A spotted dog pooping in the woods.
A spotted dog pooping in the woods. Photography by WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock.

Is Your Dog Eating Poop? It’s Called Coprophagia and Here’s How to Fix It

A dog eating poop — aka coprophagia — is a pretty common (albeit gross) canine behavior, but there are a few steps you can take to stop it from happening!
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Is your dog eating poop? Well, there’s a scientific name for a dog eating poop — coprophagia. I first noticed something was amiss when Mischief, my youngest dog, didn’t come in after her last potty break of the night. When I called her, she took a couple quick, habitual steps in my direction, then darted back to swallow something in the snow before running in. My suspicions about her out-of-character behavior were confirmed at 3 a.m., when she woke me out of a sound sleep by vomiting up three large puddles of … poop.

I’ll spare you the details of my early morning clean-up, other than to say that I left a window cracked for a couple hours, heating bills be damned. Instead, let’s skip over that awful night and speak of more constructive things. Namely: Is your dog eating poop? Why do dogs eat poop, and how can we stop coprophagia in its tracks?

First, why do dogs eat poop?

Girl picking up after her dog on a walk.
Why in the world do dogs eat their poop and what can you do to stop it? Photography by ©LeoPatrizi | Getty Images.

Is your dog eating poop? It’s not as weird as you think. While coprophagia is disgusting to us, it is a normal behavior for dogs. Some experts theorize that this behavior is the root of domestication. Wild canids would eat human refuse outside of settlements, and over time these animals came to resemble our domestic dogs more and more. Mother dogs eat their puppies’ excrement until the pups are about four weeks. Dogs like poop, and their digestive systems are designed in such a way that they can often gain nutrition from the waste products of other animals.

All that said, a dog eating poop is not a behavior most of us will tolerate in our companion dogs. There are some health risks to a dog eating poop, such as an increased risk of parasites (some of which are zoonotic, which means that people can get them, too). If your dog has allergies, as one of mine does, the undigested remnants of allergens in the poop of animals fed certain diets can trigger an allergic reaction.

As soon as I realized what Mischief was up to, I sprang into action. There are two important aspects to any treatment plan dealing with a dog eating poop: management and training. Let’s start with management.

How to stop a dog eating poop, or coprophagia

The more your dog practices any behavior, be it a dog eating poop or sitting politely to greet guests, the better the dog gets at that behavior. For a dog eating poop, this means preventing him from “practicing” that poop-eating behavior is of vital importance. There are several ways to do this.

  1. One of the first things I did was to thoroughly clean my yard. This was difficult, as nearly a foot of freshly fallen snow meant it was difficult for me to find old piles, but easy for Mischief with her talented canine sense of smell. I resolved to pick up each new pile as soon as it happened.
  2. Since there were still likely to be some dog poop hidden under the fresh snow, I also needed a way to prevent Mischief from gobbling up anything new she found. For this purpose, I conditioned her to happily wear a muzzle.

Management in place, I could get down to training to stop the coprophagia. While there are several food additives on the market that claim to make the dog’s poop unappetizing, these options were not available to me due to Layla’s severe allergies. If you go this route, it’s important to treat every dog in the household, or the offending dog will learn to just keep trying in order to find an unadulterated pile to munch on. These additives are not completely effective, although they can work for some dogs.

Training your dog not to eat poop

Mischief already had a pretty reliable “leave-it” cue, where she would back away from whatever she was interested in when asked. I reviewed it with her, setting out toys and treats, so that I could make sure her self control was where it needed to be. If she couldn’t ignore an open container of hot dogs on the ground while she heeled, how could I expect her to ignore dog poop on the ground when she was running around in the backyard?

We practiced lots of moving leave-its, and she was able to successfully recall and heel past all sorts of distractions. We didn’t bother to practice stationary leave-its (where the dog is sitting or lying down before the distraction appears), since these didn’t have anything to do with the real-life situation she’d be placed in.

I am now going outside with Mischief every time she goes out. She wears her muzzle if she’s going to be off-leash or if I can’t completely supervise her. If she starts to scrounge in the snow, I say “leave it” and reward her compliance with her favorite treats (a little piece of blue cheese or roast beef).

