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Eating Feces and Other Things That Aren't Food

While dogs can ingest most anything, eating rocks, socks, or feces seem to be the Big Three that prompt calls to us. Dogs may also gulp down items they’ve taken from the trash when owners rush to take things away from them or try to pry something out of the dog’s mouth.

Some items that your dog ingests can create life-threatening intestinal blockages, so your dog’s life may depend on stopping this behavior. The technical term for this behavior is pica – eating things that aren’t food.

Eating feces is called coprophagia. Dogs are prone to eating both their own and other animal’s feces, but we’ve never known cats to do this. Coprophagy is often more bothersome to people than it is to dogs. People become annoyed by feces eating when it causes the dog to vomit, creates bad breath, or because the behavior just seems disgusting. Learn more about this behavior and options to prevent it from our audio CD described below.

The simplest intervention is to keep your yard and house picked up. Clean up feces daily from the yard. If your dog likes to eat socks, don’t leave socks lying around. If you can’t keep your pet away from the items, use harmless “booby-traps” such as the SSSCat™ , which you can read more about below.

Some experts believe that prying and pulling items out of dogs’ mouth when they have something they shouldn’t is one cause of pica. Avoid doing this and instead teach your dog to “give” what’s in his mouth when you ask him to. Learn how to do this from our “Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy” book described below.

Some over the counter products are sometimes effective in stopping coprophagia. These products work some of the time with some dogs, but are not consistent in their effects. Other products are available only through your veterinarian so you should ask which ones your veterinarian believes would be best for your dog.

If these general suggestions aren’t working, and especially if the pica is causing life-threatening blockages, you should seek professional help, preferably from a certified applied or veterinary behaviorist. Read our guidelines for choosing a behavior consultant. .


Our audio CD Understanding Dogs That Eat Poop: Coprophagia thoroughly explains what is known about this behavior and gives you a variety of strategies to manage and modify it.

The SSSCat is a motion detector that emits a harmless spray and hissing sound when triggered by movement. Strategically place it in front of items you’ve baited your dog with. Designed not only for cats but small or easily frightened dogs, this product is also useful for counter surfers and trash trowlers. Can also be used to discourage housesoiling and urine marking.

Animal Behavior Associates - Helping Fido
4994 S. Independence Way
Littleton, CO 80123

Phone: 303-932-9095
Fax: 303-932-2298