The joy and companionship that come from owning a dog are irreplaceable, but every pet owner knows that dogs can sometimes exhibit bewildering or downright repulsive behaviours. Among these confusing activities is the act of eating poo, known clinically as coprophagia. While this behaviour may manifest within the home, it can also occur in public settings, adding another layer of concern regarding hygiene and social norms. This comprehensive blog aims to explain why your dog may be inclined to eat poo and what actionable steps you can take to address this perplexing habit.

Understanding Coprophagia: Why Do Dogs Eat Faeces?

Instinctual Traits

In the wild, the ancestors of today’s domesticated dogs had a practical reason for eating faeces: survival. Consuming their own waste or that of their pack mates helped eliminate odour traces that could attract predators. While the domestic dogs of today no longer have to worry about predators in the same way, this instinctual behaviour could still be influencing them. It’s not uncommon for mothers of newborn puppies to eat the faeces of their young to keep the den clean and scent-free. This is an evolutionary trait that prevents predators from detecting the vulnerable young.

Nutritional Gaps

If your dog’s diet lacks certain essential nutrients or digestive enzymes, it may resort to eating faeces as a makeshift dietary supplement. Commercial dog foods are generally designed to offer a balanced range of nutrients, but sometimes they may fall short. Always consult your vet to ensure that the food you are providing is appropriate for your dog’s age, size, and health condition. Dietary inadequacies are among the more straightforward reasons to rectify, and doing so could put an end to the behaviour.

Curiosity and Exploration

Young dogs, just like human toddlers, are keen on exploring the world through their senses, and this includes taste. Puppies may experiment by eating faeces during their sensory discovery phase. While most dogs grow out of this behaviour, some may continue into adulthood if not properly guided. As owners, it’s essential to redirect this curiosity towards healthier and more hygienic activities.

Black working cocker spaniel puppy with yellow ball

Behavioural Issues

Boredom or attention-seeking can also serve as triggers for this peculiar activity. In households where dogs feel neglected or under-stimulated, eating faeces may be an unorthodox method of seeking attention or stimulation. Therefore, addressing your dog’s emotional needs and providing sufficient mental and physical engagement could alleviate this behaviour.

Medical Conditions

Finally, it’s crucial to consider that your dog could have an underlying health condition. Certain ailments, such as issues with nutrient absorption, gastrointestinal problems, or even parasitic infections, can increase the likelihood of coprophagia. A veterinary evaluation is critical for ruling out these concerns.

The Public Problem: Dogs Eating Poo in Public Places

Why Does It Happen?

Seeing your dog eat another dog’s poo in a public setting can be both embarrassing and concerning. While the motivations at home and in public are generally similar, being outside offers dogs a variety of faecal options, from various animals, that they might not get at home. This “buffet” of options can sometimes exacerbate the habit, making it a more common occurrence during walks or outings.

How to Prevent It

Vigilance is your first line of defence when out in public with your dog. Keep a watchful eye on your pet’s activities and consider using a shorter lead for better control. Training your dog to obey commands like “leave it” is a valuable asset in public spaces and can help in immediate intervention. Carrying distractions like toys or treats can also divert your dog’s attention away from faeces. If you notice that your dog frequently indulges in this behaviour at specific times or locations, consider altering your walking routine to avoid these triggers.

What Can You Do to Curb This Behaviour?

Prompt Clean-Up

An immediate step to discourage coprophagia is timely clean-up. The less time faeces spend on the ground, the less opportunity your dog has to engage in this unwanted behaviour. Some owners opt for poop bags with scents to mask the odour, making the waste less appealing to the dog.

Balanced Diet

Meeting your dog’s dietary needs can significantly reduce their interest in consuming faeces. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients can satisfy your dog’s dietary requirements, lessening their impulse to seek nutrients elsewhere. Consult with your vet for tailored dietary recommendations.

Training Commands

Effective obedience training can also serve as a deterrent. By teaching your dog to understand and follow commands such as “leave it” or “drop it,” you can gain better control over their actions. Positive reinforcement is key: reward your dog with treats or affection when they obey, creating a positive association with the desired behaviour.

Keep Them Engaged

A well-stimulated dog, both mentally and physically, is far less likely to engage in undesired behaviours like eating faeces. Interactive toys, agility training, or even just frequent playtime and walks can go a long way in keeping your dog adequately stimulated. Engaged dogs are happy dogs, and happy dogs are generally less inclined to partake in undesirable behaviours.

Regular Vet Checks

Frequent vet visits are essential for monitoring your dog’s health and any behavioural changes. Your vet can provide valuable insights into why your dog may be eating faeces and offer medical or behavioural remedies.


While the consumption of poo is a behaviour that can unsettle any dog owner, understanding its possible root causes—instinctual, dietary, behavioural, or medical—can give you the necessary insights to deal with it effectively. By using a multifaceted approach, including a balanced diet, obedience training, emotional engagement, and regular veterinary consultations, you can address this issue in a comprehensive manner, whether it occurs at home or in public settings. Society members can learn more about this topic in Ask Us Anything 23rd August 2023

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