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Why Do Puppies Eat Poop?

Puppies eat poop for a simple reason: puppies are impressionable beings and quickly learn behaviors from watching other dogs. But there are also other reasons.  In order to better understand the behavior, it helps to take a closer look into the behavior and how it develops. While many puppies stop eating poop as they mature, some pups may retain this behavior past puppy hood.

Let's face it: puppies eat poop and often this behavior drives owners nuts. Not only is this behavior repulsive, but it may also turn to be troublesome considering that puppies may get worms from eating the poop of other animals. On top of this, who wants to share the home with a puppy with a dirty mouth and heart-stopping bad breath? Puppy breath is supposed to be sweet and pleasant, right? 

Reminiscent of Early Puppy Hood

Many puppy owners are not aware of what puppies go through before they are welcomed into their new homes. Breeders though know the whole story. Here's a little glimpse into what happens during a puppy's first weeks.

After being born, puppies are totally dependent on their mothers. They need mother dog for warmth, food and personal hygiene. One of mother dog's main duties is cleaning up the puppies. From the day they are born, mother dog licks the puppies' bottoms which helps jump start their ability to urinate and defecate. 

Here's the thing: when puppies are born, they are unable to eliminate waste on their own. Mother dog needs to stimulate them by licking them. On top of licking the puppy's bottoms to help them expel waste, mother dog also ingests the puppy's waste. While this may sound gross, this behavior makes perfect sense. 

Back in the days when a dog's ancestors raised puppies in a den, the smell of their waste could have potentially attracted hungry predators. By ingesting the puppy's waste, mother dogs therefore, not only practiced good housekeeping, but they also protected the vulnerable puppies. 

Puppies are prone to learning from their mom and siblings

Puppies are prone to learning from their mom and siblings

A Matter of Social Learning

When puppies are young, they are very impressionable. Indeed, puppies learn a whole lot from simply watching their mothers and litter mates.

Just like kids do crazy things just because they saw a friend do it first, puppies may therefore watch mother dog or any other dog eat poop and they will want to mimic that behavior. 

Now, while some puppies may just get a sample of poop and decide to never do that again, some puppies may actually get a taste for it and will keep eating poop every chance they get.

A Taste For It

The behavior of puppies eating dog poop is something that many puppy owners find extremely revolting, but let's put ourselves in a dog's shoes for a bit. First of all, consider that dogs are equipped with only a fraction of the taste buds that humans have. 

While the average human is blessed with anywhere in between 2,000 and 8,000 taste buds in total, dogs have just a mere 1,700. This may explain why the nasty habit of eating poop doesn't seem to faze them at all. This fact, along with a dog's history as scavengers, likely explains as well why dogs eat many other nasty things such as roadkill, old trash and dead birds.

However, a dog's poor sense of taste is compensated by a very powerful sniffer. After all, if dogs found the taste of poop boring, they wouldn't keep eating it, so there must be more going on!

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Fact is, with the trade off of little taste buds but being equipped with such a powerful sniffer, what smells revolting to us may smell good to dogs. In particular, dogs seem attracted to pungent smells and poop certainly smells.

So when your dog encounters poop, he likely doesn't just smell the poop, but also all the undigested food that's in the poop, explains Jennifer Bridell in the book: "The Everything Dog Obedience Book."

A bored puppy is often a puppy getting in trouble

A bored puppy is often a puppy getting in trouble

A Bored Mind 

Puppies are very mouthy when young and they like to explore the world through their mouths. Mouthing behaviors seem to increase dramatically when puppies are bored. Just like toddlers, they tend to get in trouble if they have nothing better to do.

Poop is certainly interestingly, so with not much happening around them, puppies are drawn to mouth things and it doesn't take much for them to taste poop and even eat it if they find it appealing. 

On top of this, bored puppies may be seeking attention. Puppies and dogs in general love when they get attention from their owners' even if it's attention of the negative type.

 If every time your puppy encounters poop, you look at your puppy, rush towards him and even scold him or chase him, consider that, to a bored puppy craving attention and with nothing better to do, this may qualify as attention and therefore the poop-eating behavior may be worthy of repeating when the next occasion pops up. 

A Lack of Nutrients

It may be tempting to purchase the cheapest dog food at your local supermarket, but cheap food can mean trouble in the long term. 

Growing puppies need a certain level of nutrients to help them mature and thrive, and if you purchase a cheap food, chances are, your puppy may be lacking some essential nutrient and may therefore be seeking poop as a way of supplementing his diet. 

Now That You Know...

As seen, puppies have their own personal reasons for eating poop. Fortunately, puppy digestive systems are pretty strong and forgiving despite their dietary indiscretions, however, the introduction of pesky parasites is always a concern in puppies. So what can be done to stop the behavior? Below are some ideas. 

  • Does your puppy eat cat poop? Make the litter box inaccessible to your puppy by placing it in an area where your puppy cannot get to but your cat easily can, or invest in a dog proof cat litter box. 
  • Inspect your yard. Readily remove any animal poop from your yard the moment you notice it. Not only will this keep your yard clean, but you will also lower the chances for your puppy getting worms from eating the poop of infected animals. 
  • Talk to your vet. Your puppy may be seeking nutrients from his dog food that his diet is lacking. Your vet can recommend you a premium puppy food that provides concentrated nutrition.
  • Feed more often. Puppies who are fed once a day may feel hungry and hunger makes anything appealing. Puppies should be ideally fed two to three times a day, depending on their age. Consult with your vet for the ideal frequency to feed your puppy. 


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