Nature | Did You Know

Science Finally Explains Your Dog's Nastiest Habit

The Bark / NBC

It's the dirty little secret that all dog owners know, but wish they didn't.

Some dogs just love to chow down on their own poop. And no matter what we do to stop them, it can seem like there's no way to curb this gross behavior.

They look so innocent...but they love to gross you out.Loiter

While dog owners around the world have witnessed the behavior, vets and animal experts are still trying to figure out why our pets do it in the first place. A new survey may provide some answers, as well as sound advice on how to break your pet's poop addiction.

The scoop on this bad behavior comes from the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science. Researchers compared two surveys: one of 3,000 dog owners, and a smaller group who say their dogs regularly eat poop.

The results aren't for the faint of heart, but they are illuminating:

  • 60% of owners in the second survey say their dogs eat poop every day
  • The other 32% say they do it at least once a week
  • A dog's age, sex, and training don't seem to make a difference when it comes to this behavior
Poop eating is unhealthy, but not that risky.A Letter To My Dog

While the habit isn't very dangerous, vets warn it has been known to cause diarrhea and other diseases.

Thankfully, the survey identifies the best way to prevent your dog from eating poop once and for all.

While it seems you can't spot a poop-eating dog by sight, researchers have identified some traits connected to the behavior.

Dogs with this gross fixation usually live with other dogs.The Dodo
  • The offenders usually live with other dogs, so it may be a social behavior
  • Their owners describe them as "greedy eaters" who snap up any food they can find
  • 85% of misbehaving dog owners say their picky pooches only munch on fresh stool

Animal experts have also suggested a theory for this behavior connected to your dog's DNA. They say that wolves (dog ancestors) would eat their stool as a defense mechanism against parasites.

Your dog's DNA could explain their bad behavior.The Dodo

By eating their droppings before parasite eggs hatched, the wolves were defending themselves. So maybe Fido is just following his inner wolf's lead when he cleans up the backyard. (These days, your dog's poop is probably parasite-free, so there's no reason to worry.)

The survey also tracked attempts to make dogs stop eating poop, and the results were bleak. Just 2% of owners say they had success using special products like supplements.

Kawartha Now

The survey's lead researcher only has one prescription for dog owners: clean up any droppings before your dog can get to them. Rewarding your pooch when they don't eat them can also be helpful.

Does your dog do this?

[H/T: Scientific American, Washington Post]

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