Features January 2000 Issue

Does Your Dog Eat Poop?

Don’t make this harder than it is, suggests our expert: Just train your dog to sit on cue. It will fix this and many other behavior problems.

Help! My dog has the most disgusting habit: eating feces! She’ll eat her own, that of other dogs, cat poop, you name it. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t take her off leash at the park; she spend her whole time trying to find some to eat, and scarfing it down greedily when she sees me running to stop her. What is UP with this?

-Name withheld

There is no limit to the number of
things that a sitting dog can’t do,
and eating feces is one of them.

I’d really like to feed my Bouviers a diet of meat, however, several already have the really gross habit of eating fecal material. I know that if they were on a mostly meat diet, the problem would be even worse. I’ve tried all the home remedies suggested by other dog owners without success. The manufactured remedies sold through the catalogs worked, but are very costly if you have more than one large dog. What do you suggest?

-Name withheld

 

We directed this question to Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and dog trainer residing in Berkeley, CA. A native of England, Dr. Dunbar is the founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the creator of the K9 Games, and is well-known for his renowned Sirius Puppy Training program, which he describes in his popular books and instructional videos. See Resources for more information.

 

Funny how the people who wrote in with this problem withheld their names! I’ve heard many, many discussions about whether this problem is related to a vitamin or mineral deficiency, and whether it indicates a health problem with the dog. I’ve never seen this to be the case; most dogs who eat stool are as healthy as the next dog.

I prefer to deal with this horrible habit as a training issue. I like to demonstrate my answer to this question when I do lectures. I take a bunch of money out of my wallet, and put it down on a table. I say to a person sitting 20 feet away, “If you grab this money, you can have it, and it’s yummy. Then I pick it up, put it in my pocket and walk away. I say, “OK, go ahead, get the money.” And they say, “But it’s not there.” And I say, “Precisely, I picked it up. And that is what you should do when your dog poops, for a number of reasons.” First, it’s a great idea to look at your dog’s poop every day. Feces that is runny, bloody, gelatinous, or full of worms is the first sign that your dog is off-color. This can give you a big head start in treating what ails him. Second, picking up the poop is the easiest way to prevent coprophagia (the proper term for eating poop). I suggest that every person go out with his or her dog when the dog goes to the bathroom. You should always reward your dog when he goes; it helps maintain his housetraining. You can’t reward your dog if you are not there, so, as much as possible, go out with your dog. When he eliminates, pick up the feces, and reward the dog.

What about the dog that runs to find and eat poop that he finds when he goes out on walks? I had a dog who would try to eat any feces we came across in our walks, and I solved the problem by having her carry something in her mouth on walks. The deal was, if she dropped the object, I’d immediately say “Home,” and the walk would end. She learned very quickly not to drop the item.

What about the dog who tries to eat every poop at the dog park? Again, I see this as a training issue. Any time that your dog is off the leash, you should be able to control his behavior, just by telling him to sit. Simply train the dog to do that one thing.

If you can teach the dog to perform this behavior very reliably, you will be able to eliminate 99 percent of its potential behavior problems. If your dog is sitting down, he can’t eat poop or trash, chase a cat, chase a child, knock over elderly people, run out the front door, dash out of the car, or jump up!

And if you can’t get your dog to sit on cue, then what the heck are you doing with your dog off leash? One day you will find that it is not dog poop that interrupts your dog’s good behavior, it will be a car or truck. I am a great believer in making sure that you can control your dog at all times. And a simple “Sit” prevents about any behavior problem that you can think of.

Comments (11)

Of course they can't eat it if you pick it up. I have only just now run into this problem with the extreme cold and snowy weather we are having in the midwest. I can't get to some of the spots my dogs "go" in. They were not doing this up to now. I also work at a Doggy Daycare, we watch the poop eaters carefully, but since this extreme weather, they are ALL doing it! I wish someone could explain it. They are not bored, malnourished, or neglected, so what's going on? Any real help out there?

Posted by: Unknown | February 2, 2014 11:06 AM    Report this comment

WORTHLESS ARTICLE!!!

Posted by: janien | October 6, 2013 7:32 PM    Report this comment

I agree with the other readers....This article was not helpful. I have two dogs my younger 8 month old puppy does not eat her poop, but will eat the poop of my 7 year old dog. So letting them out together is a problem. My dogs poop in my fenced yard and I pick up several times a day and always have even when I had just one dog. Most of us do not leave feces sitting in our yards .... that is not the problem., for me I believe it is the scent of undigested food in the feces. I am presently trying a product that you feed the dog whose poop is being eaten. I have only been using this product for five days and not had any success yet. And of course , I don't leave dog waste in the yard to give the opportunity of being eating, But when my two dogs are out together I am a nervous wreck and have this problem.

Posted by: Ivy | January 22, 2013 12:43 PM    Report this comment

Have to agree with the other comments. This was not very helpful at all

Posted by: Licia L | November 4, 2011 1:13 AM    Report this comment

Actually my dog is NEVER off leash and does not eat his own poop. He scavenges on the street because so many other people DO NOT CLEAN UP. My dog thinks it's an awesome game, and he sees things I do not see though I am constantly scanning the ground. I think he is bored; he didn't have this problem when he was getting more exercise. But he tore his knee ligament and we're going to be on a more restricted exercise regimen basically forever. I don't want him to carry something in his mouth since he is trained to look to us for praise or a snack when he sees another dog (instead of going crazy and barking). Also saying HOME and going home isn't effective when we're 2 miles away from home. So what on earth can I do? This article wasn't helpful at all.

Posted by: Zoe E | May 31, 2011 10:23 PM    Report this comment

I have added pineapple to my dogs diet. It changes taste when it goes thru the stomach, etc. When it comes out the other end it is not very tasty for my dog to eat. I also make pineapple cookies treats from the Three
Dog Bakery cookbook.. It is not a hundred percent but works fairly well

Posted by: Natalie P | May 10, 2011 4:10 PM    Report this comment

I have added pineapple to my dogs diet. It changes in taste when it goes thru the stomach, etc. When it comes out the other end it is not very tasty for my dog to eat. I also make pineapple cookies treats from the Three
Dog Bakery cookbook.. It is not a hundred percent but works fairly well

Posted by: Natalie P | May 10, 2011 4:08 PM    Report this comment

This is a worthless article. I'm pretty sure anyone reading this article has a high enough IQ to know to pick it up right after they poop, IF they have time to follow their pet around all the time.

Posted by: Ryan M | May 1, 2011 1:06 PM    Report this comment

ME TOO!!! this article really doesn't help. i should be able to occassionally not have to go out with my dogs to pick up their poop. we have desperately tried absolutely everything, ours dogs are great at sit but still continue to eat their way through eat meal again. WDJ PLEASE provide a more thorough answer from someone who can provide more guidance.

Posted by: karen m | March 9, 2011 10:31 AM    Report this comment

ME TOO!! and a more recent update. After geting 20+ inches of snow in the Chicago area, it's not possible to get out in the yard to clean up everytime my 3 dogs go out. And my one poop eater has become an expert at burrowing under the snow and digging out the piles.
I have had no luck with 'forebid' and was hoping there was something to feed them that might work.

Posted by: VICKIE K | February 7, 2011 11:38 AM    Report this comment

was hoping for more than this answer

Posted by: Sue W | November 19, 2010 8:30 PM    Report this comment

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