Since my goal is for her to be responsible without my help, I jackpot her with several pieces of this food and lots of praise any time she chooses to pass a pile of poop without my prompting. Over time, I will start allowing her to go out on a long leash while I supervise from the doorway, and then gradually progress to allowing her off-leash freedom again.

The final word on a dog eating poop

A dog eating poop is undoubtedly disgusting, but like all other behavior problems, it can be solved. And as anyone who has ever had to clean up a mess of the sort Mischief presented me with the other night can attest, it’s well worth the effort to coprophagia in its tracks.

If you need little extra help solving a tough coprophagia problem with your dog, don’t be afraid to call in an expert. I frequently help families with this issue through private consultations.

You may also want to try these Stool Eating Deterrent Soft Chew Supplement for Dogs by Healthy Solutions for Pets >>

Tell us: Is your dog eating poop? Share your tips and stories about coprophagia in the comments!

This piece was originally published in 2013.

Thumbnail: Photography by WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock.

Read more about dog poop on Dogster.com:

59 thoughts on “Is Your Dog Eating Poop? It’s Called Coprophagia and Here’s How to Fix It”

  1. My Jack Russell pup is deaf, I can shout no until I’m blue in the face. She’s not allowed to free run as she has no recall. I’m working on signs with her but it’s a very slow process. This eating other dogs poop has really thrown me. She’s well fed, has good food. It’s very frustrating as a lot of people here in the U.K. don’t pick up after their dogs. I do!
    I live by 2 parks so people walking their dogs have to go past my back gate to get to them. The back lane is smothered in dog poop.
    I have to muzzle my pup to stop her eating it. It’s the only thing I can do.

  2. There is also another cause for poop eating. If you have a multi-dog household, and suddenly the Alpha dog starts eating the poop of 1 of the other dogs, you should pay attention. This is a pack defense mechanism. The alpha dog is protecting (in their mind) the pack from any perceived threats by eating the poop of the Sick dog. You really need to have a Vet thoroughly check the dog whose poop is being eaten.

    1. Boy oh Boy, I’ve got one for you.
      My 18-month Tibetan Terrier poops out in the yard. If I don’t get it cleaned up in time (I’m militant about it) before long my 12-year old pug will hunt it down and eat it. The moment the TT finds out the pug ate his poop he attacks him.
      The aggression from the TT is uncharacteristic for the breed, in fact, he’s great around other dogs as well as his brother sans the poop theft problem, The two get along great 99% of the time.
      Any thoughts?

  3. I would like some advice on how to keep a dog from eating cat poop that the ferel cats in the neighborhood leave in our yard. She only eats the poop of these cats. She doesn’t eat her own or any from other dogs. If I catch her in the act, she just wolfs it down faster! It’s a losing battle! Thanks for any help!

  4. Go out with your dog, and while the dog poops, give it a name “Go poop”, then “good boy/girl”. You can also teach the dog to “Go pee”. This will help you control when they poop or pee, and if you pick up the poop each time, the dog can’t eat it and you and family members won’t step in it.

  5. I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT he eats poop. And after that he licks my kids’ faces. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

    1. Hi there,
      In addition to the advice provided in this article, we suggest contacting a professional such as a vet, behaviorist and trainer. Best of luck!

  6. I was advised by a Vet to add a little pineapple juice 1/2 teaspoon (judge size of your dog ) to my 4lb Yorky’s dog food. It stops them there is something in the juice which deters them.

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  8. I solved the dogs eating my cat’s poop by buying a large Rubbermaid container (one that you store a large amount of stuff in and cutting a large hole in the top. The dogs can’t get to the cat poop. Problem solved.

  9. Margaret Sullivan

    I had a rough collie who ate his own poop. The vet recommended pineapple. It stopped after a time but he died at 6 and a half years. I wonder if this disgusting habit had anything to do with it, despite the fact he was wormed regularly.

  10. When I discovered my dog eating poop the next time we went walking and he picked up poop I sprayed salt water into her mouth and she never did it again, actually when she comes across poop she gives it a wide berth so the fastest bit of training I ever did. Nonie

  11. Poop eating can also be caused by an underlying medical condition like EPI, so best to get your dog checked out if this is happening.

  12. Thanks for raising Cat Poop topic. I can say that
    Focus on your Dog by providing Training.
    Litter Box should be kept aside under observation and also cover it.
    Plan it
    Veterianian Consultation is a must.
    Check worms.

