Coprophagia – Why Do Beagles Eat Poop and How to Stop It

Why Do Beagles Eat Poop – Coprophagia (Poo Eating)

Dogs eating poop, their own or that of other animals, is such a common problem that there is a name for it ‘canine conspecific coprophagy’ or the more widely used term ‘Coprophagia’. Many dogs, not just beagles exhibit this behavior, such that veterinarians consider dogs eating feces as normal for dogs.

A Quick Summary of the Beagle Breed

The beagle breed is a compact, yet sturdy member of the hound family. The beagle was originally bred for hunting wildlife such as rabit and game, using their excellent sense of smell, stamina and strong bite force. These hunting skills also meant they are excellent scavengers, always on the lookout for their next meal. This trait is perhaps one of the reasons that some beagles will like to eat poop as it was readily available when in their natural environment of the hunt.

Why do Beagles Eat Poop?

Dogs eating poop is often attributed to a nutritional deficiency or mental problem that is causing this odd behavior. However, there’s no known connection between diet and this condition.

While we as humans consider this behavior as gross, to dogs it’s just an unpleasant habit.

Before I share my own experiences of the four different beagles I have lived with and them eating poop, let’s explore some of the more common reasons put forward as to why dogs in general might eat their own or other dogs poop.

While researching the topic of canine conspecific coprophagy I carried out a search on google, which provided the following reasons as to why dogs might eat poop;

  1. Nutritional deficiencies. Though there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for this it still seems a popular reason given for dogs eating stools. 
  2. Underlying medical issues. For example, If your dog is eating its own poop, the stool may consist of undigested food. That’s an indication of a potential medical issue or perhaps poor quality dog food and lack of essential nutrients.
  3. Intestinal Parasites. These can be a serious health problem and should be treated by a vet as soon as possible to avoid disease.
  4. Mother dogs may do it to clean up when nursing –  Nursing female dogs often eat the poop of their young to keep their living area clean.
  5. Hungry – dogs may simply eat feces because they are hungry and view poop as food. If you have a beagle, you will know that they are always hungry and greedy and will never pass up the opportunity of a free meal.
  6. Greed – Some dogs just love the taste.
  7. Attention Seeking or Boredom – Some dogs will associate you yelling at them when you do something wrong as a way to get attention to help alleviate their own boredom.
  8. Inappropriate Association with Food – if a dog is allowed to poop in an area where they eat, they might associate everything in that area as food.
  9. Sign of anxiety – when your beagle is left alone for long periods they may start to show signs of separation anxiety, symptoms can include eating their own poop.

The Paradox of Canine Conspecific Coprophagy – A Study

Of all of the research I did to find out facts about canine conspecific coprophagy the research ‘The paradox of canine conspecific coprophagy’ stood out with some interesting information.

To summarize the research concluded;

  1. Coprophagia is a common problem in dogs, affecting 10-25% of puppies and 1-2% of adult dogs. (Reference: Landsberg, 2020). Coprophagia is the medical term for eating feces. It is a common problem in dogs, especially puppies. There are many reasons why dogs eat feces, including medical conditions, nutritional deficiencies, and behavioral problems.
  2. There are many reasons why dogs eat poop, including: (Reference: Landsberg, 2020);
    • Medical conditions: Some medical conditions that can cause coprophagia include parasitic infections, pancreatic insufficiency, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
    • Nutritional deficiencies: A lack of vitamins, minerals, or essential fatty acids can also cause coprophagia.
    • Behavioral problems: Boredom, stress, anxiety, and pica (a craving for non-food items) are all behavioral problems that can lead to coprophagia.
  3. To diagnose coprophagia, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam and blood work to rule out medical conditions. (Reference: Landsberg, 2020).
  4. If you are concerned that your dog may be eating feces, it is important to take them to the veterinarian for a checkup. The veterinarian will perform a physical exam and blood work to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing the problem.
  5. If no medical condition is found, your veterinarian will work with you to develop a behavioral treatment plan. (Reference: Landsberg, 2020). If the veterinarian rules out any medical conditions, they will work with you to develop a behavioral treatment plan. This may include:
  6. Changing your dog’s diet to make it less appealing: Some dogs eat feces because they are bored or stressed. Changing your dog’s diet to a more stimulating and satisfying one may help to reduce coprophagia.
  7. Providing your dog with more exercise and enrichment: Dogs that are bored or stressed are more likely to engage in destructive behaviors, such as coprophagia. Providing your beagle with more exercise and enrichment can help to reduce boredom and stress.
  8. Teaching your dog to leave poop alone: There are a number of training techniques that can be used to teach your dog to leave poop alone. These techniques may include positive reinforcement, such as giving your dog a treat or praise when they leave poop alone, or negative reinforcement, such as giving your dog a mild correction when they try to eat poop.
  9. Using aversives, such as a spray or shock collar, in severe cases: In severe cases of coprophagia, your veterinarian may recommend using aversives, such as a spray or shock collar. However, it is important to note that aversives should only be used as a last resort and should be used under the supervision of a qualified veterinarian or behaviorist.
  10. Coprophagia can be a frustrating problem, but with patience and consistency, most dogs can be cured. (Reference: Landsberg, 2020).
  11. Coprophagia can be a frustrating problem, but it is important to be patient and consistent with your treatment plan. With time and effort, most dogs can be cured of coprophagia.

