This is a socially unacceptable behaviour for us humans it's unygenic and can spread disease but for dogs it's not such a big problem. There are many reasons why your dog may start to eat it's own faeces or that of other dogs, we'll look at those reasons and how we may stop them or avoid them.
1. Diet - A poor quality diet may not be providing the correct nutrition for your dog, so they are eating the faeces to process it again to get more nutrition.
2. Again diet related - the faeces still smells like food and the puppy is hungry so they eat the food again, this is related to the ingredients of the food, some are not broken down by the dog and some lower quality foods my be sprayed to make them smell more enticing to the dog.
3. Your puppy may not fully understand where you want it to go or you are missing the signs of your puppy asking to go so it goes when its caught short or just can’t hold it any longer and has learned to eat it’s faeces to tidy it away from you. This is often a reactionary because you have done something to make the puppy think this is the thing to do, and they only eat it more quickly if you start to react more quickly. Also puppy may be scared - lets face it going to the toilet makes us vulnerable so he may be too scared to go outside yet inside he feels safe.
4. Innate behaviour - bitches often show an innate behaviour to clean up other dogs faeces, this is to do with keeping pups clean as they grow and keeping possible predators away, be reducing smell.
5. Lack of enzymes - they will often eat faeces to gain bacteria or gut flora to help their own digestive systems
6. Learned Behaviour your dog may have seen another dog do this and learned from it and after a while even with a better quality diet provided the behaviour may become ingrained and habitual and we all know how hard it is to break a habit.
How stop stop Pica or do your best to avoid it.
1. Change the diet
2. There is a suggestion Feeding pineapple or courgette can stop pica. The idea is that the enzymes in these, once they have passed through the dog, will put them off eating the faeces but in my experience this doesn’t actually work, although there is nothing wrong with improving the diet my adding these fruits and vegetables.
3. Back to basics with toilet training take your dog out regularly and reward your dog when it goes in the right place and maybe add a cue word so you can get your dog to toilet when you ask it.
4. don’t react when your dog goes to the toilet instead throw some treats down for it to distract it while you clean up with no fuss. keeping your dog on a lead so that you can move it away from the feaces, while you pick up, means that the dog doesn't get to act out the behaviour
5. Improve gut flora by feeding a varied diet, you can also try pre and pro biotic supplements.
6. Parasites or worms, can mean that food isn’t being absorbed properly leaving your pup hungry. So a worm count or worming treatment may solve the issue
7. Your dog may have another illness so blood tests by your vet may be needed
8. Some dogs may do it out of boredom or to get a reaction from their owner.
Remember none if these things make you a bad owner. Poor quality foods are often well advertised and well known so people assume they’re good.
Reacting when your pup does something like poo in the house is also normal but we don’t realise the effect this can have on the dog, we need to relax a little and give the dog something else to do while we deal with things.
If you have a dog with exibiting pica, speak to your vet, discuss diet, and parsites and then you can enlist the help of a trainer who can help you to create the structure to break any habits that may have already formed.
Clair Litster-Huckle has a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and an MSc Animal Behaviour and Training and has studied Canine psychology and Canine diet and nutrition.