Coprophagia is the consumption of feces by an animal. As pet owners, we are mainly concerned about this behavior when it is practiced by our dogs. For some strange reason we humans find it to be a disgusting behavior!
There are different types of Coprophagia.
Autocoprophagia - This is when an animal eats its own feces.
Intraspecific Coprophagia - This is when an animal eats feces belonging to another animal of the same species.
Interspecific Coprophagia - This is when an animal eats feces belonging to another animal of another species. (Dog eating deer, rabbit etc feces)
When a female has a litter of puppies she often cleans up after her pups and so does practice a form of Coprophagia. This practice is quite normal because of the circumstances and obviously, as the puppies get older this behavior stops.
Puppies may pick up this habit after watching their mother but normally they will grow out of it. They may take a while to grow out of this habit however if they are denied easy access to food.
Dogs will engage in this activity because it gets them attention. The attention may be in the form of a reprimand but to the dog, it is still attention.
Dogs will learn this behavior from other dogs. So if you have a dog that already does this and you get another dog, chances are your new dog will pick up this habit also. It always seems like the bad habits are the easiest to learn!
Coprophagia is usually just seen as a disgusting habit that does not cause any harm. This, however, is not completely true as dog feces can carry canine viral diseases. Therefore the eating of infected feces can cause health issues.
There are various ways to treat this problem. The most popular method is to make the feces taste bad. This can be done by putting something in the feces before your dog has a chance to eat it. Make sure that what you are using is not harmful to the dog. There are many chemical treatments on the market that you can safely use.
The best way to really stop this behavior is not to allow your dog access to the feces. The pet's area should be thoroughly cleaned and the dog should be closely supervised when outside. Any messes should be cleaned up immediately.
In extreme cases, your dog may have to be muzzled so they cannot have access to the feces.
A dog we had a few years ago engaged in this bad habit. We had two dogs at the time and our female would eat the males' poop. Our male had a digestive problem so his poop was actually quite full of nutrients (according to the vet). We gave our male some pills that would make his poop taste bad and thus stop the female from eating it. I still chuckle as I recall hearing my husband ask the vet "How good can it taste in the first place!" Obviously, to her, it tasted just great. The pills did help and we had long-term success after addressing the males' digestive problem.
Hopefully through your diligence in not giving your dog access and using something to make the feces taste bad your dog will grow out of this disgusting habit.