While eating poop is a nasty habit, it's a common dog behavior. This behavior is called coprophagia, a fancy term for eating feces. There are natural ways to discourage this behavior. Often, time will solve the problem. Many puppies who do this may outgrow it. However, many will not.
The easiest, most natural way to stop coprophagia is to pick up feces as soon as they are dropped. This isn't usually a problem if you take your dog for walks with a bag handy. If you send your dog out into the yard, it's a different story. Keep your eye on Fido, and either go out into the yard with him or call him to come in as soon as he's "done his business." Keep the dog pen or yard area very clean. If there's no waste product, he can't eat it.
A dog who is lacking something in his diet or whose diet contains foods that he cannot completely digest might start eating feces. Hey, you can't blame him for trying to meet his nutritional needs, even if you think it's a disgusting way to do it. Feed your dog a highly digestible diet. If the food you give him has a lot of grain in it, replace it with a primarily meat-based diet. Such a diet also will produce a reduced volume of feces. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations for a dog food that won't have your dog yearning for poop.
Some supplements or food added to your dog's diet can make the resulting feces taste nasty to him. The enzymes in fresh pineapple change the taste of feces so dogs won't eat them. Pumpkin and anise seeds may also do the trick. Supplements are available in pet food stores that you can add to your dog's food to help end the habit.
Treating the Feces
You could try putting some bad-tasting substance, such as hot sauce, on the dog droppings. The idea is that the dog eats the poop and it tastes so horrible he'll stop doing it. You could try this method, but it means that you aren't picking up the droppings right away, which is the best means of both preventing coprophagia and keeping your yard clean. You also would have to do this consistently, which means running around with a bottle of tabasco sauce and pouring it on poop. Tip: Try other remedies first.
The ASPCA recommends using a remote punishment device, such as an air horn or remote-controlled collar that releases pressurized air or citronella, to associate an unpleasant experience with feces-consumption. If you try the collar, let the dog wear it for a couple of weeks before you use it, so he doesn't associate his collar with punishment. Covertly observe your dog. The second he opens his mouth to sample, activate the device. Your dog should startle and forget the pile. You will have to do this without fail whenever he tries to indulge, until he reliably avoids feces. This means being ready whenever he's outside. You can't use the method if you leash-walk your dog for potty breaks, but then you shouldn't need it.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.