Why Do Dogs Eat Poop – How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop

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Why do dogs eat poop - an investigation into coprophagia in dogs

Since I first wrote about poop eating in dogs several year ago, I have received many emails from people who have dogs that eat their own poop, or the poop of other animals.

The scientific term for poop eating is coprophagia.

And most of those writing to me about a dog with coprophagia are very upset.

The chances are, if your dog has this problem, you are upset too.

But I hope by the end of this article, you will feel a lot better

Let’s take poop eating seriously

People want to know “why is my dog eating his own poop” and “will my dog get sick from eating his poop”.

But they also need to be supported through the horrible feelings that owning a poop eating dog can cause

Owners of a poop eating dog are often revolted by their dog’s behavior and report that their feelings towards their dog have changed since the problem started.

These feelings need to be addressed, not ignored or dismissed.

You’ll want to find a solution to the problem too!

Whether your dog is snacking on his own poop, or raiding the cat litter box, you will want to know how to stop your dog eating poop as quickly as possible.

I’ve revisited this topic today, because it is an important one, and because I wanted to bring you the latest information on why do dogs eat poop, and on how to stop a dog eating poop.

We’ll be looking at the causes and solutions to poop eating and at how to make sure that this problem doesn’t cause a breakdown in your friendship with your dog.

Coprophagia in dogs

Poop eating is often swept under the carpet. But eating feces can be a serious problem for some dogs that do it – I’ll explain why in a moment.

It can be a shock to discover your dog eating poop - we look at the causes and treatment of coprophagiaWhat is more, owning a dog that eats poop, especially a dog that eats his own poop, is often a hugely distressing problem for many dog owners.

And, it is a frequently reported problem in Labradors and other sporting dogs.

Before we answer your questions, including “why do dogs eat their poop” and before we look at the various techniques you can use to stop a dog eating poop, let’s find out just how rare or common this problem actually is.

Not only can it really help to know that you are not alone, and that many other dog owners have this problem too, it also helps us to understand our dogs a little better

Which dogs eat poop?

According to the late Sophia Yin, who reports on a study published in 2012, 16% of dogs are serious poo eaters.
A previous study published in 2008 showed that nearly half of all dogs had eaten feces at some point and 28% were confirmed poop eaters

The Hart study showed that there were some breed differences.

There weren’t enough dogs in the study for a definite list, but none of the poodles in the study ate their own poop for example. And more than a third of Border Collies did.

Judging from my inbox, coprophagia is common in Labradors too.

Coprophagia is linked with size

A study published in Colorado in 2010 showed that sporting dogs generally were more likely to be coprophagic.

Body weight is a factor in this behavior, but only in the sense of being related to size. Dogs that were heavier because they were obese, are no more likely to be affected.

Age is often considered to be a factor in poop eating, but the 2010 Colarado study did not support the theory that poop eating is more common in puppies.

Coprophagia is linked with neutering

The current evidence points to neutering as being a major factor in the development of coprophagia.

In "Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop" we look at which dogs are more likely to become poop eaters and why
One study found that poop eating was more common in spayed females

Dogs that had been spayed or castrated were more likely to be reported as eating poop than dogs left in possession of their sex hormones.

In the Hart study the biggest culprits were spayed females. In the 2010 study carried out at the Colarado University neutering drastically increased the incidence of coprophagy in male dogs but had no effect on females.

Both studies agree however that neutering is a major cause of coprophagia, and seems to be more significant than any environmental factor

Coprophagia may be more common than we think

Interestingly, the true figure for the percentage of dogs that eat poop may be even higher than these studies suggest.

Data from the studies was based on owner reports and the results of another study published in 2014 that identified dogs which are coprophagic and compared that data with owner reports, suggests that under-reporting by owners is a factor.

So it isn’t just your dog eating poop. There are lots of them. But why do they do it?

It may depend partly on the type of poop being consumed

Why do dogs eat their poop – different causes

There are plenty of facts and theories around why dogs eat poop.

And plenty of guesswork too.

Let’s look at what we know first and then build on that

Why female dogs eat poop

All mother dogs have an instinctive urge to eat their puppies’ poop. After giving birth and for the next three weeks female dogs lick each puppy’s bottom until he poops and or pees, and then swallow the results.

why do dogs eat their poopThe licking helps to stimulate the puppy’s natural digestive process, and consuming the results helps to keep the nest area clean

A clean nest in wild dogs is important both from a hygiene point of view and to avoid attracting predators

So from this, we can see that nature has provided female dogs with a poop eating instinct which is always triggered by the process of giving birth and suckling puppies.

And it’s not a great stretch to see that this maternal instinct could easily last longer than it should or arise inappropriately when it isn’t needed.

We can also see that keeping a nest area clean may well be a trigger that could apply to male dogs too.

And it could explain why some male dogs eat poop that they find in their own back yard.

Why do puppies eat poop?

Like babies, puppies explore the world with their mouths. Everything and anything goes into it.

If what goes into the mouth tastes like food, then puppies may swallow it. In theory, some poop eating puppies will grow out of it, whereas for others it becomes a habit.

Is your puppy eating poop - we can help

Though as we have seen, there is some disagreement as to whether this is even a puppy issue, and whether poop eating is actually more common in puppies than in adult dogs

“But, but..!” you cry “wait a moment, what is this ’tastes like food’ you speak of?” poop doesn’t taste like food – surely?

