Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a wide range of conditions and while some of these are physical, others are psychological. They also display a wide range of behaviors and these can vary from one dog to the next. Many of these conditions and behaviors have unusual names and one that you may not have come across is coprophagia. Although this is a name that you may not have heard of before, it is surprisingly common among dogs and it is a behavior that your dog may display without you even realizing it. So, what exactly is coprophagia and how can you fix this problem?
What is Coprophagia?
Coprophagia is simply the medical term used to describe dogs eating their own poo. This is not uncommon, so you may have seen your dog doing this before. Some dogs do this more often than others and there are several reasons for this behavior.
Why Do Some Dogs Eat Poo?
To a human, the thought of eating feces is disgusting. However, it is not a disgusting act to dogs. In fact, it is normal canine behavior and not something about which you need to worry. Experts have many theories about the causes of this behavior. One such theory is that it is the root of domestication. Wild dogs would eat human refuse that they had left outside their settlements and this is how dogs became domesticated animals. Once they had found such an area, a dog would mark it with their excrement and then eat it.
Another theory is that there is some nutritional value in eating poo. Dogs have a different digestive system to humans, and they can cope with eating excrement. It gives them the chance to absorb any nutrients that were not absorbed the first time they passed through the dog’s digestive system. A further reason for dogs eating their poo is that they simply enjoy doing so. Female dogs also eat their offspring’s poo for the first four weeks after their birth. The reason is not known, but it is perfectly normal for dogs to do this.
Can You Stop a Dog from Eating Poo?
Although it is normal behavior for dogs to eat their poo, it is not a desirable behavior in domestic dogs, especially if you let your pet lick your hands or face. Therefore, you may wish to take steps to try and stop your dog from displaying this behavior. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to prevent coprophagia.
The first step is to keep your garden or yard clear. If you clean up the dog poo straight away, it does not give your dog the opportunity to eat their own feces. This is the simplest measure to take and is something you can start straight away with very little effort.
Another measure you can take is to train your dog to stop the behavior. Although this can take a while, it is worth putting in the effort, especially if your dog eats its own poo regularly. To train your dog out of eating its poo, you can use some of the commands that you already implement.
One of the most important commands in this process is ‘leave it’. If this is a command you already use with your dog, you can start using it for this situation, too. On the other hand, if you do not already use this command, you will have to train your dog to understand this first.
Practice telling your dog to leave other items first by saying ‘leave it’ in a firm voice. When they follow the command, give them a treat as a reward to reinforce this positive behavior. Once they have mastered this command for other items, you can apply the same tactic to stop your dog from eating poo.
It is important that your dog can learn not to eat the poo, even if you are not around to tell them to leave the poo alone. One way to do this is to watch your dog through the window when they are outdoors. If you observe them walking past the poo and not eating it, then you can offer them a treat as a reward in the same way you do when they obey verbal commands. Hopefully, using these strategies will cure your dog’s coprophagia.