it totally disgusting.
Well, there are a number of reasons why your dog might be eating his own feces, or that of another dog. The first, and most obvious, is that your dog is not getting enough nutrients from the food that you are feeding him. Because he isn’t getting what he needs, he looks for it. And he says to himself, “Oh, look, there it is! That’s what I need!” This isn’t a nasty habit on the part of your dog. He is saying “Something is missing in my diet. I’ll get it here.”
This is the easiest type of coprophagia to correct. All you need to do is find a dog food that is higher in nutrients.
Now, having said that, there could be other reasons why your dog is eating feces. It could be that he is confined to too small a space. In this instance, probably all he is trying to do is clean up. He is saying “My place is dirty. I will clean it.” If you think this is the issue, the solution is simple – muck out the kennel.
Or, your dog could be bored, and actually playing with (and eating) feces as a way of alleviating the boredom. Again, the solution is simple – let your dog out for play time and exercise.
If you think that you have eliminated the above issues, then there are still things that you need to consider. Sometimes, internal parasites will lead a dog to eat feces. This is because the parasites steal nutrients away from your dog, and he eats the feces in an attempt to replace the nutrients. A visit to the vet might be a good idea.
Now, let’s take a look at you. If your dog has been having issues with house training, have you punished him for defecating in the house? If you have, your dog may actually be trying to hide the evidence. Think about the kind of dog you have. Some breeds (especially the large ones like Rottweilers, English Mastiffs and Great Danes) take a bit longer to fully house train than the smaller breeds. They simply can’t hold it in as long, and it can take up to nine months to fully house train a large breed. Your dog does not want to disappoint you, and he thinks, “If I eat this, Mom won’t know that I messed in the house.” Punishing is not going to help. Vigilance will. So don’t be lazy about the house training – get your baby out in time. And please, please, don’t punish. It does no good. Your dog isn’t being spiteful or perverse, he’s just having trouble holding it. For that matter, I can’t think of any situation at all where punishment works, so I’m going to ask you right now to never punish your dog for misbehavior – you can always look for the causes, find out why the problem is occurring, and find ways of fixing it that do not involve punishment.
Next, if the problem doesn’t correct itself, take your dog to the vet to make sure that there are no underlying issues.
And finally, as soon as your dog “goes,” clean up the poo before he has the opportunity of eating it. If he can’t get it, he can’t eat it.
Eating poo is just plain nasty. So if you want your dog to stop doing it, the first thing you need to do is make sure he is getting all the nutrients he needs without having to pick them up “after the fact.” Make sure that you offer a balanced diet. Keep his living space clean. Make sure he gets plenty of exercise so he is not bored. And keep your vet in the loop, just in case the feces-eating is due to a parasitic infection or other health issue.
You might not be able to stop poo-eating overnight, but if you make sure that your pet has lots of play time, lots of human interaction, and generally clean living quarters, chances are that this objectionable habit will work itself out.