It happens often that a family will catch their otherwise perfect canine in the revolting act of eating its own feces. This is known as coprophagia. As humans, we are shocked by the concept, and often angered by the act. However, as strange as it may seem, this is very normal and very common behavior in canines.
There are many reasons why a dog will begin the habit of eating feces. First and foremost is that it is in the dog’s very nature to do so. Before domestication by humans, there were many times in a dog’s life where eating feces would be beneficial or even crucial to their survival and survival of the pack. For example, a mother with her litter of pups may eat feces as a way of cleaning up to prevent the pups from getting sick. The mother sacrifices her own health to keep her pups healthy. Other adult dogs may also act in the same way as a service to the pack. Likewise, adult dogs in the wild may eat feces in and around the den in order to help mask their scent and keep their den hidden. Again, this is a sacrifice in order to ensure the den’s pups do not fall prey to other carnivores.
Of course, domestic dogs have survived with the aid of humans for thousands of years, but their basic instincts still cause them to act in this way. However, there are also a number of other reasons why a dog may eat feces. Some reasons are completely irrational. Certain dogs may start eating feces out of boredom, or because they simply like the taste. A dog may also view humans picking up feces through a plastic bag, and might attempt to mimic this behavior by picking up the feces with their mouths. Other reasons for dogs to eat feces may indicate a more serious health problem. If your canine is being fed low-quality food, it may not be completely absorbed before passing through the dog’s system. The result is that your dog’s feces may still look and smell a lot like dog food. A dog may also eat feces if it is infected with some form of intestinal parasite or worm. Both of these indicate a problem with hunger and nutrition, which may cause a dog to start eating feces in an attempt to regain lost nutrition.
Of course, while it is common and natural behavior, letting your dog eat feces is not good for its health. A protection dog, guard dog or security dog is a big investment, and it is in your best interests to ensure that your dog does not get into the habit of eating feces. If you catch your German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois or Dutch Shepherd eating feces, your first course of action should be a visit to the vet. You do not want to let a possible intestinal worm or nutritional problem go undiagnosed. The next step is to begin breaking your dog’s habit. Keeping a tight schedule is an effective way of doing this. Have your dog excrete at a certain time each day, in your presence, so that you may clean up before it is eaten. The longer your dog goes without eating feces, the less likely it will be to restart the habit.