Well it would seem that some dogs would disagree with you. And that might be partly to do with the way we feed our dogs these days.

Coprophagia and diet

In times gone by,  dogs were fed a largely natural diet of mainly meat, bones and a few scraps,  which dogs as carnivorous scavengers  could digest almost in its entirety.

What came out the other end was fairly boring.

Nowadays most dogs are largely fed on  a pelleted cereal-based food known as kibble.

This kibble  contains all the nutrients a dog needs,  but it also contains a number of additives to make the food taste palatable.

After all,  no food manufacturer wants your dog to turn his nose up at their product.   So tasty is the key.  And very tasty they are too.

Do flavour and fillers in dog food make poo eating more likely?

In addition to strong flavourings,  kibble contains quite a lot of ‘fillers’.

Substances which bulk up the nutrients and give the food structure.

Much of this ‘filler’ is not needed by the dog, and passes out in its faeces.  This is why kibble fed dogs produce larger quantities of faeces than raw fed dogs.

But remember those flavourings we just talked about?   Well the faeces of the kibble fed dog are not only bulky, they are also highly flavoured.

Now we can see why,  as the popularity of kibble feeding grows,  it is possible that more dogs may be turning to poo eating as a means of grabbing that extra snack during the day.   Poo is getting tastier.   That is my theory anyway!

Can changing diet influence coprophagia

Some studies have shown that dogs with deficient diets or that are poorly nourished are more likely to eat poop. A study on Beagles in 1981 showed that feeding a deliberately deficient diet triggered coprophagia ( among other problems) for example.

If an undernourished coprophagic dog is switched to a nutrient rich nourishing diet, in theory that change may stop the poop eating behavior

But most modern dogs that eat poo are not nutritionally deficient and are fed a balanced diet with all the nutrients they need.

So switching brands for example, is unlikely to stop your dog eating poop.

In fact I have not found any strong evidence for dietary changes reducing coprophagia in well fed dogs, though there is something you might want to consider (see below) and I have some anecdotal evidence to report

Sophia Yin, when discussing the Ben Hart study pointed out that the study,  based on questioning dog owners,  noted that diet did not play a part. However, the vast majority of dogs are fed on kibble,  and there is no indication as to what diets were compared or how.  The comparison could have been between different types of kibble,  or between kibble and household scraps.

The 2010 study also showed no link between diet and poop eating, but 89% of the dogs in the study were kibble fed

An interesting paper called Coprophagia – food for thought” published in a Canadian Veterinary journal in 1988 states that diets high in carbohydrate tended to “enhance the drive to eat stool” Unfortunately they don’t state how they came to this conclusion

My personal experience is that changing my dogs from a diet of kibble (carbohydrate based pellets of commercial dog food) to a natural raw diet of meaty bones, has been accompanied by the disappearance of most poop eating in my adult dogs.

With some exceptions – as you will see.  It seems that the jury is still out on whether raw feeding is a reliable way to stop dogs eating poop.

Why do dogs eat cat poop

The second most common question I am asked about poop eating, is “why does my dog eat cat poop” followed closely by “how to stop my dog eating cat poop”

how to top your dog eating cat poopIf you think your dog is a bit of a freak for eating the contents of your cat’s litter tray, it may be of some comfort to know that Blackwell’s veterinary handbook classifies eating cat poop as completely normal in dogs of all ages.

That’s right – it’s official – your dog is not disturbed or depraved. He is normal.

Virtually all dogs will eat cat poop if given the opportunity.

I have had chance to rediscover this for myself first hand recently, as I am currently raising a young kitten. Two of my labs, one of which has never eaten poop in her life, plus the spaniel I mention below, have all attempted dawn raids on the litter tray.

I have now secured the litter tray behind a baby gate which the cat can slide through and the dogs cannot.

And this is likely to be the best solution to the problem.

If your dog is a pretty good jumper, you’ll need a taller gate.

My thirteen year old spaniel can clear a standard baby gate with consummate ease, so I’ve bought one with a cat flat.

Mine is the Bettercare Pet Gate with Cat Flap – it’s available in the UK, but expensive to have shipped to the USA.  The one in the photo is the Carlson and is available in America.

My gate was meant to go across the bathroom door, but the bathroom doorway is extra narrow, so we have fitted it across the hallway instead.

Why is my dog eating rabbit poop

Blackwells comes to the rescue again with the answer to “why do dogs eat rabbit poop”

It’s to do with undigested vegetable matter which is very attractive to dogs, and may even be an important source of nutrients in wild dogs.

The same applies to ungulate feces – An ungulate is an animal with a hoof.

It is completely natural for a dog to enjoy eating horse poop, sheep poop, deer poop etc too. And almost all dogs will enjoy the feces of these animals.

It isn’t just your dog.

However, you may have a friend whose dog never eats poop, of any kind. So why is your dog different?

Why does my dog eat poop (when my friend’s dog never does)

Eating poop often starts by accident – perhaps beginning as a puppyish habit, – and from this opportunistic behavior, poop eating sometimes develops into a habit.

If your friend’s dog is male and yours is female, you are more likely to have a problem. For the reasons we have looked at above, coprophagia is more common in female dogs, but some male dogs do still eat poop.

