Coprophagia, what is it?

Coprophagia is a form of pica, in which dogs have a solid desire to eat non-food items. It is a relatively common problem, and whilst revolting to us, dogs frequently enjoy it. Some prefer to eat their stools; others would rather eat other dogs, or other species, namely cats, cattle and horses. However, it is a problem because it is unhygienic and increases the risk of transmission of zoonotic infections that pass from animals to people. It also increases your dog’s risk of disease and intestinal worms.

Behavioural or medical

Poo picas usually have underlying behavioural issues like

  • Attention seeking
  • Boredom
  • Hunger
  • or just because they like it

Some believe this awful behaviour is related to a poor diet and the lack of the correct nutrients. Others consider a medical condition to be underlying. A vet visit would be the most sensible option if your dog can’t wait to tuck into almost anything.

It is nature

Mothers nursing their young in a whelping box will clean up after them. She simulates them to encourage bowel movement as the pups cannot offer this reflex for themselves.

The mother will also pick up stools after her puppies, but in some situations, puppies pick up the routine whilst in the nest. It simply becomes habit-forming and generally fades away. An experienced breeder of puppies should be aware of this and expeditiously fulfil the role of tidying up.

If your dog is in tip-top condition, the next step is to establish your dog’s weight to ensure you feed the correct amount of daily food. It is common for owners to overfeed. More interestingly, if this is the case, value nutrients can pass without being absorbed, making the poo even more attractive. Avoid overfeeding indigestible vegetables and fruits. If you need to increase the daily allowance of feed, then do it slowly to stop overloading, which consequently affects digestion. Things to consider when weighing your dog’s food out are:

  • Age development stage
  • Breed
  • Lifestyle and exercise
  • Where it lives environment
  • Other training aids and treats
  • Body condition/score
  • Health status

Making changes 

If you are feeding once or twice a day, then reducing the amount and increasing the frequency of feeding to three or even four smaller meals may be advantageous.

Advantages are:

  • Promote stable blood sugar,
  • Positive effect on serotonin.
  • Helping to reduce hunger.

Hungry adult dogs may be better and happier by having a hearty daily allowance of The Dog Man’s Choice lower-calorie, gently cooked light–grain–free salmon, trout, sweet potato & asparagus. In addition, providing a larger satisfying meal without too many calories will help.

Other ideas to consider

Alleviate boredom by using interactive feeding toys like Kong

Exercise is vital – The Dog Man‘s mantra is a happy dog is a tired dog. The poo pica is less likely to try and amuse himself by tucking into something he shouldn’t

Some dogs crave attention which can lead to poo pica, so ensure your dog is on a leash or training line and clean up immediately. Above all, remain calm and avoid shouting, looking or touching.

Teaching impulse control exercises is also essential for leaving, ignoring or walking away. Over time, they should link that leaving the faeces with reward and attention is better. With time and patience, the awful habit will reduce and stop.

Deterrents and anecdotal ideas

The key to substituting a bad habit with a new one lies in understanding its nature; it is never too late, although you may need expert help and support from a qualified behaviourist like The Dog Man®. However, it can be tricky, so don’t struggle alone.

There are all sorts of deterrents, such as chilli powder pepper or grated orange zest, sprinkled over the faeces. In addition, a small amount of pineapple or grated courgette added to the diet gives the faeces a very unpleasant taste to dogs, obviously only a consideration to those tempted by their faeces.

Be aware that these suggestions are harmless and worth trying, but no objective evidence indicates that they will work.


Regular worming is also essential for poo picas and your hand-washing hygiene.

Learn from the errors of others and take a wide berth of making them yourself. 

These notes are for your guidance only and are not exhaustive. We recommend that you seek professional Veterinary and or behavioural advice.

Image kindly provided by Freepik Company
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