Pet Tips

Dog eats poop – coprophagia – Pet tip 150

According to most dog owners, poop eating is one of the most disgusting, unsightly and absolutely revolting habits that a dog can develop. The immediate response is one of disgust, and perhaps denial. My dog would NEVER do that!! Ah, at least this is what owners hope, and would like to believe. However, unfortunately, this behaviour can develop in a dog that has never shown interest in feces before, or it may be an ongoing problem your pooch had starting from puppy-hood. It can be quite embarrassing socially, and it is just not pleasant to have a dog with breath that smells like poop, so what can you do to prevent your dog from devouring the feces of other animals? In order to be able to successfully stop a behaviour in your pet, it is first essential that you understand why your dog has this behaviour.

Dogs are indiscriminate diners

Dogs really do not discriminate when it comes to food. Really. Their idea of fine dining could be your garbage, or perhaps even road kill. Usually, the worse something smells to us, the more appetizing it is to your dog! It is often this pungent aroma that may entice a dog to eat something, and as you well know, poop has an astoundingly pungent odour.

Dogs are attention seekers

Dogs will do anything to get your attention. Even dogs that may not particularly find poop appetizing may develop this habit when they have had a successful attempt at getting their owner’s attention. It is extremely difficult as an owner not to fall into your pet’s well-concocted plan. For example, in the house your cat has just left a fresh load in the litter box. Your dog hears and smells this, so he/she goes tearing down the hallway. You are onto your dog’s intentions and run to the room, yelling and screaming at your dog so that it stops eating whatever poop it has, or finishes it quickly, and runs away. You feel that catching your dog in the act and reprimanding him in this manner will teach him that he is not supposed to eat cat poop, but actually it might be giving him the exact opposite message. Think of a dog like a little child. Oftentimes, a young child (or even older one for that matter) will do something that they know it wrong but there is a reward at the end that is worth the punishment. Additionally, a dog or child that is feeling attention-deprived may say a bad word, or eat cat poop (the dog, not the child hopefully), because they know that they will elicit attention from this action, and even negative attention is better than none at all. Ah, the guilty pleasures in life.

How to stop the poop-eating

It is up to you to take the chance if you think that your dog will not translate your negative reinforcement into something skewed to become positive. However, another option is to use positive reinforcement. It may be difficult to do this with poop you may not see that your dog finds outside on walks, but if your dog eats cat poop or his own poop it could be of assistance. Try using your dog’s favourite treats, praise, or divert their attention by play whenever the cat goes to the litter box. Moreover, giving your dog food to eat that will make your dog’s poop less ‘tasty’ will make it less appealing to your pet, and they will have less temptation to eat it. Rabbit pellets, and canned pumpkin are a few ingredients that can be added to your pet’s diet in small quantities to minimize the savory taste of their own feces.

As illustrated, the behaviour of dogs eating poop is actually a lot more complicated than it first appears. You must tread carefully as to not positively reinforce this behaviour, as once it has becomes habit in your pet, it will require a lot more work to eliminate. If you have a dog that is currently eating poop use the methods discussed as well as ample patience and determination, it won’t be long until your pet’s dung-eating days are over! If you are still having trouble ridding your dog of this habit, consult an experienced trainer or ask your vet for help.

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