Also for the reasons above, dogs are more likely to eat poop from animals that have a lot of digested vegetable matter in their feces, again, experts consider this normal

But some dogs do eat carnivore poop, such as the poop from wild foxes or the poop of other dogs, or even their own. And this tends to be the behavior that most upsets us humans

Your dog is also more likely (much more likely) to eat poop, of any kind, if he or she is neutered, but no-one seems to know why that is.

Why do dogs eat their poop – some conclusions

Poop eating can start in puppyhood and may become a habit if it persist in adult dogs.

Dogs that eat their own poop may be attracted to the flavor (switching to a raw diet may help in this case)

Why do dogs eat their own poop? We look at the causes of poop eating in dogsThe same applies to dogs that eat other dogs’ poop, though a change of diet is not going to help with that one.

Dogs that eat poop in their yard may also be trying to ‘keep their den clean’ and some dogs may eat poop due to boredom or an inappropriate diet.

There is also evidence that poop eating is more likely in dogs that already have behavioral problems such as anxiety or pica (eating plants, stones, and other inedible items)

However, we also know that well balanced, well fed, physically and emotionally healthy dogs can also be poop eaters. In fact most poop eating dogs probably fall into this category.

The simple truth is, that poop eating, while thoroughly objectionable to us, is so common as to be normal in the domestic dog.

In a moment we’ll come to what you can do about it, but let’s first find out what poop eating does to your dog.

Can dogs get sick from eating poop?

There is definitely a risk that your dog could get parasites from eating the poop of other dogs. However, worming your dog regularly should prevent this causing him any serious health problems

There is also a risk that your dog could transmit or spread parasites that don’t actually affect dogs. The potential for parasites sometimes found in cat poop fall into this category.

But in broad terms, coprophagia doesn’t normally cause illness in dogs. Most dogs have a digestion that is simply unaffected by common pathogens that could make you or I very ill.

How does poop eating harm dogs?

So, if eating poop doesn’t usually make dogs sick, how is it harmful?

The answer lies in a breakdown of the bond between the dog and his family.

This happens because humans are often shocked and disgusted by the behavior, and if they fail to address it swiftly, may abandon their dog

Most dogs come to no harm directly, from poop eating. But, indirectly, it can lead to dogs being re-homed or abandoned.

Many owners find poop eating upsetting and embarrassing.   I hear quite a lot of dog owners issue ultimatums on this one.

“This has to stop or he’ll have to go”

“I can’t put up with this, we have children to consider”

The implication being that the dog will no longer be welcome in their home, if this horrible habit cannot be cured.

So this is no ‘minor problem’   It is an issue that can lead to disaster for the dog.

Very often the reasons given for abandoning the dog are to do with hygiene. The family say that they are worried that the dog will infect a family member with pathogens from the poop he has eaten,

But I suspect the underlying cause is more fundamental than that. After all, most people are happy to share an ice-cream with a dog that licked his bottom a few minutes earlier.

The truth is, that whether we like it or not, persistent poop eating may seriously reduce the love that a person feels for their dog.

This is an issue that is not often raised. But I think it is a significant one.

The distress caused by poop eating in dogs

I think it is important that we don’t underplay the distress that poop eating causes in some families.

For those of us that have been associating with dogs for many years, some of their finer habits are pretty familiar, but for many people with a first dog, poop eating behavior is a terrible shock and a very real concern.

The important thing to tell you is that most of us more seasoned dog owners once felt the same way. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed to say “my dog eats poop” but most of us are, or at least were at one time!

You might feel, right now, that you will never truly love your dog again, but the chances are, you are wrong.

I know that I felt terribly disappointed when I caught my first poop eating dog ‘in the act’.

It was over thirteen years ago, soon after I had made the change from keeping mostly male dogs, to keeping mostly female dogs. And I was appalled and disgusted. I was even tempted to re-home her.

But I can tell you that she is still with me today, she is thirteen years old, rarely eats poop these days (never say never), and is one of my very dearest friends. So these things can be worked through.

How to stop a dog from eating poop?

There are lots of things you can try to prevent a dog eating his own poop at home.  The first step is to remove the source of poo wherever possible.

This means being scrupulous about picking up after your dog,  whenever he has emptied himself.  Not always easy when you have a  large yard or garden I know,  but well worth the effort.

You may find it helpful, for a while at least, to go with your dog when you let him out for bathroom purposes.

That way, you can clear up immediately, and dispose of his feces securely, before he is tempted to settle down for a snack.

Flavoring your dog’s food

If your dog eats his own poop there are a number of theories about substances you can add to your dog’s meals,  to counteract the nice flavours and make his poo taste unattractive.

Pineapple is a popular one,  pepper powder another.

However, sadly, in most cases, these kinds of remedies do not work. And when they do, some find that they only work for a short while.

A few seem to have had some success, so you may think it worth a try.

Adding aversive flavors to poop

Another tactic often recommended is to sprinkle your dog’s poop with a substance that tastes horrid or that will create a burning sensation when he swallows it.

Chilli powder for example

But be aware that the studies carried out so far suggest that these two methods – adding substances to the dog’s diet or his poop, have a less than 2% success rate.

