Understanding Behavior: Why Dogs Eat Poop

dog in the grass

Imagine your adorable little fur-child, prancing around the yard on a sunny afternoon. You watch as they sniff around the garden, tail wagging and ears perked up. Suddenly, they dive their head into a pile of… poop. Yes, poop! You’re probably a mix of shocked, disgusted, and confused. Trust me, you’re not alone. Let’s explore this peculiar canine behavior and unravel the mystery behind your dog’s poop-eating habit.

But before we dive in, let’s clear one thing up: Not all dogs eat poop. It’s not a universal doggy pastime. However, it’s reasonably common and is not necessarily a cause for concern. It’s not the most pleasant topic to discuss, but understanding your dog’s behavior is crucial in fostering a healthy pet-owner relationship.

Why Does My Dog Have a Taste for Poop?

Coprophagia, or the act of eating feces, is a behavior observed in many animals, including our four-legged friends. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer as to why they do it; different dogs may have different reasons for indulging in this seemingly gross behavior. Here are some common reasons why your dog might be eating poop.

1. It’s Instinctual

Dogs might eat poop because it’s ingrained in their instincts. This behavior is observed in various animals and is particularly common in canines. Mother dogs, for example, are known to eat the poop of their puppies to keep the den clean and protect the young ones from predators that might be attracted by the smell.

While domestic dogs don’t need to worry about predators, some of these ancient instincts still persist. So, your dog might be chowing down on feces due to an instinctual drive passed down from their wild ancestors.

2. Nutritional Deficiencies or Medical Conditions

Simply put, if your dog is hungry, they may resort to eating poop. This can happen if their meals are not providing enough nutrients, or if they have parasites that are stealing their nutrients. In both cases, dogs may start eating feces because they’re trying to satisfy their nutritional needs.

Some dogs might also eat poop if they’re not getting enough to eat or not eating frequently enough. If your dog is on a diet, make sure it’s a balanced one and you’re feeding them the right amount. If you’re uncertain, consult with your vet.

Some medical conditions can cause increased appetite or malabsorption of nutrients, leading your dog to eat poop to try and compensate for the deficiency. These conditions include pancreatitis, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and thyroid disease.

If you suspect that your dog’s poop-eating habit might be due to a medical condition, it’s crucial to get them checked by a vet who can diagnose and provide appropriate treatment.

3. Boredom, Stress or Anxiety

Like humans, dogs can also resort to unusual behaviors when they’re bored, stressed, or anxious. Eating poop might be one of them. If your dog is left alone for long periods, they might eat poop out of boredom or to get some kind of stimulation.

Similarly, changes in their environment or routine can cause stress or anxiety in dogs, leading them to eat poop. It’s important to ensure that your dog is getting enough physical and mental stimulation to prevent such behavior.

If you suspect that your dog’s poop-eating habit might be due to stress or anxiety, it’s important to address the root cause. This might involve providing them with more exercise, mental stimulation, or even seeking help from a professional dog behaviorist.

4. Dogs Like It

Now, let’s be honest here. The idea of anyone, or anything, liking the taste of poop is hard for us humans to wrap our heads around. But remember, dogs have vastly different taste preferences than we do. They’re known to eat all sorts of things that we’d find repugnant. The scent and flavor of feces, particularly cat poop or the poop of other dogs, might be appealing to them.

Moreover, dogs have evolved as omnivores and scavengers. This means their bodies are designed to consume a wide array of food sources, including some rather unappetizing ones. So, while it might make us gag, your dog might see a pile of poop as just another tasty snack. However, this doesn’t mean you should let your dog continue the habit.

5. Attention Seeking Behavior

Lastly, your dog might be eating poop simply to get your attention. Dogs, like children, can sometimes misbehave when they’re not getting enough attention. If your dog notices that eating poop gets a strong reaction from you, they might continue doing it just to get you to notice them.

This is why it’s important not to overreact when you catch your dog in the act. Instead, divert their attention with a toy or a treat, and reward them for leaving the poop alone.

Is It Harmful for My Dog to Eat Poop?

While the thought of your dog eating poop might turn your stomach, the act itself isn’t usually harmful to dogs. Dogs have a robust digestive system that can handle a bit of bacteria. However, there are potential risks that you should be aware of.

One risk is that your dog could ingest parasites. If your dog is eating the poop of other animals, they could potentially ingest parasites that could cause harm. This risk is even higher if your dog is eating the feces of wild animals. The poop could also contain harmful bacteria or viruses, which could lead to illnesses.

Another risk is that your dog could ingest harmful substances. If the animal whose poop your dog is eating has ingested something toxic, your dog could also ingest that toxin. This could lead to serious health problems, so it’s best to discourage the behavior whenever possible.

How Can I Discourage This Behavior?

If your dog has developed a taste for poop, don’t worry – there are steps you can take to discourage this behavior. The first step is to ensure that your dog is getting a balanced diet. If nutritional deficiencies are causing the behavior, improving their diet can help.

Another step is to keep your dog’s environment clean. Regularly clean up after your dog to remove the temptation. If your dog is eating poop out of boredom, make sure they get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. This can help to keep them entertained and reduce the likelihood of them eating poop.

Finally, consider seeking professional help. If you’ve tried everything and your dog is still eating poop, it might be time to consult with a vet or a professional dog trainer. They can provide you with additional strategies and insights to help curb this behavior.


Watching your pet engage in poop-eating can be a startling experience. But remember, it’s just another one of those quirky things that make dogs… well, dogs. Remember, the best way to prevent your dog from eating poop is to keep their environment clean, provide them with a balanced diet, ensure they’re getting enough exercise and mental stimulation, and give them plenty of love and attention. With a bit of patience, understanding, and perhaps some professional advice, you can help your furry friend kick this habit.

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