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Why does my dog eat poop?

  • Eating poop is a common behaviour amoung our four-legged friends
  • You should try to discourage your dog from eating poop as it could be bad for their health
  • Teaching your dog good recall and keeping your garden free from poop can help to deter them from this embarrassing habit

It’s a stomach churning sight for us humans, but many dogs like to eat poo, otherwise known as Coprophagia; the eating of faeces or dung.

Horse manure, cows pat, cat poo, fox poop and even other dogs’ faeces are common favourites. But surely our dogs don’t do this just to make us feel nauseous?  

So, why exactly do our dogs eat poo? A common misconception is that this means your dog has a nutritional deficiency. However, since this is a common behaviour among our four-legged friends, it is more likely that your dog simply enjoys the taste!

Is there any risk to my dog eating poop?

You should try to discourage your dog from eating poop as it could be bad for their health. Some forms of livestock or horse manure also contain worming medication that can be dangerous for your dog.

What to look out for:

  • If your dog has never eaten poo before and has suddenly developed this habit, you should take your dog to the vet for a check up
  • Sometimes your dog may eat poo because they need to eat more than what you’re currently feeding them or the length of time between meals is too long. Speaking to your vet can help with understanding how much your dog should be eating and how often, based on weight and exercise.
  • Boredom can play a role in how your dog behaves and this could include eating poo. Keeping your dog mentally stimulated in the home environment can help to prevent this behaviour.
  • Separation anxiety can cause dogs to do things they wouldn’t usually consider and it’s worth addressing this issue to help resolve your dog’s fear
  • Should your dog happen to be eating cat’s poo from the litter tray, you should think about whether this is a relatively new habit and if something has changed to allow access to the tray. Cat poo is a real delicacy for dogs, so it’s best to ensure that your cat tray is not accessible to your dog at all.

How to stop your dog eating poop

If you’re looking to deter your dog from this slightly embarrassing habit, the following may help:

  • If your dog isn’t yet housetrained - whether it’s an adult or a puppy - then ensure all areas inside your home are clean of poo
  • Check your garden and clean up any poo before letting your dog outside
  • Make sure you pick up poo as soon as your dog goes
  • Don’t make a massive fuss or get upset if your dog eats poo or you think their just about to – this can make some dogs excited, making them even more interested in getting to the poo
  • Good recall training will make it possible for you to call your dog back to you before they reach the poo they have their sights on
  • Teach your dog to ‘leave it’
  • If your dog’s habit is getting out of hand and you rehomed them from Blue Cross, then please contact the centre you rehomed your pet from and we will do our best to help you. If your dog is not from Blue Cross you should speak to your vet or an Animal Behaviour and Training Council registered behaviourist.

How to stop your dog eating cat poop

If you find that your dog has recently started eating cat poo from the litter tray, this may be because the tray has recently been moved. Or perhaps your dog and cat’s relationship with one another has recently changed so that your cat is more relaxed about toileting in front of your dog. Whatever the reason, this can be hard to deter once they have got the taste for it.

The first step is to ensure that you clean the cats’ litter tray as often as you can and move it to a place that your dog is unable to get to.

You could look at placing your cats litter tray behind an opening that your cat can get through but your dog can’t, such as:

  • A quiet area of the house that has a small space, in which only your cat can get into
  • A litter box with a lid on it
  • A cardboard box placed over a litter tray with a small square cut out, so that your cat can get in but your dog can’t
  • A stair gate with a cat flap fitted into it

Remember: If your dog has recently started eating poo, or if the amount that they are eating is causing you concern, speak to your vet and try to discourage this behaviour as early as possible using the above guidelines.

— Page last updated 21/02/2018