Which I think you’ll agree is a bit dismal

Making fundamental changes to your dog’s diet to reduce poo eating

Some people find raw feeding eliminates poop eating. But these reports (including mine) are anecdotal. They are not reliable evidence that such a switch will work for you

And moving over to a raw diet is a major change that needs to be considered from a range of different aspects, not just from the point of view of poop eating

You could also consider changing your dog to an alternative brand of dog kibble, which uses a far higher ratio of protein.

If I can’t feed my dogs raw for any reason, I use Orijen food. But when I do this, I have to be very careful to pick up poops quickly, or my spaniel will revert to her old ways.

Not everyone has the time or resources to drastically change the method of feeding their dog.

So what other options are available?

Can punishment stop dogs eating poop?

The studies we have looked at showed that punishment – even harsh punishment didn’t work at all and caused further problems in some dogs.

In “Coprophagia – food for thought” the authors relate the story of Freddie, a neutered male poodle whose owners tried many different approached before eventually resorting to punishment.

This final step failed to cure Freddie and caused him to develop submissive urination – which only added to their problems

Can Training Reduce Poop Eating in Dogs

Of course,  the methods above only work to prevent your dog eating his own poo.

If he has developed a taste for other dogs’ poop you have a much more challenging problem on your hands because you cannot control what goes into or comes out of, other people’s dogs.

The issue now becomes one of training your dog to ‘leave’  or to ‘recall’  away from the object of his desires, on command.

A reward-based programme of recall training in  which you deliberately seek out dog poop in public places,  and recall your dog away from it, to receive a tasty treat from you,  will  help you to prevent your dog eating other dogs’ poo in your vicinity.

I use the magic word system – which I find very effective

Can A Magic Word Help with Poop Eating?

I associate a powerful reward with a special word that I reserve just for the purpose of distracting the dog from poop.

Several times a day, for several days, I will say this ‘magic word’ whilst the dog is in the vicinity, and throw a fabulous reward on the ground for the dog

And when I say fabulous, I’m not talking about a bit of biscuit or some doggy treats that you bought from the pet shop

I’m talking ’seriously tasty treats’ here. Roast chicken is ideal.

At some point thereafter, when I see the dog approach a poo with a gleam in her eye, I will use my magic word and chuck the fabulous treat on the ground.

Sometimes, to begin with, the dog will scoff the poop, then come for the reward.  You just have to accept this with a good grace.

Sometimes (often a bit further on in the process) she will bring the poo with her (eek!!).

Accept this too. It’s tough, but you can do it.

If your reward is good enough, your dog will soon abandon all thoughts of poo eating when she hears that word.  She’ll start to drop the poop as she approaches you for her treat, and eventually won’t even bother to pick it up

Provided your treat is truly fabulous!

This really works if you are persistent, and if your Magic Word is kept strong with great rewards and mostly no requirement from the dog in order to get it.

You can find out more about Magic Word training in this article: Your Labrador’s Magic Word

General training to reduce poo eating in dogs

Joining in a training programme for an activity such as ‘agility’ or ‘gundog training‘  will help to provide your dog with exercise and mental stimulation in different locations where poo is not left lying around,  and to keep his mind occupied.

These measure might just reduce your dog’s enthusiasm for poop eating generally.  But there are no guarantees.

Ultimately you may have to accept that when your dog is out of your sight, or some distance away,  there is little that you can do to prevent prevent him from indulging in this distasteful habit.

You will need to manage your poo eater’s free time and supervise him adequately in busy dog walking areas.

Why do dogs eat their poop – and how to stop them – a summary

Don’t let poop eating destroy your friendship with your dog. Around half of all dogs do it.

More if your dog is a gun dog breed like a Labrador.

Here are the factors that predispose a dog to poop eating

  • Being female
  • Being neutered
  • Belonging to the sporting or gun dog group of dogs

None of these things can be changed now, so there’s no point fretting over them.

Poop eating can be embarrassing and distressing but remember that your smug friend’s dog is quite likely poop eating too, even if your friend doesn’t know it!

Remember also that eating poop most probably won’t do your dog any harm, or harm your family.

There are things you can do to greatly reduce poop eating.

And you will get over your horror and revulsion and feel good about your dog again.

What does NOT work to prevent coprophagia

Don’t waste time with punishment – and don’t ignore the problem. Neither will make it go away.

Here are the things that have been shown NOT to work in the fight against poop eating

  • Dietary additives (pineapple etc)
  • Aversive flavors (pepper, chilli etc)
  • Punishment (e-collars, rattle bottles, smacking etc)

Adding things to diet or poop had a less than two percent success rate, and if you are close enough to poop to sprinkle chilli on it, you are better off picking it up!

What does work to prevent coprophagia

Studies show conclusively that prevention and positive reinforcement training using tasty rewards are the key to success

  • Preventing dogs having access to fresh poop wherever possible
  • Training a strong ‘leave’ response (my magic word cue is a good example)

Start by a rigorous process of prevention. Clear up all poops immediately they are produced. Accompany your dog to the yard after meals, take a shovel, and remove all poops as soon as they appear!

Find out why dogs eat poop and what works to stop them doing it

Dispose of them securely.

