You’ve probably seen this: you’re out on a walk with your dog, his sniffs around at another animal’s poop… and then he tries to eat it! Or, he might try to eat his own poop immediately after relieving himself. (And if you’re not quick about it, he’s probably successful.) You might feel disgusted, or at the very least concerned, especially if it happens frequently. Is it going to make him sick? Is something wrong with him that he’s eating poop?
As it turns out, there are a number of reasons why your dog might try to eat poop (also known as coprophagia). And while you shouldn’t encourage this habit in your dog by any means, the fact that your pet tries is perfectly normal.
If your dog is a puppy, eating poop is an especially common behavior. As yet, there’s no definitive explanation as to why, but among other things, one popular explanation suggests that they’re simply exploring their environments and being curious. Puppies who eat poop typically outgrow this behavior when they’re about six months old.
If your dog recently had puppies and is nursing, you might find her ingesting her pups’ poo. Again, this is perfectly normal behavior. Like humans, puppies can’t take care of their own elimination needs right away. They need some help… and that usually involves mom ingesting at least some of what they produce.
But what if your dog falls outside these two categories? In that case, there are still a whole host of explanations. Your dog might have a nutritional deficiency, and trying to recoup missing resources. Your dog might even just be hungry. (This is also an issue with growing puppies!) She might also be bored or stressed, and using coprophagia as a coping mechanism. If this is a sudden behavior, you might want to take your dog for a check-up to ensure his nutritional needs are being met. This might also be a good time to make sure your pet is getting the attention and love he needs, and adjust accordingly. If it’s really just a habit you’re trying to break, you can teach verbal cues like “Leave it” to ensure your dog doesn’t actually eat the poop she might encounter on a walk or in the yard.
No matter why your dog is trying to eat poop, rest assured that it’s no cause for alarm. The behavior can be corrected, and in many situations, is totally normal. With a little patience, attention, and love, you can treat the problem, break the habit, and ensure a healthy pet!
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