What's the sitch with dogs eating poop?
For those of you who haven’t spent much time around dogs, they are the furry, four-legged critters many humans have as pets. They are desired for their friendly nature, their child-like enthusiasm for even mundane activities, and their sometimes hard to define, “cuteness.” In fact, they are so, “cute,” and playful and loving that we humans choose to live with them, even if it means buying all of their food, dealing with their sub-human intellect, and physically picking up their feces with old plastic bags.
Don’t get it twisted, we here at whatsthesitch.com love dogs, without question. We love them for the previously mentioned reasons. The magnitude of joy they experience is astonishing and they express it physically, for all to see. Simply seeing a loved one, or romping in a grassy field, or having their head softly rubbed; that is enough for a dog to be ecstatically grateful for life; this is after being forcibly removed from their biological family, fed dry kibble, and leashed for much of the rest of it. They are the soft, affectionate embodiment of a positive attitude. If any human rejoiced as shamelessly at such common occurrences, others would think they were either a weird religious kook, a realized shamanic being, or on drugs.
This inexplicable jubilation is a large part of why many add dogs to their families. So we can learn from them and be reminded that, it is still worth sprinting to retrieve the ball even if we know it will be thrown again. There is meaning in interaction with the world, in engaging with other individuals, in expressing love, even if nothing is produced, even if no tangible progress is made. Our wise canine friends have much to teach us about being present in this way.
But… they do eat each other’s poop. What’s the sitch?
Let’s get into it. Coprophagia is the Greek-derived word meaning, “to eat feces.” There are two main types of shit consumption: allocoprophagy (eating other’s shit) and autocoprophagy (eating your own).
Many insects redigest the feces of larger animals, as there is a relative smorgasbord of nutrition to be obtained for little bugs. They especially like the feces of herbivores, as it is more difficult for the beasts to extract nutrition from fibrous plant material than from delicate animal flesh.
To this point, some plant-eating mammals, in particularly members of the rabbit family (Lagomorpha) ingest their own feces because their guts are imperfect, and giving shit multiple runs through is beneficial. Grody, but innovative.
None of the above applies to dogs. They don’t seem to have a good reason. And if you are going to openly eat poop, you should.
There are some theories floating out there. Perhaps some dogs are nutrient deficient? Or have unbalanced gut flora, and so instinctively try to correct it?
They sniff each others' butts frequently... is there some connection there?
Or is this psychological? Humans punish dogs for pooping in the wrong place. So some learn that leaving their poop around will lead to shaming, and therefore try to hide the evidence by chewing it up?
Could it be territorial? Clearing the competitor’s encroaching piles from the nearby field will help establish an individual (and their scattered shit) as the dominant player in the area? The, “Balto Figure,” as it were?
While doing research for this piece, I asked my dad for his thoughts on why our family pup likes to eat poop. He replied quickly, “Um, I think it's because he likes the taste.”
Seems like an adequate explanation.