  13. My puppy I just adopted is 8 weeks old and eats her poop. Im sure she learned it from her mommy . Right now im just trying to clean it up as soon as she does it and telling her no in a firm voice when she tries .

  14. What muzzle do you recommend for this purpose? Our Portie is very sneaky and unless we are standing there to pick up, she will take it, run with it as though it is a game. HELP!
    We need a muzzle that is easy to put on and take off….

    1. Hi Cynthia—

      This might be a helpful read about muzzles: https://www.dogster.com/dog-training/dog-muzzles-tips-for-muzzling-your-dog

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  16. teeth were extracted. Then I switched her back to kibble and it stopped.

    2. After a head injury, everyone said switch her to raw, as it is better nutritionally. Poop eating started again and has continued though I switched back to kibble hoping she wouldn’t like it.

    3. I agree, nip it it the bud, don’t let it become a “thing” that they do. (doo)
    (couldn’t resist)

    4. I actually started to think that the higher nutrition in the food might be leading to them eating it, as it still smelled like it had nutrition in it.

    5. My chihuahua poops a lot by the toilet. I’ve wondered about putting in a litter box, but since now she is eating it, I’m worried about her eating the kitty kitter.

    6. My chi has also thrown up poop in my bed. I now have Giardia. It is awful and it lingers. Bleach does not kill it. Freezing weather does but not cold weather.

  17. I have a frenchi that is currently 7 months and has been eating his own poop and the other two dogs. I have switched his diet several times, tried pineapple, tried meat tenderizer and the deter pills from pet store. I follow him around the yard and pick it up immediately And same for the other two. He now refuses to poop outside and will wait for a free second to poop in the house so he can eat it. I’m out of options what else is left? This is at least my 20th article on the subject with no new info.

  18. Helpppp ! I have a 8mth old maltipoo who won’t stop eating her stool. I’ve tried vet recommended food and stool determeant pills but haven’t tried the hot sauce. Am I reading correctly that this won’t hurt them?

    1. I also have an 8 month female multiplexing eats her poop. I’ve tried several vet and store bought deterrents in her food but she eats the poop anyway. I been looking at shock collars but have been hard pressed not to hurt her that way. I understand what Shana is going through. I need some advice myself. Holly

  19. Keeper, my 4-year-old yellow lab, eats her own poop, the poop of other dogs, deer, rabbits–that I know of. She eats pine the bark mulch I use in my garden, twigs, grass, and virtually anything with poop in it. Until I stopped taking her to day care, she regularly came home with green stools; once with a case of giardia, and once with hook worms–she pooped pebbles with fecal matter all night, next day, and still had a fistful when x-rayed by my vet. After a month on bland diet, her stools returned to normal. I regularly pick up after her, walk her on leash, but constantly struggle to keep her off piles of deer and rabbit poop. She will NOT wear a muzzle (she scraped her face on the ground when I put a muzzle on her, developed an infection, and had to wear a lampshade for 2 weeks). As a puppy, she happily retrieved retrieving tennis balls,
    frisbees, and anything else I threw for her. Soon after beginning day care, where she got much-needed socialization, she started eating everything, thrown or found. Whenever we practice retrieving, she will enthusiastically chase, say, a ball, but as soon as she reaches it, turns away to scrounge around in the grass for whatever she can find. I suspect rabbit stool (the yard is fenced, keeps deer out, but rabbit nibbling on shrubs is apparent), and she has twice caught (and killed) rabbits–and she stubbornly refused to give them up when commanded. I’ve consulted vets & dog trainers, and I keep hoping somehow I will stumble across a solution. I’m resigned to living with this condition, but feel sorry for my companion.

  20. Sigh. That’s about all I can say right now. I rescued my 1 yr old Corgi /terrier mix in April. She is well fed (raw food plus dry –primal or stella and chewys raw btw). She CONSTANTLY will seek out other dogs’ feces to eat. Won’t eat her own but this morning before I could stop her she stuck her nose and tongue into a pile of loose stool. This is an everyday occurrence. I live in a townhouse community where I am meticulous in cleaning after her but others are not as diligent. I watch her like a hawk but she gets it before I see it usually. I see lots of terrier comments here so I’m wondering if it’s a breed thing. Other than executing anyone I find not cleaning up their dogs poop (disclaimer –that’s not real lol) I’m not sure what to do. So afraid she’s going to catch some horrible disease from one of the other dogs. Suggestions and advice welcome 🙂

  21. We pick up agter pur doga all the time. My 8 month old German Shoethaired Pointer was eating to poop off the grass in our yard immediately after the other dogs pooped. We left out some pieces and placed hot sauce on them. It helped so we thought… until he decided a better way to eat poop… while it is coming out of our other dog! I am trully loosing this battle. Arrhh

  22. I give my dog half a banana in his dry dog food morning and night, and miracle of miracles, he has stopped eating his poop.

