Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Being often asked by people, why does my dog eat poo, the simple answer is, they like it.
Ok, so let’s go back in history a little. Dogs generally were not loved, pampered and slept on our beds like they are today. There were no grooming parlours, no dog walkers, no designer collars or outfits, no seats on aeroplanes and definitely no dog physiologists or reiki practitioners.
They roamed the streets, breeding and scavenging for whatever they could find. They learned very quickly (because they are clever animals) where they could go to get scraps, who would be kind to them and where they could sleep in peace. Eating anything they could fine, including poop was part of the deal. They effectively cleaned up the streets.
Descending from wolves and befriending humans, showing that they and us could have a mutual benefit to each other was a very clever move for dogs. Gradually, they were welcomed into our homes, bred, bought and sold, they had their jobs to do weather that be guarding, hunting, herding, rescuing. In return, they have a home, a sense of belonging to a pack, they are fed and their wellbeing is looked after by us humans who they serve.
Of course, to some of us, dogs are so much more, they are our fur babies, we love them like we love our children, they are a massive part of our families and everything we do as to most of us, we would not have it any other way. They define our weekend walks, family days out and even holidays. Dog friendly pubs, caravan parks, beaches, restaurants are what we all look for as dog lovers.
So, back to the nitty-gritty of the dog poo eating. Mother dogs will frequently eat their puppy’s faeces when cleaning them; this is possibly a residual instinct. However, it turns out that not just any old poo will do. Freshness is a factor for poop seeking pups and studies show that possible parasite prevention is linked. It is widely distributed across the mammal family, rodents, rabbits, beavers, elephants and non-human primates generally view poo eating as a second chance to extract nutrients from its diet.
A Taste For It
In dogs, it was originally thought that it may have been due to nutritional deficiencies in their diets, starvation or disease but that doesn’t explain why otherwise healthy dogs get a taste for waste. What makes this behavior more puzzling is that dogs generally distance themselves from their own poo and those of other dogs. This avoidance may stem from ancestral wolves’ habits of eliminating outside their dens, perhaps to reduce the risk of infection from parasites found in their stools. Although, I have witnessed my own dog eating his own poo quite quickly after popping it down. So, where does this leave us?
Intestinal parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, pinworks and flukes in dogs faeces and the eggs don’t typically develop into infectious larval form for several days. By eating fresh poo found nearby, they are performing a type of ancestral housekeeping that reduces the risk of parasitic infection. Another unsatisfying conclusion for disgruntled dog owners is that their pooches’ poo eating habits are not easy to change. Dogs that fancy faeces are not easily deterred and regardless of the methods that owners have tried, the success rate is very low.