How to Care for Your New Puppy

How to Stop Puppies From Eating Poop

10 Essential Tips to Prevent Nasty Snacking

Golden Retriever Puppy Big Tongue Smile
Stan Fellerman/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Most new owners are delighted by puppy antics but puppies eating poop prompts anything but smiles. It could be any animal's feces, too! From your cat's litter box to their own stool, even a neighboring horse or cow pasture, puppies do not discriminate in who's poo they are willing to eat. While many puppies will grow out of this phase to some extent, there are steps you can take to discourage and stop the behavior.

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Watch Now: Why Do Some Puppies Eat Poop?

Why Do Puppies Eat Poop?

Dogs commonly eat their own or another animal’s droppings. No matter what species of animal does it, there's even a technical term for it in the animal world: coprophagia.

This behavior typically first appears in pups at about four to nine months of age and the frequency tends to increase after one year of age. The good news is that most pups outgrow the habit. The bad news is that some dogs hang on to the nasty practice their whole life. Shih tzus are one breed that appears to be more prone to the behavior.

There are a variety of reasons why your puppy is eating poop:

  • 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.
  • When you wave your hands, shout with disgust, and chase the puppy all over the yard, that’s great puppy entertainment. Chasing can actually reward the 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, so they may turn to the one thing that's readily available.
  • Eating other animals’ waste may have to do with taste. Cow and horse manure may contain undigested corn or other ingredients that are 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. Not only is this unsanitary, but it also puts kitty's tail in a twist to have a dog messing with its personal toilet. Cats pestered in their bathroom will often look for another place to “go,” such as behind the sofa.
    Illustration of reasons why dogs eat poop
    Illustration: Melissa Ling. © The Spruce, 2018 

    How to Stop Poop Eating

    It is best to put a stop to this behavior before it gets out of hand. Parasites are often transmitted through feces, so having a dog who sees it as a treat puts their health at risk. There are a number of things you can do to put an end to this nasty habit:

    • Puppies may eat waste to get your attention, which means even yelling rewards their behavior. If you catch the pup in the act, don’t make eye contact or speak. Instead, interrupt the act by shaking a can full of pennies or clapping your hands loudly.
    • For bored pups, increase playtime to a minimum of 20 minutes or try aerobic exercise twice each day. If your puppy is left in the yard while you're away, increase the number of toys available. 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 it away from a pile once the business is done. Offer rewards for leaving stools alone. Teach the puppy to “come” and sit in front of you after each bowel movement—their own or the other dogs’—and offer a fantastic treat while you pick up the waste.
    • Some dogs may eat their own stool when it hasn’t thoroughly “processed.” In these instances, a more digestible food may help. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Remember to make a gradual change in the food as a sudden change could prompt tummy issues.
    • 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 as well.
    • Scoop and clean the cat box as often as possible. Leaving droppings any length of time is asking 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 its waste becomes softer and less attractive to snacking dogs. A spoonful of canned pumpkin added to cat food also changes the taste, consistency, and appeal of the stool. Many cats relish pumpkin as a treat.
    • Finally, if you can’t be around to supervise, muzzle the miscreants.