Coprophagia is the technical term for a dog that eats feces. There are behavioral and psychological reasons why a dog may be doing this, but we'll get to that later in this guide for how to stop a puppy from eating poop.
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Coprophagia in Puppies
It is common for puppies to try eating stool, both their own and that of other animals. While it is virtually harmless to eat their own poo, eating another animal's fecal matter could be dangerous. Viruses and parasites can be easily contracted this way.
An interesting study performed in 2012 by Dr. Benjamin Hart revealed some disgusting, yet fascinating information about coprophagia in dogs. For example:
- female dogs are most likely to eat poop;
- intact males are least likely to eat poop;
- 92% of poop eaters prefer fresh stool that is 1-2 days old;
- and dogs that steal food from the table are more apt to be poop eaters.
Most puppies will outgrow this gross habit. If your dog seems pretty set on eating poop, thankfully, there are a number of ways to discourage this behavior. When learning how to stop a puppy from eating poop, it's important to start as soon as the habit is spotted.
How to Stop a Puppy from Eating Poop
1. Don't Reward Bad Behavior
The first thing to note, whenever you spot your dog eating poop, you cannot reward the dog with any kind of attention, positive or negative.
Waving your arms or chasing the dog around may seem like a game to your pup. While you see it as a way to get him away from the stool, the dog will see it as entertaining play and something they will try to replicate in the future.
2. Use Redirection
The best way to deal with this is through redirection training. So when you spot the dog about to eat feces, clap your hands to divert your dog's attention.
Clap once to redirect the attention, and then try to move your pooch along to another area. If he goes back to the stool pile after the first clap, then clap again and continue trying to redirect your pet in a calm manner.
As you're working through redirection training with your dog, also look into any other potential causes of coprophagia in your dog. Some of the most common ones are listed below.
3. Adjust Your Dog's Diet
A poor diet is one of the leading causes of coprophagia in dogs. Those seeking additional nutrition may look for it in stool. Undigested nutrients are passed through canine's feces, which may attract a malnutritioned dog.
If your dog is eating poop and you're feeding him a low quality diet, you should consult your veterinarian for advice on what dietary changes you need to make. A vet will evaluate your pet's nutrition to help you assess any unmet needs.
You will also need to transition your dog to a higher quality diet that will meet his unique nutritional needs, thereby decreasing the animal's urge to seek nutrients in feces.
4. Relieve Boredom
Boredom can also lead to a dog's coprophagia behavior.
For example, if your puppy is left unattended for too long, he will look for things to do to entertain himself. As gross as it may seem to you, searching for a snack in the yard will be mentally engaging for your dog.
To prevent this, relieve boredom in your dog – there are many ways to do it. At the very least, go outside and play fetch or tug-of-war. Take your dog for a long walk to burn his energy. If your dog is an avid feces eater, it's best not to leave him outside unattended while attempting to retrain and stop a dog from eating poop.
5. Check for Underlying Health Issues
In very rare cases, there may be an underlying health condition causing your dog to eat poop. Certain health problems that cause a general increase in a dog's appetite, and some diseases of the dog's pancreas and small intestine can cause dogs to seek out stool to consume.
If your dog begins eating feces out of the blue, you should consult your veterinarian. This is especially true for older dogs, since eating poop is less common when they aren't puppies anymore.
6. Use a Leash
It may be that your dog is exceptionally stubborn. If so, you will need to walk your pup on a leash.
If the dog goes near a pile of poop, redirect him and reward him for leaving the poop alone. Use a single command, such as “No” or “Leave it”, and then lead your dog away from the stool.
If all else fails, enlist the help of a trained professional. Call dog trainers in your area and ask if they have experience with this type of training (most of them do). Choose a trainer that has worked with poo eating dogs before.
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