This is an awful topic, but it sometimes needs to be addressed!
Coprophagy is not a breed-specific behavior. That is, beagles are not
the only breed with dogs that sometimes gross out their owners by eating
their own stools, or other dogs' stools. In fact, it isn't even species
specific. Other animals, such as horses, hamsters, monkeys, pigs, etc.,
can also practice this disgusting ritual.
While all breeds of dogs are susceptible to bouts of coprophagy, breeds
tending to be more "anxious" are more likely to eat stools. Beagles are
not considered one of these "anxious" breeds, yet some beagles participate
in stool eating.
Dogs may eat stools of cats, other dogs, herbivores, or some may only
eat "poopsicles" (frozen poop during the winter).
Possible reasons for the behavior are widely varied, from:
- instincts (replacing vitamins or eliminating evidence of puppies
- learned behavior
- investigation/curiosity that becomes a habit over time
- being punished for potty accidents in the house
- boredom/lack of stimulation
- in rare cases, it may indicate a health problem.
So, it's natural.
But do we have to put up with it?
Coprophagy can be reduced or eliminated. Some popular tips include:
- Making the stools taste badly by feeding For-bid (for cats or dogs)
and Drs. Foster and Smith Dis-Taste (for dogs) to the animal's diet
whose stools are being eaten. Some people also feel that a little
garlic powder on the food, or spinach, pineapple, Adolph's Meat
Tenderizer®, or pumpkin do the same thing. Of these, many start with
pineapple, as it may have the best results.
- Reducing stress, if stress is the cause.
- Using a wire basket muzzle while on walks, which prevents the dog
from eating anything along the path.
- Providing more diversionary toys, such as a Kong with a treat/peanut
- Changing the diet, or feeding more meals per day (smaller, so the
daily total remains the same).
- Stop reprimanding the dog for eating stools if you have been. This
actually increases the dog's desire to eat poo.
Basically, three components of action may work together to help:
- Reduce the appealing qualities of the stools (make them taste badly,
change their texture by changing the diet of the animal producing the
- Reduce opportunity for stool eating by cleaning stools from the yard
after every outdoor visit, having the dog wear a wire basket muzzle
and/or keeping the dog on a leash so you can pull him/her away.
- Rewarding good post-poo behavior with a good-tasting treat (giving
the treat every time the dog poops and leaves it alone)