Consider using a muzzle in some situations

Or use a leash if you are forced to exercise your dog in an area where there is poop lying around

Get a stock of high value treats in pots in your fridge and make sure you don’t run out. Take some with you when you take your dog for walk.

Teach the magic word cue and use it!

How about you?

Have you cured your dog of poop eating?  Have you any tips to share with our readers?

Share your thoughts in the comments box below

Further reading

If you have enjoyed this article, you may also find this one helpful

References

Nijsse R, Mughini-Gras L, Wagenaar J, Ploeger H “Coprophagy in dogs interferes in the diagnosis of parasitic infections by faecal examination” Veterinary Parasitology 2014

Hassan A, Emmanuel E, Awasum C, Remi-Adewunmi B, Hassan F, Mohammed A, Mustapha R, Olusa T “Behavioural conditions in dogs – a review: Part 1 – Disagreeable Normal Behaviours” Nigerian Veterinary Journal 2009

Broox G, Boze M “ Correlates of Coprophagy in the Domestic Dog (Canis Familialris) As Assessed By Owner Reports” Journal of Applied Companion Animal Behavior 2010

Tilley L, Smith F “Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult” Canine and Feline
Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline

Frenkel J, Parker B “An Apparent Role of Dogs in the Transmission of Toxoplasma gondii: The Probable Importance of Xenosmophilia” 1996

Read D, Harrington D, “Experimentally induced thiamine deficiency in beagle dogs: clinical observations.” American Journal of Veterinary Research 1981

McKeown D, Luescher A, Machum M “Coprophagia – food for thought” Can Vet J Volume 29, October 1988

Broox, Boze “A Comparison of Common Treatments for Coprophagy in Canis familiaris” Journal of Applied Companion Animal Behavior Vol. 2, No. 1. 2008

This article was first published in 2014 and has been extensively revised and updated for 2017

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

48 COMMENTS

  1. My 8 month old puppy is obsessed with looking for poo when we’re out. My magic word is biscuit and he leaves it when I tell him to and then reward him. But now he actually stops and refuses to carry on walking because he wants to go in search of poop. Will try another magic word and a much tastier treat. Thank you for this article.

  2. I have an obsessed Lhasa that only eats her own poop, often saving it by holding it until she gets into her crate so she can eat it, because we trained her to “leave it”. We have resorted to a muzzle to stop her and it worked. I have noticed now that she has stopped eating her poop she is eating less food. She is insane about scarfing down up to four cups of food a day when eating poop, but is down to a mere cup, she will just walk away from the dish. She has never done this in her life, and she’s always been a poop eater. Does dog poop eating increase their appetite?

  3. My 2 months old Black Labrador eats his own poop 🙁 Maybe a face muzzle will help him stop and dog food may be one of the reason that make his poop more attractive to eat because of the smell. My mom wants him out of the house, she feels disgusted and embarrassed every time she catches my lab eats its own poop.

  4. Hello Pippa,

    I’ve been reading the artcles in the Labrador Site since before we brought our handsome black lab boy home, and am currently enjoying Total Recall and the Labrador Handbook. Thanks for all the great information!

    The poo eating issue is one of the biggest problems we have with our boy. The actual fact that he eats poo itself doesn’t bother me, however he is obsessed with eating the business left by his friends at daycare. Sadly as a result we’ve had to treat him for Giardia several times in the last 12 months.
    We’re currently using Traditional Chinese Medicinal Herbs to try and curb his poo appetite, after a recommendation from his vet, but we’re not quite there yet. In the meantime, we’re keeping his de-parasite treatment up to date. ?

  5. My sister has three dogs. She’s not at home for at least another three months. All three of them will eat poop out in our backyard-only one of the three has a muzzle. Inside this one of two male dogs been getting into bathroom trash-he hadn’t been interested in the trash before-it was normally was another dog-the only female-but with this male we have gotten to the point where we have to keep the bathroom door closed. The only female when outside has taken an interested in the winter green plants that we have and there’s no way to stop her from trying to eat them (even though they are in soil high above her-she can just be on her hind two feet to try to eat the stuff).

  6. Our puppy is 3 months old and still poos at night in her crate, for the last 2 nights we have come down to a dirty bed but no poo so assume she is eating it. Am going to try pineapple to see if this stops her. We go to bed at round 10.30pm and wake in the night to take her into the garden at around 2.30/3am. Are there any other suggestions to help with this as we are keen that it doesn’t become a habit.

  7. Our male lab suddenly developed a passion for dog poo at about 5 months old, he never ate his own poo or that of our other dog but he loved to sniff out poo on his walks. I could call him away with a tasty treat but it became stressful trying to keep an eye on him all of the time, and as I have discovered there is poo EVERYWHERE! We would end up walking him on a lead and trying to think up more and more places where there wouldn’t be much dog poo – the beach is a good place if you live near the coast. Our dog ended up with a very nasty case of diarrhoea & vomiting and had to spend a day at the vets on a drip, so something had to be done. I really didn’t want to use a muzzle so I contacted a dog trainer. She was great and reassured me that lots of dogs partake in this delightful activity. She recommended a spray collar which you can activate by remote control. When my dog was about to eat poo she pressed the button and the collar released a quick squirt of compressed air, which surprised my dog and he moved away from the poo. He only had to wear the collar for a few weeks before he stopped eating poo completely. I think it is good to get the advice of a trainer as these collars need to be used correctly. We are now 3 months down the line and walks are once again enjoyable.

