Coprophagia Advice

Coprophagia is a common behavioural problem seen in dogs. It is an ingestive behaviour involving the consumption of a dog's own (or another dog's) faeces. Coprophagia is a normal behaviour seen in bitches with a litter of puppies, but at any other time (or in male dogs) it is an abnormal behaviour.

It can be seen at any age but is more commonly seen in puppies. The behaviour may develop in puppies through faulty learning from the mother and litter mates, incomplete toilet training or through playful and investigative behaviour.

In adult dogs, coprophagia can be associated with time spent in a rescue centre, overcrowded living conditions or poor training. Dogs fed on a restricted diet may indulge in scavenging and coprophagia to fulfil their appetite.

Bored, unstimulated puppies and adult dogs may display coprophagia to provide stimulation. Puppies may grow out of the behaviour, but adult dogs tend to require training from their owner. Coprophagia is seen either in the home or on a walk. Be patient during training as coprophagia is a self-rewarding behaviour for your dog. Dogs can become very opportunistic with the behaviour and can quickly learn to run off before you reach them! Consistency and repetition are key to solving this behaviour.

Coprophagia in the home

  • Keep your garden clean and free of any faeces.

  • Don't allow your dog to be unsupervised in the garden until it has been to the toilet. Restrict your dog's access to the garden, so you are able to correct any attempts at stool eating more easily.

  • After toileting, teach your dog to come to you and sit for a high value reward. Then you can clean the faeces up (without the dog being present).

  • Using a lead can help to bring your dog back to you while they are learning the new routine.

  • Adding an aversive taste to the faeces such as a 'no chew' spray can make the behaviour undesirable, but training should still be used.

  • Any attempts to sniff or ingest faeces should be corrected with a 'leave-it' command. As your dog 'leaves-it' you should reward your dog with its high value reward.
  • Coprophagia on a walk

  • Keep your dog on a lead until the behaviour has stopped.

  • Depending on the severity of the problem you may need to use a short lead, or a recall lead, to control your dog's movements.

  • Make walks more interesting and fun, and don't allow your dog to spend long amounts of time sniffing.

  • Introduce training and games to keep your dog's focus on you and increase the control you have over your dog.

  • Maintain interaction with your dog by introducing toys such as fling-ball, Kong on a rope or an Orka Flyer.

  • Any attempts to sniff or ingest faeces should be corrected with a 'leave-it' command. As your dog 'leaves-it' you should reward your dog with its favoured treat. (See below for how to teach your dog to ‘leave-it’.)
  • 'Leave it' training

  • Start training at home, indoors, at a time when your dog is quiet and calm. Ask your dog to sit, so that it focuses on you.

  • In one hand have some standard food, such as your dog's kibble, and in the other hand have an extra special treat.

  • Hold the hand that is holding the standard reward ‘out flat’ in front of your dog. As your dog approaches, close your hand. If your dog withdraws, say 'yes' and reward with the extra special treat.

  • Give your dog a few seconds rest and start again.

  • Open your hand again, and if your dog doesn't go in to get the treat say 'yes' and reward with the extra special treat.

  • If your dog does go in for the treat, repeat point 4 until it waits when you open your hand. Then reward as point 6 describes.

  • Once your dog understands the behaviour, and you've practised this for a few days, the next step is to add a word cue. Continue training the same way as you have been but now say "leave it" just as you begin to extend your hand (with the standard treat) towards your dog. This word cue will, over time, become associated with your dog's behaviour.

  • Repeat training to strengthen the command. Train in different places with different types of food and distraction to help your dog's learning.

  • Then start to use the command to teach your dog to leave stools it may try to eat on a walk or in the garden. Reward every time with your dog's extra special treat to make the ‘leave-it’ worthwhile.
  • Do you have a question the OSCAR Helpline Team can help you with? You can contact the team on 0800 195 8000 or by email

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