It’s Called Coprophagia, and It’s Just Plain Gross!

“What’s for snack-time, Mom?”

Does this look like the face of a dog who’d eat his own waste??

The fancy medical term for dogs eating poop is Coprophagia. The most common reaction from humans is, “Yuck!”

Experts theorize there are numerous reasons why a dog might eat poop (his own, or that of other animals):

  • Boredom, loneliness, anxiety, or stress
  • Interesting taste (yeah, I know — Yuck!)
  • Insufficient nutrients in its own food
  • Filthy yard, or tiny space to run in
  • Internal parasites
  • Natural tendency of mother dog to “hide the evidence” and protect her young from predators
  • Submission to dominant others in the canine household

One study also found that Fido is “trained” to eat poop by the very humans who find the habit so disgusting! It works like this: Fido takes a sample, Human shrieks and shoos him away; Human scoops up the waste and hides it in a bag. Fido becomes more curious about the hidden goodies. The next time he spots waste, he plays the old snatch-and-grab game, only faster to beat the Human from getting to the waste first. And a bad habit is formed.

I’ve had several dogs in my lifetime, but never have I had one that eats waste — until now.

‘Shelties are clean animals,’ his breeder swears. ‘Mine don’t do that.’

I’ve called my dog’s vet several times about this disgusting habit. The docs and their staff don’t seem concerned.

Probably because they’re not the ones seeing him do it, nor are they the ones the dog wants to kiss later on!

They suggested I purchase packets of For-Bid, to sprinkle on his food and keep him from sampling his waste. But that would only work on his waste, right?

And I’m already slipping bits of pineapple into his food, to little avail (pineapple is supposed to come out with a bad taste and scent to dogs).

Some suggest adding hot sauce to the waste once it’s out. Wouldn’t it just be easier to pick the stuff up, away from the dog’s line of vision?

I’ve done everything I can think of — keep him exercised, feed him a good-quality dog food, and regularly pick up the yard.

But he’s still sampling.

I’m open to suggestions. Fire away, and I’ll be ever grateful if we can break this bad habit.

26 thoughts on “It’s Called Coprophagia, and It’s Just Plain Gross!

  1. My sister’s dog does that. We told her we’d heard of stuff you can buy to stop it, probably what you mentioned but she hasn’t tried it yet. Good luck, Debbie!

  2. Oh my Debbie, both our Goldens do the same . I didn’t know there was an official term for it so thanks for enlightening me as you do so well . I just figured it was a dog-thing. Gross, yes but I never thought anything could be done about it. I’ll look forward to hearing any suggestions!

    • I’ve checked Yahoo Answers, and you’d be surprised how often this dilemma is mentioned. Most dog owners don’t want to think about their “babies” participating in something so disgusting, but after all, they are dogs — not too terribly far from their wolf ancestors! Thanks for letting me know you share my problem (though I’m sorry you have to face it, too!)

  3. Feed a quality dog food (which I’m sure you do) and pick the poop up right away. No drama, no loud voice, just a firm “leave it” followed by a reward also helps. I have never solved the problem completely but these things do help with my campers. I also know people who have used shock collars effectively. Shock collars are jarring in the moment but are not harmful long term unless you over use them. of-course, or are cruel. You watch the dog and shock at the moment he goes for a taste. Timing is everything.

    • Ah, the voice of an expert — thanks, Katybeth! Yes, I do feed a quality dog food, but maybe (in my effort to keep his physique svelte!) I was under-feeding and he was “supplementing” wherever he could? Anyway, I’ve been adding a few more kibbles to his bowl, and he seems to be doing better. I’ve been more regular about picking up, too — what’s unavailable can’t be ingested! Thanks so much for the suggestions!

  4. Our dogs go for the cat boxes, so we have to keep them blocked off. We joke about it beign the ultimate recycling program, but in reality it’s just gross. Luckily, they leave the dog poop alone. I hope the extra food and quick scooping help you out. It’s hard to pucker up and give pooch a kiss when you know exactly what he’s been eating!