  8. When your dog poops, pick it up. I have a spayed female who sometimes eats a little poo. I go out with my dogs and follow them with poop scoop in hand so that none is left in the yard, I guess it would be called a garden. She is not terribly interested in other dogs’ leavings when hiking on mountain trails. The hikes are so much fun that she doesn’t even notice the poo. But the most important thing is keeping all the poo picked up in the yard or garden.

  9. My 8yr old black female rescue lab knows eating poo is naughty, and won’t eat poo if im near or watching her but will eat it if im not looking at her or in the distance. Is eating poo bad for her? I always put her on the lead afterwards and she always looks at me guiltily afterwards and I tell her off. She will leave it if I say” no ” but not if I’m a few metres away. We give her seaweed to give her the vitamins in poo. She eats any poo. Do you think she will ever stop it
    ? We have only had her for a year and she might have been doing it all her life.

  10. My 3 year old yellow Labrador bitch will eat poo whenever she has a chance. We take her in the garden in the morning and follow her until she poos and pick it up before she can eat it. On walks she wears a basket muzzle, like previous comments, we don’t like to see her in a muzzle but it seems to be the only answer. She doesn’t seem to mind the muzzle and doesn’t bother to look for poo when she is wearing it. I would advise anyone to try a muzzle, it does take a while to train them to wear it, there are videos on youtube to help with the training.

  11. Our 8 month old lab has gotten in the habit of eating his poop if he eliminates in his crate during the day. He doesn’t eat his own poop outside, although he is obsessed with the rabbit poop in our yard. His stool is very soft and sometimes is even diarrhea in the evenings after he has eaten his poop. His stool returns to normal after a weekend of not eating his own poop. How can we get him to try and hold it and/or stop eating it if he can’t hold it until we get home?

  12. After reading the article and many comments, I feel much better that I am not alone having my chocolate lab eating poo and rubbish from time to time. I live in Munich where there are green park in just about every neighborhood where people walk dogs and kids and adults play balls or bike through. Naturally there are always dogs poo here and there. Not everyone picks up their dogs piles. Worse there are also trash, I mean left over food, plastic wrap, packages, old rotten meals people just throw into bushes where our sweet quick nose labs can find them quickly. Often enough there will be human secrement, too. With all tricks and guides and advice, it is almost impossible to prevent our dogs not to engage in this kind of behavior unless they are always on the leash and or wear muzzle when out for a walk. I have a 3 years old intact male choco lab. I deal with this daily and not only that I have to watch out when bitchs which are in heat around because my Apollo will take off as soon as he smells it in the air.
    Apollo loves sports specially ball, not only retrieving but catching and blocking in the air. He can play an hour long, He is a Frisbee pro. He is an excellent swimmer no matter how cold the water is. He can run along on leash while I bike. Highly clever and mischievous. Even though I engage him with all kinds of sports and activities the whole time we are out, nevertheless he is still finding things to eat out there. But not every time, though. How can you use magic word if he find old hamburger or sandwich and already in his mouth. For sure he wouldn’t “leave” or spit it out to come back to you before he finishes it. What I try to do is I try not to let him being to far from me, maybe only a few meters. That way he knows that I am watching him. Using recall immediately when it looks like he is about to eat something like dog poo. It works most of the times. But if it’s rubbish like people food, no recall or magic word will stop him. Even though you manage to get him away, he will remember to come back for it even another hour later. It is frustrating but that how Labrador is. I know quite a few lab owners and we share same story. You can do your best to minimize it but you cannot change the eating habit of Labrador.

  13. Hi Heather,
    You mentioned one of your labs tried eating her own poop but you trained her out of it…how exactly did you do that? Our chocolate lab bitch us 3 and asks to go outside to wee, but will seemingly hold herself all day until we’ve gone to bed before she poops? She too will often eat the evidence. Naturally we don’t greet, fuss or reward behaviour once discovered, but send her out to ‘Toilet’. I admit I resent starting almost every morning cleaning and disinfecting my kitchen before I can even pour coffee and see to my 4 kids…at 3 years old I’d hoped she would have distinguished the difference between the greetings she gets when she’s been clean, to the frosty reception she receives when she hasn’t. It is destroying our relationship with her…

  14. Hi Pippa. My elderly springer has always eaten poo (other doge’s). I tried very hard to train this out of her. My word was ‘no’ leave, then treat, which worked for a while. She then began to learn that if she left it, she got a tasty treat from me. I watched her actually look at me, put her head down to eat the poo, but actually wait for my word knowing a treat would come, THEN we would walk on and she would run back for it. She was far to clever! My Labrador gobbles poo down so quickly so there is no time for a command. Actually, I have 5 Gundogs who snack on poo from time to time. I have given up to a point. I try and keep them occupied with hunting or retrieving which is more interesting to them than eating poo!!

  15. Hi Pippa,

    How do we know when our labs are ready to leave the crate for sleeping elsewhere in the house at night? Is there something to look for that will convince us that the house training has worked and she is ready to be on her own at night? Also, how do we train her to tell us that she wants to go out to do her “chores”? If we are in the same room, her uneasiness and going to the door is a good clue. But, what about when she is not with us?

