Why do dogs eat poop?
Relax, your dog probably isn't a psychopath
Little can compete with a wholesome snuggle session led by your favourite best friend– your dog– except when that filthy vermin has just gobbled on a mouthful of reeking fresh unidentified faeces and then proceeds to lick your face as if they're offering to share. Gross.
Source of concern and frustration
For us humans, well, for most of us, it is a complete mystery how someone can insert faeces into their mouth and enjoy it. Dogs are clearly not picky eaters, they don't even care what source the poop is coming from– hares, moose, other dogs or humans. They will say 'hit me with that shit'.
Many dog owners become upset and concerned when their otherwise 'good boy' eats defecation, but what really triggers this? Do they just love the taste, do they eat it to make up for malnutrition, or should you, perhaps, contact a veterinarian to get your dog euthanised?
It is actually so normal that it has gotten its own clinical expression: Coprophagia. A phenomenon among dogs that are rarely received too well by owners but is, in fact, completely harmless. You can also train your dog to not do so.
Reasons why dogs eat poop
There can be many different reasons why dogs do this.
1: Cleaning/removing traces
Dogs often eat their litter's faeces to keep their surroundings clean. Their puppies learn to adapt this behaviour from their mother. On an evolutionary aspect, it makes sense, as dogs often keep their puppies in hives, and you don't want to have a hive full of poop on a hot summer day. The smell can also attract predators. Eat shit or die, more or less.
2: They love the taste
Believe it or not, the taste could actually be the reason some dogs do it. It might smell like shit to you, but with a dog's unbelievable nose and senses, it might still smell like yesterday's burrito.
3. Collects information
Dogs gather information through their amazing sense of smell. It's sort of like how Facebook collects data through cookies, but the old fashioned way. Dogs collect a lot of information from just smelling urine, so imagine what a reeking fresh one must tell— information overload.
Dogs tend to eat cat faeces because it contains a lot of protein. The dogs don't taste the shit; they taste the nutritional value. That's also how they can eat dog food because it's not like that tastes too far from shit either.
Other species' faeces also contain a lot of enzymes that help dog's digestion systems.
If a dog eats its own poop, it could mean that it has consumed too much food, which leaves leftover nutrition in its dung. Dogs don't like to waste, apparently.
5. Still a puppy
Puppies are curious by nature and will put everything they stumble over into their mouths, just like human babies. They'll eat sand and dirt and not even complain.
Don't be concerned if your puppy eats faeces. It is still young and will need some time to figure out what is food and what's not. However, if your baby eats faeces, then you probably have a reason for concern.
6. The dog is desperately bored and tries to get your attention.
A dog without enough stimuli could push limits to get the attention it needs. In some cases, the dog can eat its own poop out of boredom.
It has probably been experienced on previous occasions that their owner will react if it eats poop. And boy, is it right.
How to prevent your dog from eating poop
In rare cases, this behaviour can be due to medical reasons: malnutrition or madness. But usually, it is just a harmless, disgusting habit.
However, you can do a few things to prevent this behaviour, at least to some extent.
Doggie bags, pick up after yourself!
Your safest bet will probably be to pick it up and dispose of it after your dog defecates. By minimising the accessibility, it will happen less often. That way, you also avoid forming a new habit. That way, you might also help another dog owner stop his dog from eating your dog's poop.
Keep your dog away from shit piles.
Don't text and walk your dog at the same time. Pay attention to what your dog is doing, even when sniffing around in tall grass and bushes. It might come across an already digested bagel and have a bite from it before you notice if you don't pay attention.
It is possible to teach your dog to let go. If it eats something it should not, you can say 'let go' and make it associate that command with getting a real treat. Positive reinforcement is key. This might take some training, but it can potentially save you the trouble of having a dog with a really smelly breath.
Dogs eat dung for different reasons. Puppies will often grow out of this behaviour as they age.
If it doesn't grow out of it, you need to pay attention as you walk your dog and potentially train it to prevent unwanted consumption.
If this problem remains and you think your dog does it because it has a medical condition, contact a vet.
And remember, it is pretty common for dogs to have this behaviour, so there is unlikely a reason to be concerned. It is just a little gross.