    • Going for the cat boxes sounds gross, too, Janna. I guess what they can’t get to because it’s blocked off is a good solution, though. You’re sure right about the doggie kisses — kinda makes one leery, doesn’t it?! Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Gross! Debbie, thankfully, I haven’t had that problem. Henry always takes a few steps forward to get away from the crap asap, and waits while I scoop it up. So, sorry, no suggestions from me. Good luck!

    • Sir Henry is so much more refined than the Sheltie — must be his royal breeding! Poor Sheltie masks his disgusting habit with a darling, innocent face and a grin. It’s easy to scoop when we’re out walking; it’s when he goes out into the fenced backyard alone that I have this problem. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to start going out with him and taking a poop-bag!

    • I was afraid of dogs when I was little, too, Tanya, so I understand that feeling. It was only after we got a dog of our own that I learned to love them. Thanks for the suggestion and the prayers — I’ll have to check it out, and I never refuse someone offering to pray for me! Have a beautiful weekend!

  6. I never realized they did that until I read a book about Scott’s failed expedition to the South Pole, The Worst Journey In The World, and also his journals. They mentioned the dogs doing this.

    What does this mean? Keeping your dog really cold doesnt stop it.

    • “Experts” seem to believe it has something to do with a dog’s wolf ancestors, how they ate what they could when it was available, fearing there wouldn’t be any more food. Modern house pets don’t have that problem; generally, it’s the other way around (too much food!). Still, like humans, old habits die hard. Interesting info, my friend! I was going to try freezing the Sheltie’s food, if Scott’s dogs had done well on frozen kibbles!

  7. Katie does that too, if we let her, though not every time. We just say “LEAVE IT!” and “LET’s GO”…as she is always on a leash when we’re outside (no fenced yard).

    • I don’t think I’d have this problem if the only time he was outside was when he was on a leash — then, he never tries to sample! It’s just when he’s outside in the back yard, playing and chasing squirrels, that he gets bored or something and decides to taste. Maybe I have to go out with him more and bring him right back in! Do you think this is a Sheltie-thing??

  8. Oh Debbie, what’s the Sheltie up to now? ha! Roxy has never eaten her poop but my sister’s furry friend used to do it when he was a pup. Fortunately, he grew out of it. I think Katybeth provided excellent suggestions. I don’t know if you feed him once or twice a day, but it might help if you fed him twice during the day. Pineapple is something my sister tried with little Rocco but I don’t remember if it worked or not. Keep scooping pronto so our friend isn’t tempted to “sample” anymore! Good luck, lady! :)

    • Bella, I figured Miss Roxy would be far too refined to eat poop, hehe! I’m adding pineapple to his kibbles because I read that that helps discourage the habit. I’m also feeding him twice a day. The really hard part is letting him run free in the back yard — that’s when he seems to get bored and find mischief. Perhaps I need to be more vigilant there. Thanks for the suggestions!

  9. I don’t think it’s just a sheltie thing. Probably you’ll just have to clean up after him faster. I know he doesn’t want to give up the running free in the back yard…silly boy.

    • Yeah, I suspect you’re right, considering his breeder has numerous Shelties, and they don’t do it! Yuck, I hate having to play “pick up,” but it’s part of dog ownership, isn’t it? He is a silly boy!

  10. I wish I had answers for you! My dog doesn’t eat her own poop, but she has developed a taste for a few of the door frames around the house. (I swear, I only left her alone long enough to take a quick shower! And she chewed the laundry room door frame!)

    • Yikes! Sounds potentially dangerous, with paint and splinters a likely problem. I know she’s got chew toys — wonder why she did that? Was she bored, or paying you back for that surgery?? Wonder if applying some hot pepper sauce to the wood would help? Good luck, Terri!

  11. My little Rascal not only eats his own,but anybody else’s as long as it crispy. He is also happy to roll in nastiness. He eats high dollar dog food, gets so much attention I should be embarrassed, my yard is not nasty, he is not anxious…he just likes it. Great. Let me know if you find a way to break your pup’s apetite!

    • Forgive me, Debbie, but I’m delighted to hear I’m not the only one with this problem! My Sheltie sounds like your Rascal. I’m not sure whether he just likes the taste (ewww!) or is bored and doing something like that guarantees attention (even if it’s negative!)

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