I yanked hard at Chipper’s leash as he grabbed a mouthful of something. “Drop it,” I commanded as he tried to swallow the big solid piece. Grabbing his collar, I put my gloved hand into his mouth and pulled it out–something sausage-like, dark brown and smelly. You guessed it a poopsicle—a frozen dog turd.
According to a 2012 study performed by B.L. Hart, A.A. Tran, and M.J. Bain stool-eaters were more likely to come from multi-dog households , be greedy eaters, have been spayed or neutered, and prefer fresh stools from other dogs. http://avsabonline.org/uploads/main/2012_ACVB-AVSAB_Symposium_Proceedings_Final.pdf . This description fits both Buffy and Chipper, who I rescued from my mom when she passed away. She didn’t walk them and had a small backyard, so they were bored and confined—a perfect environment to develop this disgusting habit. I occasionally saw one of them pick up a turd “fresh out of the oven.”
There is a scientific term for this, Coprophagia, and I know it’s not supposed to be bad for the dogs; it’s just so disgusting. I’ve never had a dog do this until I acquired these cocker spaniels. I’ve been somewhat successful at keeping them from eating each other’s by keeping a clean yard, walking them and picking it up, and yelling at them when I see them even sniff each other’s poop. But walking them in the neighborhood is another story, where they can gobble down things in the dark before I have a clue.
I have looked at products in the pet stores to prevent stool eating, but since they mostly eat other dog’s stools, it didn’t seem like it would help. Hart’s paper also mentioned the very low success rate of these products.
Why do dogs eat poop?
Hart states it comes from ancestral canines as a way to protect the pack from intestinal parasites dropped in the den area. As a dog owner for over fifty years, I disagree. My dogs will eat anything that remotely smells like food, and well, digested food smells, so why not? This article mentions that dogs often like hard, well-formed stools and not diarrhea, and poopsicles (I had thought my husband made up the term!) http://www.akc.org/learn/dog-health/why-dogs-eat-poop/?utm_source=healthydog&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20160119&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRojv6XAZKXonjHpfsX74%2BooX6C1lMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ISMBgI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFT7nNMbFs3LgMXRM%3D
There can be medical reasons that your dog starts eating stools, such as:
- Lack of nutrients in the diet, or malabsorption issues
- Diseases or drugs (like steroids) that cause an increase in appetite
Some dogs may start to eat poop due to anxiety, such as:
- Being left in a small confined area for long periods of time.
- Anxiety from being punished, especially due to housetraining.
- Association with real food if they are fed close to where they eliminate (such as if they are kept in a cage for long periods.
How to reduce poop eating?
- I find the best way is to pick up their poop as soon as they defecate in the yard, or during walks. This way they don’t have a chance to eat it.
- Develop good ‘drop it’, ‘leave it’, and ‘come’ commands. Buffy and Chipper know what these mean, but often choose to ignore me. My last dog, Cassie, who did a lot more obedience training, was much better at leaving it, than these two cockers.
- Vitamins may help, especially vitamin B.
- Enzyme supplements that contain papain may help.
- Taste-aversion products, but the above article mentions that their success rate is low.
I have not tried any of the supplements, with my best method being a clean yard and training.