    Your help to others has been very useful to us and I hope you have some answers for us on these topics too.

  16. I have a 16 week chocolate lab bitch, not left on her own, walked minimum 3 times a day, morning 6:00 afternoon 13:00 and then night 20:30. She will leave poop that she finds when walking no problems there.
    But if she poops in the garden inbetween walked she will eat it as fast as it comes out. No time to clean it up ourselves. She it great apart from that she will return on command walks off the lead, and is toilet trained in house. She is fed wainwrights puppy food was thinking on trying all meat instead any advise would be great fully used.

  17. we have a 7month choc lab who in the past month has decided to eat his own poo and now on walks eats other dogs hes fed on kibble walked everyday hes neverleft home alone for vast lengths of time what do i do next or will he grow out of it ??

  18. I have had the misfortune to walk with someone who both dogs eat each others poop! I found it revolting and sickening.J have had seven dogs over thirty years or so and only one Lab tried it.We trained her out of it and she was fine.None of our other dogs bothered.Some were fed Kibble,some meat and mixer.Our boy now is fed Kibble with a little wet meat mixed in.He is in good health and condition.I think anxiety is a issue and it must be rotten for them to be left all day and if they do have an accident that would be bad for them .They hate poking and weeing in their own space.I am allways angry when people take a dog or puppy and leave them to go to work.What is the point in having a dog if your going to abandon it ..Come on people show a little sense and figure it out!

  19. Hi, I am at the end of my tether. I have two springer spaniels, one is 3 the other is 6 months old. The 6 month old is weeing and pooing in the house even when the back door is open, the other day he did it whilst I was in the room but I had my back to him. He is constantly eating poo as well, and will even bring it inside the house. The 3 year old is a dream and very well behaved and we are doing exactly the same with the puppy. I feel like I can go on with this much longer as I have 4 children and its simply unhygienic. Can anybody help?
    Thanks.

    • Hi Joanne, your pup obviously hasn’t really grasped the concept of housetraining yet. He is not too old to learn, but you need to get cracking on a really structured house training programme. You’ll need to start over, just like you would with a new puppy, though it should be easier because your puppy will have much better bladder control. Don’t leave the door open, as you won’t know whether or not he has emptied himself. The key rules are to go out with the puppy, reward any successful toilet outings, and to confine or restrict the pup after any unsuccessful trips to the garden. This means you will need a crate small enough that he won’t sleep at one end and use the other as a toilet. Picking up and even eating poo is very normal puppy behaviour. He will probably grow out of carrying poo around. It is just a game to him. In the meantime, pick up his poops as soon as he has done them, and distract him with food or games if manages to pick one up. Check out the housetraining and crate training articles in the puppies section for more information. Pippa

  20. Thank you so much for clearing my mind. I was getting worried….I will be more aware and clean right away every time I can, to give any chance for him to eat this unpleasent snack. Thank you also for this amazing website that gives the most helpful information.

  21. My 6 month old Choc Lab Bitch takes great delight in eating other dogs and cats poo. She is well fed (Hills Science Plan) well exercised and loved to bits, never left and played with loads. I have tried everything to stop her doing this ghastly habit to no avail. We just have to put up with her bad breath and very smelly wind!!! I am just hoping she will grow out of it.

  22. hey Pippa, my 6 m.o. lab is not eating his food. i have tried ma best to make him eat. i have added pedigree’s gravy, biscuits and some other things also. what should i do to make him eat?? and plz also tell that how do i get to know that my lab is havin’ some prblm…

  23. We have a 10year old chocolate lab who ate her own poo as a puppy but nothing else until she has now obsesive co
    mpulsion to eat fox poo. She gets the smell and shes of and no amount of calling will stop her. Any tips?

  24. My two 9 yr old labrador bitches both eat as much dog poo as they can find and there is plenty out there that irresponsible dog owners don’t pick up. They are rescue dogs and I have had them nearly two years. One of them has had an ear operation and is completely deaf which makes it even more difficult for me to stop her eating poo. It really spoils our walks as they keep stopping every few yards for a snack! In the end I have to put them on leads otherwise we would never get anywhere. I have always had dogs but have never had this problem before. Any suggestions?

  25. I am at a loss for what to do. Our 18 m.o. lab spends all his walk time (off lead) eating other dog’s poo – and there is a lot of it lying around. We try to distract him with toys, and have tried a citronella spray collar, which doesn’t bother him in the least. He also eats other (full)poo bags which have been discarded, and if I’m not quick enough to get him on the lead, will run up to other dog walkers and snatch their poo bags from their hands and eat both bag and poo. This, much more than the general poo scavenging is unacceptable behaviour – how do I stop it?

