How To Stop Puppies Eating Poo

Eating their own or other dogs’ faeces (called coprophagia) is an unpleasant but common problem with pet dogs, especially puppies. Contrary to widely held belief it doesn’t indicate a dietary deficiency, though there are some causes that can be corrected.

They're just copying mum...

When a litter of puppies are very young, mum will lick them around the back end to encourage toileting, and ingest their faeces during the process. This serves a dual purpose in the wild as it helps to keep the den clean and prevent predators being attracted by the smell. This normally stops around the time the puppies start weaning but some puppies will pick up the behaviour and copy mum. It’s very important that faeces is cleaned up promptly in the first few months of life to prevent puppies having the opportunity to eat it.

Try changing their food...

If your puppy persists eating his or her faeces as they grow, it’s worth considering their diet. If a poor quality diet is being fed it may be that it contains a high proportion of non-digestible material. This can make the faeces smell and taste very similar to the food going in; switching to a higher quality food with a greater digestibility may help. Consider also the amount being fed - puppies grow quickly and often burn a lot of energy running around and exploring. Make sure you’re providing sufficient food to match these requirements, especially in large breed dogs. If in doubt, your veterinary practice can advise you.

Attention seeking...

Both puppies and adult dogs may eat faeces for attention, as it often provokes a dramatic response when done in front of their owners.  Although it may be difficult, try not to over-react.

Accompany your dog to toilet, on the lead if necessary. When they have finished encourage them to move away from the poo – distract them away with a tasty treat or toy. Do not worry about picking up the poo immediately as you do not want to build up any desire for your dog to “get to it before you do”. If there is someone else with you, ask them to pick up the poo once your dog is distracted, or if you are at home or alone on a walk with your dog, scatter some treats on the floor or hide a toy for them to find whilst you go back and pick it up.

Similarly, older dogs can suddenly start eating faeces due to stress.  Consider the household and routine; could anything have changed to upset your dog?  Try and add in some extra walks and one-on-one time.

How to stop this behaviour... 

There are many suggested treatments available online to stop your dog eating faeces; both commercial products and home remedies.  All are added to food, and are supposed to work by altering the taste of the dog’s stool.  Effectiveness tends to vary dog to dog – they are certainly worth trying but not all products are successful in all dogs.

Ultimately, whatever the cause eating faeces is a nasty habit that needs to be broken.  The most effective way of going about this is to physically prevent the dog eating faeces; primarily being prompt about picking up any mess as soon as it’s produced. As above, if you dog is eating another animals’ faeces, use the distraction technique to encourage them away for a tasty treat or play with a toy. Eventually they should forget the behaviour.  If your dog has a very persistent problem, it may be worth consulting a veterinary behaviourist.