Everyone poops, including dogs, but some dogs seem to confuse feces with food which leaves pet owners to wonder what causes this behavior and what they can do to stop it from continuing. Here are 5 easy steps to take to help your dog avoid developing this unsanitary habit as well as break the pattern once it has begun.

Give Your Dog a Checkup
Although hard to fathom for humans, eating poop can be a fairly common occurrence for dogs. Since there are many reasons your dog may be exhibiting this behavior, the best place to start in curbing this habit is at the vet’s office. It is possible your dog is carrying a parasite or experiencing a nutritional deficiency. He or she may also have higher levels of anxiety. The vet can help you determine if there is a medical reason behind the behavior and make recommendations on food as well as soothing products or steps to take to reduce stress.

Change Your Dog’s Food
With your vet’s approval, a change in diet may be warranted. If your dog has a food allergy or sensitivity or if your food is not adequately balanced, a change in diet may expose this issue. Your vet may suggest a reduced ingredient diet or a basic bland diet for a week with supplements before adding foods one by one to discover which foods your dog is reacting to – especially if the dog is scratching or biting and licking at his or her paws.

It is important to follow slow transition rules when making any changes to your dog’s food. A good way to remember when to add more of the new food and reduce the current brand or recipe is to increase the new food at feeding times on odd days. For example, start with 25% of the food coming from the new food on Day 1. Then, on Day 3, increase the new food percentage to 50%. On Day 5, increase again to 75%. By Day 7, the new food should be the only food in the dish.

For best results, be sure to avoid cross-contamination by using a separate scoop for the new food and thoroughly washing the dog’s bowl with a gentle detergent before placing 100% of the new food in it on Day 7. This will help reduce the risk of any food allergens contained in the old food being present. Hate to see the old food go to waste? Contact your nearest dog food pantry like Sophie’s Circle to donate any food items to help local dogs in need.

Add More Exercise
Not all dogs exhibit clear symptoms of stress or boredom. Some dogs seem to have it all under control yet are not getting the exercise and attention they need to stay mentally challenged and out of trouble. In addition to access to clean water and eating a set amount of food at least twice per day, your dog will require frequent potty breaks and a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise twice per day. If you are unable to walk your dog daily and you have a fenced yard, try throwing a tennis ball for your dog to fetch or run your dog through a canine obstacle course. In warmer months, you can also take your dog to a lake or the ocean for some serious leaping and swimming fun!

Provide a Calming Daily Routine
Another helpful way to manage your dog’s anxiety or any depression that may be building is to create a calming and reassuring environment and routine. With lots of activity in the house and chaotic schedules, this can often be a struggle. Going beyond exercise and potty breaks, be sure to leave room twice per day where you spend at least 15 minutes of bonding time.

This can include training time, snuggle time, or an activity like a nature stroll. Also, limit and supervise any outdoor time to catch unwanted behaviors before they begin and distract your dog with commands, praise, and games. Keep in mind, some dogs may require extra attention. For those loving companions, a doggy daycare or frequent play breaks might be in order. Remember, those breaks are healthy for you too! The bottom line is your dog wants to be with you and may be experiencing separation anxiety or depression while waiting for your attention.

Designate a Potty Space & Keep it Clean
Another important action you can take to prevent your dog from eating poop is to keep the yard picked up. Use a green disposable bag and immediately scoop after your dog goes or train your dog to not mind you placing an open bag underneath him or her to catch the waste as it is coming out. By taking this sanitary step, you are helping your dog and any animal visiting that space to stay healthy and avoid having the opportunity to indulge in such unwanted behaviors.