So my question is about my 9-month-old puppy, Norman. He continually eats poop — his own, and other dogs too. I pick up his poop right after he goes, and sometimes he licks the area that he just went in. I can’t even bring him for a walk because it seems like he’s actually LOOKING for poop, and inevitably he finds some, and eat it. How can I break this nasty, gross habit?
A Disgusted Doggie Mom
Dogs often do disgusting things. At least from our human perspective. I’ve lost count of all the times my wife Jaye said, “That’s the dog in them!” after some disgusting display. I adopted my poodle Paula Jean three years ago, at age 2. After a million off-leash walks with her all over the Island, for the first time, not once, but twice in the past 10 days, she rolled in some very nasty-looking and -smelling diarrhea. That happened at Tradewinds, so I’ve been taking Paula to Southern Woodlands in the hope that when I return to the airport, the offending loose-pooper is healthy or has left the Island.
A hunting wolf will roll in a decomposing animal carcass to disguise its scent in order to get closer to its prey. So when the domestic dog rolls in the unmentionable, I believe, it’s a piece of instinct inherited from its wolf ancestors, even though they’re not hunting for anything. To our
chagrin, the clueless dog smells it, and just feels as though it’s the right thing to do at the moment.
Years ago my pharaoh hound rolled in a can of rotting tuna fish and sliced her neck on the broken can, requiring stitches. However, the disgusting thing you’re talking about, DDM, is
called coprophagia. The dung beetle serves us well, eating human and animal poop in the jungles of the world that don’t have toilets, but I highly doubt that Norman has any dung beetle in his genetic makeup.
Although disgusting, coprophagia in dogs is not unusual. The worst case I encountered was a shih tzu that while defecating, turned around and gobbled it up as soon as it hit the floor. It was kind of appropriate, because the “shit” tzu’s owner produced TV ads for breath mints.
There are several theories as to why dogs eat poop, from trying to compensate for a nutritional deficiency to trying to hide the poop because the owner always gets angry when he finds it. Regardless of the many theories as to why they do it, I’ve found that the best way to end the disgusting habit is with the help of the “Dog God.” The “Dog God” must have nothing to do
with you, DDM! If you correct Norman when you see him dining on those sausages, what he will learn is that he can’t eat them when you’re looking. The “Dog God,” however, sees all, all the time, and hates it when Norman feasts on those particular sausages. I’ve found the best
solution to be an e-collar. The first thing to do is put the collar on him and leave it on him for a couple of days, so he forgets about this new thing on his neck. You don’t want him to become “collar wise”: He only has to behave when the collar is on. The remote is in your pocket,
or clipped to your belt. When Norman goes to pick up the poop, he gets a tone, or vibration, or mild electric stim, depending on his sensitivity. You act as though you have nothing to do with it. You want him to relate the negative startlement of the vibration to the poop-grabbing, not you.
I had a case at a dog run in NYC with a very well-trained Lab that was a feces glutton, zooming around the run snacking as fast as she could. She was about as sensitive as a tank, so I used electric stim, and the result was comical. When we let her loose, she immediately grabbed a turd, which flew out of her mouth when I stimmed her. She then circled the turd, growling at it. Perfect! The bad guy was the turd, not us. The owner told me the nasty habit was totally eradicated in three days with a total of about five stims.
DDM, eating fecal matter isn’t just a nasty habit, it’s also a potential health hazard for the dog and you, which is why it must be stopped. I would suggest that if you choose to go the e-
collar route, you get the help of a pro for the initial use of the collar, to make sure you’re using the proper correction for the dog’s temperament.
Best of luck,
Got a question for the Dogcharmer? Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.