Most new owners are delighted by puppy antics but puppies eating poop prompts anything but smiles. My own darling Magic indulged when he turned six months old. He’d make a beeline to visit his horse buddy next door and find the nifty treats she left on the ground. After these nasty snacks Magic always tried to kiss everybody on the lips, yuck! Then Magic started to bring his own “creations” into the house.
Why Puppies Eat Poop
Dogs commonly eat their own or another animal’s droppings (coprophagia). This is normal behavior for mom-dogs that must clean up after their babies, and some of the pups may end up mimicking this behavior. It first appears in pups at about four to nine months of age.
When we wave our hands, shout with disgust, and chase the puppy all over the yard, that’s great puppy entertainment. Chasing him can actually reward with behavior and encourage your puppy to play poopy-keep-away. Other times poop eating stems from boredom. Pups left out in the yard alone have little to occupy their time with.
Eating other animals’ waste may have to do with taste. Cow and horse manure may contain undigested corn or other ingredients appealing to your pup. The cat’s litter box may as well be a puppy snack bar. Cat food contains more protein than dog food, and as a result, feline waste tastes good to dogs. The nasty habit is not only unsanitary, it puts kitty's tail in a twist to have a dog messing with her toilet. Cats pestered in their bathroom look for another place to “go,” such as behind the sofa.
The frequency increases after one year of age. The good news is most pups outgrow the habit. The bad news is, some dogs hang on to the nasty practice their whole life. Shih Tzus appear to be more prone to the behavior.
10 Tips to Stop Poop Eating
- Puppies may eat waste to get your attention, which means even yelling rewards their behavior. If you catch Rex in the act, don’t make eye contact or speak to him, but shake a can full of pennies or clap hands to make the noise interrupt him.
- For bored pups, increase playtime to a minimum of 20 minutes. Try aerobic exercise twice each day. Increase the number of toys to keep your puppy busy when you're away, if he’s left in the yard. A treat-spiked toy such as a Kong filled with peanut butter offers a tastier, healthier alternative.
- Prevent access by walking your puppy on a leash and leading him away once he’s done. Reward him for leaving stools alone. Teach him to “come” and sit in front of you after each bowel movement—his or the other dogs’—and give him a fantastic treat while you pick up the waste.
- Some dogs may eat their own stool when it hasn’t thoroughly “processed.” A more digestible food may help. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. You’ll need to make a gradual change in the food or the sudden change could prompt tummy issues in your puppy.
- Make the stool unappealing by adding a spoonful of canned pineapple, canned pumpkin, or spinach to the pup's meal. Include a dash of MSG in the food, which changes the consistency so dogs won’t find the waste as appealing. Commercial products such as For-Bid may help.
- Scoop and clean the cat box as often as possible. Leaving droppings any length of time asks for trouble. Automatic cat boxes sweep the feces into a bin within ten minutes of the cat’s deposit.
- Place the litter box on a table or counter out of doggy reach. If the cat doesn’t object, a covered litter box might deter the dog but allow the cat access and privacy.
- Use a baby gate to keep the dog out of the cat’s domain. Some cats can jump over the standard gates, or you can install it a couple of inches off the ground so kitty can slink underneath while the jumbo-size pup can’t get through.
- Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the cat’s food so her waste becomes softer and less attractive to snacking dogs. A spoonful of canned pumpkin added to her food also changes the taste or consistency of her stool to make it less appealing, and many cats relish pumpkin as a treat.
- Finally, if you can’t be around to supervise, muzzle the miscreants.
In our case, walking on leash away from the horse, a baby gate to keep him from the cat box, and rewarding Magic with a treat after bowel movements did the trick. He’s an adult now and hasn’t “indulged” in more than four years. Good boy!
[Edited by Margaret Jones Davis]