If you are grossed out by your Cophrophagia dog, aka a dog THAT EATS FECES, read on. Most of us can deal with the fact that our beloved fido is eating the feces of other animals, however, when they turn to eating their own, it’s a lot to handle. Imagining our dogs chowing down on a pile of poo and then later licking our face — without the consideration of brushing or even rinsing — is cause for nausea.
Why do dogs eat poop? For a variety of reasons. Poor diet, boredom, instinctual habits from mother dogs eating their pups’ feces to hide them from predators, and sometimes an accidentally reinforced behavior are just a few of the possibilities. So how do we fix this natural but disgusting habit?
Prevention is key! That means keeping your dog from eating poo in the first place. In some cases, by simply keeping your dog from eating his own feces for a month or two the problem simply goes away. In many cases, however, more training is needed.
But first, prevention.
- Proper nutrition and diet. Many dogs are fed a nutritionally inadequate dry dog food.
- Immediately clean up after your pet.
- Take dogs for walks on leash. If you have to move a few steps soon as they go, do whatever it takes to keep them from turning and snacking down.
- Doggie diapers! Yes; as crazy as this sounds, I have had clients use doggie diapers out of desperation.
Once you have a prevention plan in place you’re ready to begin training. There are many supplements on the market that claim to rid this problem. However, they’re often ineffective. If they have worked for you, consider yourself lucky. The most effective method I have found for ending poop-eating habits is to teach your dog to leave it!
Training - Teaching Leave it (Week 1)!
- High-value food rewards your dog will like more than poop. Chicken, steak, bacon, sausage, cheese, etc.
- Your dog on or off leash.
Step 1: Before you start training with your newly rounded up pile of doggie poo you will want to make sure your dog understands how to Leave it very well. Put one food reward in your hand and make a fist (don’t use your cue “leave it” yet). Let your dog sniff your hand so he knows the treat is there, then ignore any attempts he makes to get the reward (sniffing, licking, nibbling, etc.). If at any point your dog gets too rough, remove your hand and re-present it after a few seconds. The second your dog “gives up” trying to get the food and moves away from your hand click and/or say “Yes!” then give him a reward from your OTHER hand (not the one with the treat). At first reward even the slightest movement away from your hand. Repeat several times until your dog is no longer trying to get the reward in your fist.
Step 2: Place the reward in your open hand. Say your cue (Off, Leave it, etc.), click and or say “Yes” then reward if your dog backs away or doesn’t try to take the treat. If he rushes toward your hand simply make a fist so he can’t get it, repeat your cue then open your hand again the second he moves away. Repeat this several times until your dog is reliably backing away when you tell him “Off,” or when he is no longer rushing for the treat.
Step 3: Place a treat on the floor and stand nearby ready to cover it with your foot or hand. If your dog rushes toward the treat, cover it. Say your cue, click and/or say “Good job,” then reward when he backs away. Repeat this several times. Gradually increase your distance from the treat.
Week 2 Training Tools: Look for Week 2 Training Exercise next issue*
- Drink a big glass of wine (don’t plan to drive) and then round up a pile of dog poop!
- Your dog on leash
*If you just can’t wait that long, please feel free to e-mail or call and we can send you the article.
- Not Fit For a Dog by Michael Fox
- Food Pets Die For by Ann Martin
- Raw Dog Food by Carina Beth Macdonald
Jennifer Biglan is a certified pet dog trainer and owner of Dog & Cat, LLC Training & Behavior Modification services in Eugene, OR. She is the proud owner of two dogs and three cats and provides private training, behavior consultations and group classes. If you have questions, contact Jennifer at 541-686-6768, or by email. Or visit her Web site at www.dogandcat.org.