Yuck! Eating feces is certainly one of the dog’s less endearing behaviors but it is not abnormal. Many dogs do it, whether it is their own waste or that of another animal. There are a variety of hypotheses as to the cause. Dogs that were raised in unsanitary conditions may be attempting to keep their spaces clean. It is possible that a dog who is kept in a sparse environment without toys will play with its stool because it has no other options and this can then lead to eating it. Lack of nutrients from food can cause a dog to eat feces in order to reach its nutritional needs. Dogs who get little attention except when they are being “naughty” may include coprophagia in its stock of behaviors. Punishment-based housetraining – specifically, sticking the dog’s nose in its poop – can cause the dog to eat its stool to avoid such (ineffective) consequences. Finally, there may be no other reason than he is a dog; it is thought this is a hold-over behavior from the dog’s ancestors that necessitated eating of feces in order to not draw the attention of predators.
To begin, an exam by your veterinarian is a good idea. This can rule out or address any potential health issue that is causing the behavior.
If your dog is eating his own stool, you may be able to prevent coprophagia by feeding your dog a premium-quality food. Whole meat (not meal) should be the first item on the ingredient list and, ideally, the second as well. These foods are better absorbed by the dog’s body than lesser-quality foods.
Accompany your dog at all times when outdoors. Immediately clean up any stool (if you have multiple dogs, clean up the other’s feces right away, too). Some dogs are quick and will begin to eat as soon as they finish defecating. For these dogs, teach an alternate behavior such as Leave it (here’s a step-by-step guide) or Come. If you use one of these cues every time your dog eliminates it will soon be an automatic response: in essence, the stool becomes the cue to look to you or come to you.
Be sure your pooch has a stimulating environment. Provide items such as Nylabone Edibles and treat-filled Kong toys. Teach a new behavior every week or two so that he doesn’t get bored.
There are things that you can add to your dog’s food (the food of any canine housemates) to make the stool less appetizing to him. Rinsed crushed pineapple may do the job, as could one of the commercially-available products such as For-Bid. Check with your veterinarian before adding anything to your dog’s food.
It seems there is hardly a dog that is able to resist the allure of cat feces. The best solution is to make sure the litter box is inaccessible to your dog. This may entail placing the box on an elevated surface that the dog can’t reach, using a baby gate or collar-activated cat door to keep the dog out of the room where the litter box is located, or providing your cat with a Clevercat brand box (traditional hooded litter boxes rarely thwart a dog on the hunt for a snack). You can attempt to train your dog to Leave it or Come; however, in order to be successful you must be able to do so every time the cat defecates and that is highly improbable for most people.