Though it may sound odd, poop eating is actually a common and rather normal behaviour in puppies. To you, it may be shocking when this happens, but you don’t want to scream at your puppy nor punish them when they do this. Startling your puppy will do more harm than good and may lead to more poop eating and other behavioural problems.
Unless properly addressed in a timely manner, poop eating, also known as coprophagy, can become a recurring habit for puppies and dogs.
So the question that led you here, why do puppies eat poop? Let’s dive a little deeper and understand why they do it before we look into how to go about stopping it.
Why Do Puppies Eat Poop?
There are actually many reasons why puppies eat poop. Though lack of understanding may be the first inclination we have towards why they do it, there are a host of reasons, some of which are rather shocking and interesting. Take this first reason for instance and you will know exactly when we mean.
It is Learnt from the Mother
Mother dogs actually eat the stool of puppies when they are young. The mother dogs do this for two reasons. Firstly, they eat the stool of the young so as to keep the den clean. The other reason is more inbuilt with their instincts. Many predators are drawn to the scent of poop and so the mother dog eats the poop to keep predators away.
Though there are no predators in your home, it doesn’t matter to them. These feelings are inbuilt and so they do this instinctually. It is primitive evolutionary behaviour and many other animals do the same to protect their young ones. It is common for the mothers to continue eating the stool until the newborn puppies are weaned.
Puppies learn a lot from their mothers and it is natural for them to follow the lead and example set by them. Due to the curious nature of puppies, they may see their mothers doing it and maybe drawn to the idea themselves, often smelling and tasting their own poop and even the poop of other dogs.
The mothers begin to stop eating the poop of the young when they are ready to eat solid food themselves and leave the den to defecate. However, puppies that have caught on to the idea of eating poop may continue doing so until later stages of life.
A good way to prevent this from happening is by cleaning after your puppies and ensuring that the mother or the puppy doesn’t have the chance to eat the poop. That being the case, if you only adopted the puppy after they had been separated from their mother, they may have already learnt this behaviour. Yet, not giving them the chance to act out on that learnt behaviour will discourage them over time and get them to stop eating poop.
They Like Eating It
Though this may sound downright absurd to many people, many dogs and puppies eat poop just because they like doing so.
There is no real way to explain this behaviour except for the fact that they are dogs and they like different things to us humans. That being the case, stool eating should be prevented when possible. It is a good idea to distract the dog or puppy when they do this and pick up the stool as quickly as possible to prevent them from having the chance to eat it.
They Eat Poop to Avoid Punishment
We all know that when the dog or puppy poops in the house, they get a nice scolding and a good no-no. They know that pooping everywhere isn’t right and they also understand when they are being told off.
Hence, to avoid punishment and to not be scolded for pooping in the wrong place, they may eat the poop so as to hide the evidence. If you show anger when they have an accident in the wrong place, they are more likely to remember this and do what they can to avoid it. Thus, one of the main reasons why dogs eat poop is to hide the evidence and avoid punishment. Dogs are smart like that.
Attention Seeking Behaviour
Poop eating is shocking and upsetting behaviour. If you have responded to the behaviour with an upset face, your puppy may find this amusing and entertaining. They may continue the behaviour just to amuse themselves further by upsetting you.
Even though the reaction that you portray is a negative one, it is still attention nonetheless. Puppies crave attention and do not always understand the difference between a positive and a negative reaction. Hence, they eat the poop so as to get extra attention from you, simple as that.
If your dog or puppy has intestinal worms or parasites, they can quite easily be leaching nutrients from your puppy’s system. This will cause your dog to remain hungry even though they have eaten and are more likely to supplement their diet with whatever it is that they find. Just so long as it is remotely edible, they may eat it.
Apart from intestinal worms and parasites, it may also happen that your puppy simply isn’t getting enough to eat during the day. Puppies are going through a growing stage and they need to be fed at least two to three times a day. In fact, it is recommended that you feed your puppy four times a day to prevent hypoglycemia.
If your puppy is eating poop and you have the inclination to believe that you are not feeding them enough, it is a good idea to speak to your veterinarian and ask them how often you should feed your puppy and if you should make any changes to their diet.
Boredom and Stress
If you leave your puppy alone for a long period of time, firstly there is nobody around to clean up after your pup, which means they will have readily available poop. Secondly, your puppy would find themselves bored and with nothing to do that they actually consider eating their own stool.
