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Training Blog

April 29, 2022

Ask MM - My Dog is Eating Poop! Help!

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Written by: Bob Guere

Sherri McLaughlin writes, 

My dachshund eats poop. Why? He has food, water and treats available 24/7. And my Cane Corso licks everything all the time. What’s up with that?

 Dear Sherri,

With regard to your Cane Corso’s licking problem, check out my training post from last week:

http://marleysmutts.com/2014/04/ask-mm-how-can-i-stop-my-dog-from-licking/

With regard to your Doxie’s poop-eating habit:

First, a disclaimer:

This behavior, known as Coprophasia, is a relatively normal behavior, especially in puppies. Most dogs grow out of it as they age, while some do not, and for some it becomes a compulsive behavior. So many different schools of thought conjecture on why dogs do this, and there truly seems to be no conclusive answer. That being said, I will share with you what makes the most sense to me, based on my own experience working with dogs throughout the years.

Like most behaviors dogs manifest, there is probably more to the issue than meets the eye. Therefore, it takes a little detective work to figure out what is at the root of your dog’s weird habit.

Any time your dog starts exhibiting strange or unusual behavior, such as eating poo, you’ll want to ask yourself: (1) Is life stressful or chaotic around your house on a day-to-day basis? (2) Have there been any major changes to your dog’s environment lately such as a move, another pet in the household dying, or a family member moving away? (3) Did you change your dog’s food recently?

If the energy is stressful in a household, or a dog isn’t getting enough attention or exercise, he may end up chewing on things, eating what he finds in the yard, generally “escaping” into unproductive activities or keeping himself occupied doing things he shouldn’t be doing. Dogs have many different ways of communicating their discomfort or displeasure with us, and also many ways of utilizing energy that isn’t otherwise used productively. Your dog eating poo could be his way of telling you he’s stressed out, anxious, or just not getting something he needs, be it nutritionally or emotionally. Be sure your dog gets plenty of mental and physical stimulation, and healthy, productive interaction with you and other people in your family. Daily walks are always a productive way to communicate with your dog, bond with him, and give him something healthy and productive to do with his energy.

That being said, he could also be eating poop due to a lack of nutrients in his regular dog food. Many dry pet foods are made with fillers and byproducts rather than quality ingredients. If meat and whole grains aren’t among the top few ingredients listed on a pet food label, you’ll see that corn and wheat are. These are called “fillers” because they expand and make a dog feel full (for a short time). But eating a low-quality dog food essentially affects a dog the way eating a donut and coffee at 2:00p affects a person. The snack is delicious, and fills us up for a little while, but then we crash and are hungry again soon after. Not only that, but because our bodies are on the unhealthy carbohydrate and sugar-induced cycle of energy surges and crashes, we crave more unhealthy junk later on.

So, if your dog is currently on an unhealthy food, try transitioning him to something grain-free. The brands that make a grain-free variety food – Blue Buffalo, Avoderm, Merrick, Taste of the Wild, to name a few – can be pretty pricey. If cost isn’t a concern, I would recommend Blue Buffalo/Wilderness. This is really good stuff. Made mostly with meat, it is high in protein and so is a viable energy source that will keep your dog full, healthy and happy. Unfortunately, for most of us this food is too high-priced. In this case, I’ve found that that you can get the best “bang for your buck” in the Kirkland brand grain-free food. This is carried by Costco, so you can get a large bag for relatively little cost. You’ll need to take treats into account as well, because if you are feeding unhealthy treats, you will face the same issues.

Furthermore, there are many products on the market that are supposed to stop Coprophasia, but I have no experience with any of these, and so cannot affirm or deny their efficacy either way.

Regarding free-feeding:

While this is something of a different topic, I don’t recommend it. Especially if you’re attempting to figure out why your dog is eating “stuff” other than his food, keeping him on a regimented feeding schedule is key. Knowing exactly what, when, and how much he is eating will help you deduce why he is eating poop. Of course, when it comes to anything health or diet related, you should have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out allergies or any other underlying health concerns that may be causing the behavior.

I hope this helps!

Please send us a message and let us know how things are going!

 

Dog Speed,

Liz
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