Eating poo / poop / faeces / dung is surprisingly common in the dog world, lets take a look at why our furry friends do this and what can be done about this seemingly disgusting habit.
Corprophagia, or the the eating of poo, faeces or dung, is certainly enough to put us humans off our breakfast, but to some dogs fresh horse manure, cow pats, fox poo and even dog poo seems to be irresistible to some of our doggy companions.
It is commonly thought that dogs will do this undesirable behaviour, because they are lacking certain nutrients in their diet, while this certainly could be true of a neglected animal, in the world of the well loved and cared for domestic dog this is unlikely.
Having said that, a lot of animals (cats, horses, rabbits, etc), are not brilliant at extracting all of the nutrients from their food, so it is also possible that dogs, (who are good at this) are capable of getting the useful stuff out of it.
Most current thinking is that (as disgusting as it seems to us), dogs eat poop, mainly because they like the taste of it!
What are the dangers of my dog eating poo?
Eating poo can be dangerous for your dog, the main risk comes from livestock or horse manure, where worming medication that can be harmful to dogs may have been used.
As with all dog behaviour, if their behaviour suddenly changes it is something that should be checked and monitored, so if your adult dog has never eaten poo before and suddenly starts, it would be worth considering taking her to the vets for a check up.
Is your dog being fed enough, or frequently enough? Although overfeeding is much more common than underfeeding, you should reevaluate how much you are feeding, how long between meals and what you are feeding them. The amount your dog should be fed, is based on their weight, age and how much exercise they get, if you are unsure your vet will be able to offer advice. Be wary of vets who recommend an expensive "specialist diet", unless there is a medical reason for it.
Is your dog receiving enough mental stimulation, dogs who are bored often exhibit this undesired behaviour (often consuming their own faeces), look for ways to keep your dog entertained when you are not around and they are not sleeping.
Stress is a less common motivation, but well worth investigating if your dog suffers from separation anxiety, of course addressing this anyway will make for a happier dog and happier owner.
Strange as it may seem to us, cat poo really is a delicacy for dogs, and once they have a taste for it, it is tough to teach them to leave it. Most cats will happily do their business outside and away from the home, but for cats that have a litter tray, consider restricting your dog's access to this area. You should also clean your cat's litter tray as often as possible, and see if your cat will accept using a litter tray with a door and roof. Stair gates are very useful for restricting dog access, though keep an eye on things if you have a dog that likes to jump.
How do I stop my dog eating poo?
If you are still house training, it is important to ensure all areas of the house are clean of faeces - we want to make sure that there are no signals to your puppy or dog that toileting inside is acceptable.
Keep your garden or yard clear of poo, clear up your dog's poo as soon as soon as possible, also do a sweep of the garden before letting your dog out to remove anything left by cats or other wildlife.
Remember the mantra of "ignore bad behaviour, reward good behaviour", in other words, don't make a massive fuss or give attention when your dog eats poo, as this is rewarding them with attention a firm "No", and pull them away (if their recall is not good). If your dog notices some poo and decides to ignore it, this should be praised and the dog rewarded with their favourite thing.
Work on your dog's recall - this is possibly the most important command you can have for a lot of reasons, but is very useful when walking and you come across an unexpected pile of horse manure.
The leave it command is also very useful, as is redirecting your dog's attention onto something more palatable.