‘Coprophagia, to give the proper name is a natural form of behaviour which most dogs learn from puppyhood when their mother will clean up after them.
It happens more in puppies which come from rescue kennels and pet shops. It can also be started by poor house-training where owners do not clean up after the pup. Boredom is another cause. Dogs that spend long periods alone in the garden or in kennels can develop this habit. In kennels, dogs will copy other dogs doing it. Don’t rub a dog’s nose in its excrement This only teaches dogs to eat the evidence to avoid punishment. Don’t shout or chase the dog away. It will only learn to eat faster. Do remove the faeces, especially if you live in a warm climate, for they encourage mosquitoes.
You can also treat faeces with Tabasco or peppers. The dog will not find that taste very rewarding. It could be the dog is just hungry. Split the daily food ration into several portions and feed the dog three or four times a day with a higher fibre content. Alternatively, the dog could have a health problem.
There is a condition called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, where a lack of enzymes in the pancreas will result in dogs being ravenously hungry. Dogs suffering from this will eat anything.Although the eating of faeces is absolutely repellent to humans, the smell and texture is attractive to dogs.
Dogs have a different palate to our own. If all else fails, only allow the dog off lead with a muzzle. Taste is not such an important sense to dogs, despite claims to the contrary made by the manufacturers of pet foods.
Dogs have around only 3,000 taste buds compared to the 10,000 of a human so their taste factor is much lower than ours. Smell is far more important to dogs, which is why the manufacturers of dog food make sure their products smell good to a dog.
The dog has around 200 million sensitive cells in its nose compared to a human’s five million, so its sense of smell is around 40 times better than ours. A dog’s sense of smell is made even stronger by an organ in the roof of the mouth that humans do not possess. This enables it to ‘taste’ a smell, turning a weak smell into a stronger one. This sensitivity to smell, especially butyric acid emitted in sweat, enables a dog to pick out the ball belonging to its owner from several balls thrown by different people.
It also enables Bloodhounds to track an escaping convict up to 100 miles. Trained dogs can also detect the odors of heroin marijuana and cocaine hidden in suitcases even if surrounded by something strong smelling such as perfume.
Other dogs can be trained to detect the acid in nitroglycerine and the Sulphur in gunpowder for work with explosives. Dogs are even used to sniff out truffles in the ground. Some believe their sense of smell makes them suitable for infra-red detection, which helps them find humans in snowdrifts.
A dog however is not so sensitive to some smells that humans regard as important such as the smell of cooking or flowers. A dog doesn’t water at the mouth when a roast joint sizzles in the oven nor does it get much pleasure from the smell of a rose.
Thinking that a dog does appreciates these things is another sign of anthropomorphism but that is another subject.