Additional tips for beagle/dog owners:

  • Pick up your dog’s poop as soon as possible. This will reduce the temptation for your dog to eat it.
  • If you have multiple dogs, make sure to pick up the poop of all of your dogs. This will help to prevent your dog from eating the poop of other dogs.
  • If your dog eats poop despite your best efforts, talk to your veterinarian. They can help you to develop a treatment plan that is right for your dog.

Citation link.

The research on coprophagia in dogs that I am citing in my previous responses was carried out by Gary Landsberg, DVM, MSc, DECAWBM (Canine and Feline Behavior Medicine), DACVB (American College of Veterinary Behaviorists), and was published in VMS3 in 2020.

Gary Landsberg is a renowned veterinarian and animal behaviorist. He is the author of several books on animal behavior, including “Behavior Problems of the Dog” and “Small Animal Clinical Nutrition.” He is also a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

VMS3 is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes research on veterinary medicine and surgery. It is published by the Wiley Blackwell publishing company.

Though not a scientific study, for more information on the topic of dogs eating poop check out the American Kennel Club (AKC) article.

My Own Experiences of Beagles Eating Poop

A beagle taking a poop

I have owned four beagles to date (2023), two of them ate poop, two have not. Interestingly, the first two beagles ate poop, and my current two do not. Eating poop is definitely one of the worst cons to owning a beagle.

From studying the behavior of all four of my beagles over the years I feel that they have a tendency to copy each other’s behaviors. My first Beagle, Bracken, was the worst for eating poop. Bracken would eat fresh and old poop, even frozen poop. When I got my second beagle, Polly, she came to live with me at 12 weeks old, and the breeder told me she had shown no signs of eating poop.

Within a few weeks of living with Bracken, Polly had copied her behavior and also started to eat poop, though not as prolifically as Bracken. 

As beagles are greedy hounds, I felt that Polly thought she was missing out on a tasty meal when Bracken would find herself a poop to eat, so Polly copied her.

I tried everything, including most of what is written above, but none of it made much difference. The only way to stop them is to keep them on a leash at all times, which is not always practical, or fun! In the end off leash training was the only we could have some semblance of control over her.

I think that if a dog has a liking for eating poop then they will do so whenever presented with the opportunity, it’s down to us as responsible dog owners to minimize the opportunities and have the dog checked by a vet for issues.

My current two beagles do not eat feces at all. It is probably just a coincidence that my current beagles don’t eat poop rather than one learning from the other, but I’m glad they don’t!

8 Ways to Stop Your Beagle From Eating Poop

Pick up your dogs poop and dispose of responsibly
Pick up your dogs poop and dispose of responsibly

Here are a few hints and tips to minimise the amount of opportunities your pup may have to eat poop.

  1. Clean up the poop immediately – I guess this is obvious, but as soon as your puppy has pooped, clean it up and remove the temptation for them to eat it. Tip – Use some disinfectant to remove odour to discourage them from defecating in the same spot and returning for a snack.
  2. Training at home – It’s a good idea to teach the commands to your dog. Teaching them commands like ‘leave it’ will help you control your dog when they pick something up that you’d like them to leave. Use treats as a reward/exchange for food driven dogs such as beagles
  3. Clear Commands – Again, by training your beagle with a clear command to leave something your dog can be in no-doubt as to what you mean when you ask them to leave the poop alone.
  4. Supervise Beagles on walks – All dogs love to run off the leash, especially beagles, but if your dog is eating poop then you will need to keep them on a leash until you know there is no poop around.
  5. Avoid crate accidents – If you use a crate for your beagle ensure they have plenty of opportunity for pooping and peeing outside. This usually means a quick walk or access to a yard before bed time to ensure they don’t poop in their crate at night or in the day when you are at work.
  6. Nutritious diet – Feed your dog a healthy and nutritious diet. A good diet will stave off hunger for longer for your dog and improve digestion and keep a healthy bowe and maintain good probiotic health. In turn, this may lead to eating less poop, and if they do ingest their own poop at least you know your dog is eating quality food.
  7. Visit your vet regularly – A visit to the vet is for two reasons, for preventive healthcare to avoid the risk of worms etc, and digestion check-ups and for issues if your beagle has eaten too much of something and has a stomach upset.

Things You Should Avoid

  1. Using a Muzzle – While muzzles can have a place for aggressive dogs or when training for most dogs it should not be considered a long term solution until all other methods have failed.
  2. Punishment – Never sold your dog or rub their nose in the feces as punishment. Training should always be done using positive reinforcement techniques.
  3. Don’t Indirectly Reward Them – Try to ensure that when you reward your dog for leaving a poop that you do so in the correct way. For example, use your ‘leave it’ command, and only reward the dog if they respond directly to the command.

How to Clean a Beagle’s Mouth After They’ve Eaten Poop

Unfortunately, its not always possible to stop your dog eating poop. When they do eat poop it’s important to clean out their mouth as quickly as possible to remove all harmful bacteria. Cleaning their mouth is not just for their hygiene, but your own. Our dogs love to lick and give kisses, the last thing you want them to do when they have eaten feces!

Finally, don’t feel bad if your beagle does eat poop, you are not alone, many other dog owners also have to deal with this unpleasant trait, and if you have a beagle or any dog for that matter, that does’t eat poop, count yourself lucky!


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