Why Does My Dog DO that? This week’s topic: Poop-Eating | Blogs

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Why Does My Dog DO that? This week’s topic: Poop-Eating
Blogs, Pets
Why Does My Dog DO that?  This week’s topic:  Poop-Eating

About one in ten dogs engage in coprophagia, or poop eating.  To us humans, it’s a disgusting habit that we do NOT want our dogs engaging in.  There are many theories about WHY dogs do eat feces, their own or that of other dogs.  A deficiency in their diet, boredom and lack of mental and/or physical stimulation are all on the list but no one is truly sure what’s at the bottom of this pesky behavior.  The behavior is most common in dogs under one year of age, so it crops up a lot here at my puppy nursery school. I'm less concerned with WHY a pup is seeking out poop to eat, and focus on HOW to stop the behavior.   In this setting, there are a few things I do to “teach” the pups NOT to do it as well as discourage the behavior from becoming a habit.  

First and foremost, I keep the playground clean and free from poop to the extent humanly possible.  If there’s nothing to get into, then the behavior doesn’t rear its ugly head to begin with, right?  I am fastidious about walking the grounds, watching the pups and removing all waste as soon as it’s evident.  At home, I suggest that you do the same.  Keeping your backyard free of droppings is important.  When out with your dog in off-leash settings, keep your eye on the dog at all times if they have a history of poop-snarfing.  If your dog is intensely-focused on “scoring,” then avoid areas known to be littered with waste until you use some training methods to modify the behavior.  A dog who has the opportunity to engage in an undesirable (to humans) behavior regularly will be more likely to adopt the behavior as “normal.”

Secondly, I identify any puppy or dog in my pack that has shown an interest in and/or has engaged in poop-eating on my “super radar” while I am supervising their play.  For instance, today I have a Basset Hound here who has been stealthy in attempting to engage in corprophagia.  She will watch other dogs circling and sniffing and will anticipate a “treat” and head in their direction.  I have to be MORE stealthy than Trudee, getting there first or at least at the same time as her.  One of the questions I ask new owners whose pups are just entering the school is, “Has your dog ever attempted to eat poop?”  It’s important to know so that I can be diligent in working to eliminate the behavior here at school.

Third, I keep a stash of delicious, high-value treats in my pocket when I have a poop-eater in my pack.  I will use positive reinforcement (a treat) to “teach” the dog that sniffing is okay but eating is NOT.  The training command for this is “leave it!”  I have my customers work on “leave it” at home, in a class or in private sessions with a certified dog trainer and I reinforce that learning here at school.  A dog who obeys the “leave it” command gets the reward/treat.  They are learning that leaving the poop alone is a GOOD thing.  Repeat, repeat, repeat!  If your dog is interested in poop, that’s a natural thing -- dogs sniff other dogs droppings to get information about that dog.  A sniff is normal and okay.  We’re working on the EATING part of the equation.  

You will find powders and pills and natural home-remedies available to help your dog with this behavior.  Most of these, however, only work if your dog is eating his OWN droppings rather than those of other dogs.  The best remedy is diligent supervision, training and positive reinforcement.  If your dog attends a daycare program, be sure to discuss the facilities policies and procedures for dealing with the behavior.  If a facility allows dogs to engage in coprophagia, bacteria in feces can easily be transferred from the dog’s mouth to the common water bowl, thereby putting everyone at risk.  Ask your daycare provider to work with you to eliminate the behavior.


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