Another reason for them to eat poop is stress, which even drives adult dogs to eat poop. They could be stressed for a number of reasons, including changing homes and punishment. This is why if you see them eating poop, you don’t want to punish them. This will lead to more stress, making it more probable that they eat more poop because of the stress induced by the punishment.
Boredom can lead to your puppy eating poop, and if you scold and punish them when you realise they ate poop, they will become stressed which may lead them to eat poop again, (so as to hide the evidence and avoid punishment, relieving their stress.)
It is common for dogs and puppies to eat poop. However, it has been noted that puppies and dogs that receive a well-balanced diet that is rich in nutrients tend to grow out of this habit as their needs have been satisfied from the food they ate.
If your puppy does not digest the food properly, this could also lead them to eat poop. The food that you feed your puppy may also be low in digestible nutrients, which may cause the food to come out the other side without really providing any nutrient value to your pup. Or, it could also happen that your puppy simply has a problem with digesting food. Either way, if you notice that your puppy continues to eat poop despite the fact that you feed them a well-balanced diet, it is best to consult a veterinarian to identify the issue.
When the food isn’t digested properly in the gut, the puppy’s poop actually tastes the same as the food that they just ate. This may lead them to mistake poop for food and eat it.
It is good to switch to high-quality food to solve the issue, which is considered easier for your pup to digest. If switching to a high-quality, well-balanced diet does not work, as mentioned, you should consult a veterinarian to get the issue checked.
Because they are Left Alone
If your puppy hasn’t been trained, it is more likely that you keep them in a kennel. If you isolate your pup, it is more likely they will eat poop.
They do this as a means to clean up after themselves. Not just that, the fact that they are alone means they are more susceptible to poop eating when compared to puppies that live close to their people.
Hence, it is a good idea to not allow your pup to be too isolated for too long periods of the day. If they are not trained and are left isolated, it is more likely they will poop in the kennel and will go about eating it so as to clean up after themselves.
To Care for Sick or Elderly Dogs
Puppies are receptive to other dogs. They know when other dogs are too old or sick to care for themselves. This may lead healthy puppies to consume stool from weaker canines members of the household.
This happens almost instinctually. The more poop there is in the surroundings of the pack, the more likely it will draw predators. Even though there are no predators in your home, it is more likely the puppies will act instinctually and eat poop to hide the scent.
They Spent Too Long in A Shelter
If your puppy spent time in the shelter before you adopted them, chances are they were confined to a small space. Being confined to a small space as in a shelter may lead them to develop the habit of eating poop.
It is more likely the puppies would poop in the small confinement they lived in and may have started eating poop so as to keep their den clean. This will lead to a behavioural habit over time and may continue even after adoption from the shelter.
Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet with plenty of nutrients a few times a day and cleaning up after them should resolve the issue over time.
How to Stop Puppies from Eating Poop
If you notice that your pup is eating poop, you may be alarmed and would want to try everything you can to prevent them from doing so. Luckily, there are a few things you can try and if nothing works, it is best to consult a veterinarian.
Clean Up After Them
A good way to prevent them from eating poop and to break the habit is to clean up after the puppy as soon as they poop. This way, you solve the problem at the root and prevent them from making a habit of it.
The cleaner the den, the less likely they will eat poop. This is a good way to condition your puppy over time and will yield good results as they age. Whatever caused them to eat poop in the first place will be left forgotten.
Feed Them Sufficiently a Well-Balanced Diet
You need to ensure that you are feeding your puppy sufficiently to ensure that they don’t eat poop out of hunger. If you have an undernourished puppy, it is more likely they will look to eat anything that is remotely edible.
Feeding them three to four times a day, a diet rich in all the nutrients that they need, would be a good way to keep your puppy well fed. The better fed they are, the less likely they will be drawn to eating poop. It is more likely that they will learn to recognise the difference between nutritious food and poop and will learn to leave poop alone.
Treat any Digestive Issues
As mentioned, one of the reasons for your puppy eating poop may be due to digestive issues they may be having. When food is not properly digested, it would lead to poop smelling and tasting like the food they ate, which would lead to them eating it.
If you notice that your puppy is eating poop, it may be due to digestive issues that they are facing. Hence, it is a good idea to check with the veterinarian to get a better idea of any underlying issues that may be causing it. Otherwise, you may be feeding them a well-balanced diet, but your puppy’s system may simply not be absorbing the nutrients from it.
