Can Dogs Taste Poop?

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Introduction

We've all had it happen. We let the dog out in the yard, and when we look up, the dog is in the corner munching away on some poop. Eeeeeewwwwww! It's disgusting! 

It is actually very common for dogs to play with poop and give it a taste. It's not about the flavor. There are actually a variety of reasons that dogs will eat poop and there are things you can do to manage this peculiar behavior before they lick you in the face again.

Signs Your Dog Likes Poop

Dogs have a range of feelings, just like people. They experience frustration, fear, love, and boredom. As a responsible leader for your dog, it is important to learn the signs they are showing you of their emotions so that you can manage their environment or work with them to correct any behaviors that are problematic for them and for you. 

One behavior that is common with many dogs is boredom. We all get bored and want attention, from time to time. Your dog will do things that are inappropriate, like eating poop, when they are bored. There are other reasons for poop-eating as well. If you find your dog playing with poop, consider how boredom might be a factor and go clean the yard.

If you find your dog barking and barking, this is a sign that your dog is bored and calling out for attention. Dogs will also bite and nip when they want attention. If you find your dog pacing back and forth, this is an indication your dog needs stimulation. Boredom will also lead your dog to engage in what is called excessive licking. 

These repetitive and maladaptive behaviors are your dog's way of getting needed interaction and touch. If you don't get the hint from these actions, you may even find your dog on your lap and in your face, staring to get you to notice and pay attention.

Body Language

Signs your dog is into tasting poop include:
  • Staring
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing
  • Licking

Other Signs

More signs your dog likes sampling poop are:
  • Seeking it out every time they go outside
  • Munching on it even after you have said, "no"
  • Finding and eating it on walks

The History of Dogs Tasting Poop

When you see your dog chomping on some poop, one of your first thoughts might be to wonder if they can even taste the poop. What seems tasty to the dog is not going to match what we like as humans. Humans have more taste buds than dogs. People have about 9000 taste buds while dogs only have about 1700. 

Surprisingly, dogs have the same taste sensations as humans on the tongue. They can taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Dogs are carnivorous, and meat naturally has high salt content. As a result, they do not prefer salty things. 

They have unique water receptors at the front of the tongue, where they lap to drink. The sweet taste buds in dogs respond to a chemical called furaneol. Dogs will seek out flavors that smell like meat. So, when it comes to tasting poop, we just don't know what the dog is savoring - if much of anything at all. Yuck!

The Science of Dogs Tasting Poop

There are natural reasons why dogs and pups will eat poop. The mother dog will eat poop with her young pups to keep the den clean. She will usually stop doing this once the pups begin to eat solid foods. Sometimes the pups will observe this behavior and also engage in some poop-eating. It is important for the breeder to keep the whelping area clean to prevent puppy poop-eating. 

There are other reasons why dogs will eat poop, a big one being boredom. When there is nothing else to do for prolonged periods of time, the dog may find some poop for entertainment.

Poor digestion can also be a culprit. Check your dog's diet and watch for other signs of digestive issues, such as diarrhea. Worms or intestinal parasites may cause the pup or dog to feel hungry, which may lead to poop-eating.

Your reactions to the poop-eating may actually be a source of attention. The dog may be repeating the behavior so you will pay attention to him or her again. If your adult dog starts poop eating and they never did that before, check to make sure your dog is healthy. Check your dog's general health and diet. Dogs may eat poop out of an enzyme deficiency. 

Just in case you might be interested, there is a scientific name for poop-eating. It is called coprophagia. 

Training Your Dog to Stop Eating Poop

There are things you can do to stop your dog from poop-eating in a constructive manner. 

1. Always feed your puppy or dog a well balanced and healthy diet. Watch for signs of poor digestion, weight loss, or changes in energy level. Talk to your veterinarian about diet for your dog. 

2. Give your dog attention. Make sure you are giving your dog affection, exercise, and quality time with you to prevent boredom. You will be also teaching your dog appropriate ways to play and get attention from you in these interactions.

3. Keep the yard and dog areas clean. Scoop the poop regularly. You prevent the opportunity to play with poop if they cannot find it in the first place. 

4. Consider adding enzymes to the dog's food.

5. Keep your pup or dog on a leash. You can prevent poop-eating if the animal is on a leash. That way you can steer them away from poop.

6. Discourage and offer a replacement behavior. Teach your dog to "leave it" and offer something that is appropriate for the dog to be doing. 

Safety Tips for Poop-Eaters:

  • Clean the yard and areas the dog uses.
  • Feed your dog a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Use a leash to steer your dog away from poop.
  • Play with your dog and offer attention.
  • Provide appropriate chew toys.
  • Check with the vet to make sure the poop eating is not due to a health problem.