  23. My chihuahua puppy (he just turned 1 yr) has this problem. I was able to stop him (and past chi’s) from eating the cats poop by having the litter box in the bathroom and putting up a step over gate to block them from entering. Unfortunately the sides of the gate I got for their bedroom doorway years later is too small and both chi’s can walk through the end openings. I thought I had it figured out and put up tight zip ties from top to bottom. The stinker chewed right through them. When I got home from work he was out and running around the living room. Still trying to figure out how to fix that so I don’t have to use the tall x pens to block the door.
    PS They no longer sell the first gate I bought years ago.

  24. My pug would also eat only one of my four dogs’ poo. Could never figure that out, but anyway I’ve somewhat broken her of it by being at her side in the beginning and saying No! in a loud tone. Also I cleaned up any messes immediately. After about 2 months she’ll watch the dog poo, look at me, and walk away. I don’t have to stand right by her side anymore, I can stay up on my deck.

  25. You could try sprinkling red pepper on any remaining poop. I would not recommend this if you have a rabbit nearby, though – rabbits NEED to eat their own poop, due to the way they digest cellulose in their large intestines.

  26. My Shihsu mix used to eat her own poo till she was about 2 unless I caught her at it of course never other dogs poop or our two cats poo, but she loves Canadian Goose poo and where I walk her is where they congregate because there is little traffic and beautiful lawns. I think all they do is eat and poo, a damm nuisance so I have to watch her carefully as I walk her.

  27. My boston terriers are poop eaters.. i think its a breed motivated “love”! i have bought additives to make the poop taste bad, but that does NOT work at all! Funny but BT’s tend to not like their own poop as much but give them a nice steamy pile of pug poop and they will wolf it down like nobody’s business! They know EATING is bad.. and I can catch them right before and they will back off. I dont know how they can smell it out so fast… but they zero in on it with rocket speed. And yes,,, they have errped it up too.. and I am NOT fond of that clean up procedure! I do pick the yard clean as fast as I can and have to monitor them the whole time in the yard as they CANNOT be trusted not to “indulge”!

  28. Your poop eating article has encouraged me to be more diligent in my efforts to stop Buddy’s indulgence which has gone on for years. I have a doggie door so he can come & go ad he pleases. I clean the yard regularly but am guilty of not monitoring him very well. I may try the muzzle technique when I am unable to keep an eye on him. I have another dog who has no taste for poop. (Thank God) Buddy prefers his own poop & likes to patrol the yard & pee on my other dog’s poop!

  29. My dog doesn’t eat her own poop but bunny poop and cat poop but not as much as bunny. If she sees a bunny she will chase it because she knows that it will probably leave a trail and she can get fresh. She also likes to eat dirt. I take her out on a leash and walk with her so when does try to go for the poop I can tell her “leave it” but that doesn’t always work. And of course I can’t see the bunny poop ahead of time to steer her in a different direction. Any suggestions to stop bunny poop eating?

  30. My cattle dog eats our cats poop only. My cats are indoor/outdoor, are older and stay in our fenced yard. That means they poop there too. Ive set a sandy area that the dogs can’t get to for them to use, but they still poop in other areas. Not sure what to do next. Help!!

  31. While my dogs don’t eat their own poop that I’m aware of, they love the cat poop. They have even gone as far as breaking the autoscooping box open to get it and destroying covered boxes. Any suggestions there. We are qorking on the leave it but thats not going so well.

  32. We had a rat terrier who would not eat her own poop but would eat the poop of our bichon.
    We fed the bichon pineapple (fresh or canned) every day…about a half of a pineapple “ring.” He was about 12-15 lbs.
    It took maybe a week or so but the terrier backed off!
    Good luck!

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