Don’t Isolate Your Pup
One of the main reasons for poop eating is isolation for a prolonged period of time during the day. This leads to untrained puppies from pooping when alone and eating them to hide the mess.
It is a good idea to give your puppy as much attention as possible. Don’t leave it in a kennel for too long and have your puppy join you and your family as much as possible. The more they are with you, the less likely there will be unattended poop, which means, less likely they will eat it.
Boredom can also lead to puppies trying to eat poop. The less isolated they are, the less bored they will be, thus resolving this possible scenario too.
Do Not Punish Them When They Eat Poop
If they eat poop, the last thing you want to do is scream at them, punish them and make a scene. Remember, dogs are receptive to scoldings and know when they are being told off. They know what you mean when you say ‘bad dog,’ so avoid doing anything to upset them.
Punishing them will lead them to think that pooping where you pooped was the mistake, which may lead them to think that eating the poop to hide the evidence may be a good idea.
Hence, it is best to avoid reacting drastically to this. Simply play it cool and deal with it. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. As mentioned, though it may be shocking to us, it is actually quite normal for puppies to eat poop, so don’t overreact.
Though how well of a balanced diet you provide them, it is almost impossible to ensure that you are feeding them all the vitamin sources they require. One of the main reasons for puppies eating poop is due to nutrient deficiency. They are looking for nutrients through other sources and often mistake poop for food.
Hence, giving your puppy a dog multivitamin may be a good way to try to resolve the issue. It is known that vitamin B deficiency in particular is linked to poop eating. Hence, it is a good idea to give your puppy a multivitamin. That way, all their needs are met and you can be sure they are not eating poop due to a nutrient deficiency.
The modern canine diet is rather high in carbohydrates in comparison to protein and fats. Ancestral diets used to contain a lot more protein and fat in comparison to carbohydrates. As a result, it is a good idea to give your puppy enzyme supplements to help them better digest their food and absorb the nutrients.
As mentioned, one of the primary reasons for puppies eating poop is due to lack of nutrition from meals. If you feed them frequently, but they don’t absorb the nutrients, it is almost as bad as feeding them less often.
It is a good idea to speak to a veterinarian and discuss the diet that you feed your puppy. If they feel that an enzyme supplement may be necessary, they may advise accordingly. This is why it is a good idea to speak to your veterinarian if you notice that your puppy is eating poop. This way, you can analyse your pooch’s diet and make any changes necessary to prevent malnutrition from causing the issue.
Some tastes and smells are even disgusting for dogs. If you add a certain poop deterrent to the food or treats that your puppy eats, it will make the smell and taste of poop less appealing to dogs.
Most of these products that are available for taste aversion contains monosodium glutamate, chamomile, yucca, garlic, parsley and pepper-plant derivatives. Meat tenderizer and canned pumpkin have been noted to also work well as deterrents.
If you are treating a poop-eating problem and you have more than one dog in the household, you want to ensure that you feed the taste-aversion product to all the dogs so that all the poop will have the properties that will be less appealing to the poop eater.
Train Your Pup
Though you may be inclined to think that your puppy is too young to be trained, this is far from the truth. Puppies are fast learners and are more capable of understanding and learning commands than adult dogs that have been set on their ways.
You can teach your puppy basic commands such as ‘leave it’ and ‘come.’ These commands will allow you to take more control of the situation and teach them to leave poop alone. It is a good idea to make your dog come to you for a treat as soon as they have pooped. This will train them with the habit to run to you every time they poop and will leave them with less time to inspect the poop and even eat it.
Poop eating is a common thing in puppies and there are a host of reasons for this behaviour. Regardless of why they do it, it is a good idea to stay cool and calm when you see this and not overreact. The last thing you want to do is scold or punish them, as they could lead to more poop eating (to hide the evidence to not be punished.)
Regardless of why they eat poop, there are ways you can try to resolve it. We hope we provided you with some good intel as to why your puppy has been eating poop and have brought you with the comfort of knowing that it is rather common.
We aimed to provide you with a good list of things you can try to resolve the issue at hand. When you do notice poop eating, it is a good idea to consult a veterinarian to discuss any issues your puppy may be having with digestion and nutrient absorption.
We hope you now have a better idea about poop eating and that reading this word to word has helped you understand how to go about dealing with the issue.