Whether or not you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably seen a dog eat poop one way or another, whether it’s another animal’s poop or their own. After seeing this, you’ve understandably asked yourself the same question everyone asks, “Why do dogs eat poop?” You know it doesn’t smell good and it certainly can’t taste great, but that doesn’t seem to deter or bother some dogs at all. Surprisingly, there are several reasons a dog may eat poop, and not all of them are abnormal or unhealthy, though you may be able to find an underlying illness if your dog suddenly started eating poop.
Normal/Healthy Reasons Dogs Eat Poop
Not all reasons a dog eats poop are necessarily abnormal, or even unhealthy, but you shouldn’t encourage poop eating nonetheless.
Poop Might Be Delicious?
Rather surprisingly, some animal poop can be quite tasty to dogs and they may not be able to resist taking a bite when they can. This is likely because a different animal’s poop contains nutrients in it that a dog’s poop doesn’t have, therefore making it an easy, although gross, way for your dog to get an extra bite to eat. Historically, dogs have been scavengers, so eating the occasional bit of animal poop isn’t all that bad for them. You shouldn’t actively encourage this though, as animal poop can still contain bacteria that are harmful to dogs and could make them sick.
They have Nursing Puppies
When mother dogs nurse their puppies, it also means they make sure to take care of every other aspect of the puppy’s life because they aren’t able to yet. This includes cleaning the puppy, and yes, that includes their butt. When cleaning puppies, mother dogs eat their puppies’ poop until they are weaned. They do this to keep the puppy clean and healthy so they don’t get any bacterial infections and to make sure the area the mother lays in to nurse the puppies is also clean, because dogs and people alike don’t want to lay in poop.
Abnormal/Unhealthy Reasons Dogs Eat Poop
It becomes unhealthy and abnormal for a dog to eat poop when it’s their own poop. Eating their own poop may be an indicator of a sudden physical illness, or they’ve learned the behavior from certain circumstances in their life.
If a dog develops intestinal parasites or other gastrointestinal issues, they may start eating their own poop. If your dog doesn’t normally eat their own poop, be on the lookout for other symptoms that it’s time to go to the vet, such as weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Sometimes, when a dog gets anxious, especially if they’re confined, they may poop and eat it as a displacement coping mechanism to deal with their anxiety. This usually happens for a few reasons, such as separation anxiety, boredom during confinement, general anxiety, or anxiety about being kenneled. If you can easily determine a cause, do your best to fix it so they’re happy.
They Want Your Attention
Dogs can quickly learn as puppies that eating their own poop, or simply picking it up, is a great way to get someone’s attention. This can lead to you trying to get them to drop it and “chasing” after them, which may seem like playing to them. As they grow up, they may have learned that eating their poop or acting like they will is a great way to get your attention to get you to play with them, or just to be with them because they love you and always want you to engage with them.
Occasionally, a dog might develop the habit of eating their own poop out of fear. This is because they may have been harshly punished during house training and don’t want to repeat the punishment, so they eat their own poop to hide any evidence they had an accident in the house out of fear. If this is the case, it’s best to start using positive reinforcement when it comes to their bathroom habits.
When we ask ourselves, “Why do dogs eat poop?” the answer isn’t always obvious. No matter the reason, you should do your best to discourage the behavior and reinforce good habits.