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Why do dogs indulge in this unpleasant habit?
And what can we do to stop them!
Poop eating dogs are often partial to their own poop, as well as that of other dogs.
Eating poo seems such a disgusting act to humans, it is difficult for us to understand what motivates this unpleasant behaviour.
There are a number of theories as to why dogs eat poo, from boredom, to having been punished for accidents. But none of them are the whole story.
The fact is, that most poo eaters are well fed, well adjusted, kindly treated, well exercised and happy dogs. One thing I have noticed in my fifty plus years of living with dogs, is that poo eating, or coprophagia to give it a formal name, seems to be on the increase!
So why do dogs eat poop?
Perhaps the most likely reason is the most obvious. They do it because it tastes nice (to them). To many dogs another dog’s poo, or their own, is a delicious snack. And the reason for this is probably to do with 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.
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!
According to Sophia Yin, who reports on a study published in 2012, 16% of dogs are serious poo eaters. She also points out that the study, based on questioning dog owners, notes 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.
Interestingly, the study also notes that ‘spayed bitches’ were the keenest poo eaters, and intact males, the least enthusiastic.
What can you do?
There are lots of things you can try to prevent a dog eating his own poo 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 garden I know, but well worth the effort.
Flavouring his meals
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. Many people find these kinds of remedies do not work, some find that they only work for a short while. A few seem to have had some success, so it may be worth a try.
Of course, the methods above only work to prevent your dog eating his own poo. If he has developed a taste for other dogs’ poo you have a much harder problem on your hands. You cannot influence what other people feed their dogs and 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 poo 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.
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 poo eating generally. But there are no guarantees. Ultimately you may have to accept that when he is out of your sight, or some distance away, there is little that you can do to prevent prevent your dog from indulging in this distasteful habit.
You can console yourself with the knowledge that you are not alone, as this behaviour is very common indeed. And don’t forget to worm your dog regularly as there may be parasites in his unplanned snacks!
What about you? Share your tips for preventing or reducing coprophagia below!
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