  26. Hi, our 14 week old Labrador puppy eats his own poos when we’re out at work. We both work full time but manage to get back home at 3 hourly intervals. We walk, feed and toilet him before leaving for work, but every time we come home there are wees and poo “smudges” on our kitchen floor. We really hoped to be making some progress with the toilet training by now, our vet thinks it may be a habit that Arnold has got into so we’re trying to mix up the routine a bit to see if that helps. Any tips / advice greatly appreciated. Cheers Tanya & Phil

    • Hi Tanya, many 14 week old puppies cannot last 3 hours without a wee or poo. Most small puppies need letting out more often than this. And as your vet has pointed out, a habit has now been established, which can be tricky to break. Crate training is the best answer, to resolving house training problems but it is not very kind to leave a puppy in a crate for three hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. Many puppies will eat their poop if left alone with it for very long.
      It sounds as though you need to find someone to help with your puppy during the day, at least until he is house trained, and a little more mature.
      Pippa

  27. I have a 2 year old black neutered male who is obsessed with eating other dog’s poo. He finds it hard to walk past a pile without eating it. The only poo he wont eat is that which is obviously derived from bones and is very white in colour. I have recently taken on a retired guide dog aged 6 and a lab/golden retriever cross. She has spent 6 years not “scavenging” but now eats poo by the bucket load. I can only conclude that it must taste nice which is why the new dog does it. My advice – now being resigned to accepting it is: Worm, treat for parasites and vaccinate regularly. Don’t make a big issue of it – my experience is that if I do, it turns it into a game and it’s very hard for me to win if they are off the lead. I keep my dogs on a lead for the first part of a walk where most of the poo will be. This problem seems to be increasingly common amongst not only the labradors I meet but other gun dogs – particularly, spaniels.

    • My 3 year old failed guide dog is obsessed! I’ve tried everything. EVERYTHING! Nothing works so I let him get on with it but try to walk in areas where poo is minimal.

  28. My young collie doesn’t eat his own but he will eat my older dogs, whilst leaving the middle dogs alone (for the mostpart). I wondered if it was a pack thing as the older dog is in charge and the middle one just a plaything. I have tried pineapple, banana, kelp. I even at one point left some in the garden covered in tobasco but he seemed to like that too. I had hoped he might grow out of it but he is now 18 months old so doesn’t look likely.

  29. This is one of the most useful blogs I have read on this subject. My 18 month old lab, Ruby, has taken a liking to particular types of poo. I have found the best approach is training to ‘leave’ but as you say, it only works when you are nearby. As a novice dog owner it is reassuring that Ruby is not showing unusual behaviour.
    Please call by my website http://www.walkingalabrador.com to see how a novice dog owner is coping with raising a Labrador.

  30. My worry is that our 1 year old is insistent on eating our cats po! I am guessing that it isn’t going any harm as she is not ill, she eats well (probably to well) but have to now keep mint chews to kill the smelly breath when she has eaten it. She even waits until the cat goes out and follows her. Roll on winter when she hasn’t got such easy access to the garden! (Back door closed)

  31. My 2-month old pup has started eating his own poop because i get to leave him during the day because of my job. Would he get sick or something? I’m kinda worried about it.. 🙁

  32. My 6 month old pup has just started the revolting habit of eating other dog’s poo. He has sampled horse and cow poo also but dog poo is his all time favourite.
    He is fed on kibble and certainly gets enough to eat. His weight is spot on for his age and he has plenty of exercise. He has been trained by reward but his training recall and ‘leave command goes out of his brain every afternoon on his hour long walk, run and play with other dogs. I find it embarrassing and certainly his breath is vile. How to stop this revolting habit apart from restricting his freedom and keeping him on a lead so that he cannot run but can be stopped eating poo, there seems to be no happy medium

    • Sounds familiar, my 1 and half year old yellow lab is the same. Weekdays Millie is walked on the lead around the streets and a local field, weekends we take her to a nearby forest.
      She is lead walked until we pass the majority of poop and then let off, almost immediately she is on the trail for poop not interested in sticks or balls to retrieve.
      The recall is an obvious route and should work, Millie responds well to recall but not when she has sniffed some choice poop.
      When this happens there is nothing I can do to distract from devouring the lot, even despite me calling her name and saying leave.
      Today we had one of our worse days when she devoured 8 sets of poop and each time completely ignoring me until after she had her fill.
      There is remorse and resentment to being put on the lead as a kind of punishment, but there is no connection between what she has done.
      What makes the whole experience such a disappointment is the retching on the way home and at home where the poop eaten doesn’t agree with her.
      Recall has been suggested which I favour and eventually I believe will work, but I would like to know what others think about a muzzle and a collar spray.
      I am not convinced about the muzzle as some owners I have met say it make the dog just walk close to the owner as they can defend themselves.
      The collar spray does boast good results but I am just wondering what the down side might be.
      Any further advice would be appreciated.

      • I doubt very much that there is any “remorse & resentment” from your dog for being put on the lead after eating poo. You say yourself your dog doesn’t associate the two acts. This is humanising your dog, they just don’t think like humans. Being put on a lead is never, in my opinion, a “punishment” from the dog’s perspective. It’s just something that “is”.

        My rescue cocker spaniel is very interested in sheep & horse poo rather than other dog’s poo. I have worked hard at “leave it” training to good effect.

        A muzzle will not redirect your dog’s attention & spray collars may only have a temporary effect if any, depending on the strength of your dog’s poo eating drive!

      • My yellow lab started this the same day she came home as a puppy. I thought with time I would be able to stop her. Arwen is 8 and I have to put muzzle on as she eats everything she sees. It’s quite a task if she is sick on carpet. Sick is bad enough but with poo in it. It’s hard to stop being sick with her. I love her with all my heart I just accept she won’t change.

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