I have some new neighbors that moved in with an outdoor cat. The cat uses our yard as her potty box. Our two dogs have found this cat poop delectable and they eat these deposits before I can remove them from the yard. Is there something I can do to dissuade my dogs from eating this poop? Thank you in advance for any insights.
– Wendy Rutland, Pensacola, Florida
In a foot race to the cat poop, your dogs will always finish first. You can get a head start by going outside and picking up the cat poop before you let them outside, or you could walk them on leashes so you can pull them away from the cat poop when they discover it. But these are temporary solutions that don’t address the real problem.
While it would be great if your neighbors kept their cat in their yard, there will always be something in the yard or on the ground that your dog shouldn’t eat, so the only surefire solution is to train your dogs to “leave it.”
The easiest way to train the “leave it” command is to ask your dogs to sit, put a treat on the ground, and then hold a higher value treat in your hand, like a small bit of cheese or strong-smelling liver treat. When they see the treat on the ground, say “leave it.” When they “leave it” and look at you, reward them with the higher value treat. Then pick up the other treats off the ground, wait a few seconds, and play the game again. Never let them eat the treats off the ground. You are training them to leave things alone, even when you are not around. They should only accept food and treats from your hands or their dog dishes. Depending on their personalities, you probably should train your dogs separately.
If you train them every day, it will only take a few weeks before you can say “leave it” from across the yard, and they will stop, look and listen to you. Keep those higher value treats handy to reward them for their good behavior.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.