Sometimes it is difficult during heavy rains and really cold weather to stand outside in the backyard when our dog poops so we can make sure he doesn’t eat it. Is there any way to stop him from this habit except to stand outside and grab its before he eats it?
— Virginia Salow, Bellerose, New York
Coprophagia (cop-row-fage-ee-uh), which is a Greek word that means “to eat feces,” is not uncommon in dogs, but the reason for it remains somewhat of a mystery. There are theories, ranging from nutritional deficiencies and malabsorption issues to compulsive behavior disorders. As a result, it can be challenging for pet owners to help their dogs break the feces-eating habit.
Here are some ways to address the problem, including what to do in bad weather.
First, rule out a health problem, especially if this is a new behavior for your dog. Sometimes dogs eat things they shouldn’t or adopt new behaviors when they don’t feel good.
Second, it’s great you already know to pick up your dog’s poop as soon as he defecates. Removing temptation helps deter the habit. You can’t eat cake if there is no cake on the menu.
Third, when you can’t go into the yard and pick up the poop, you need to rely on training. Training your dog to “leave it” will help thwart many bad habits, from stealing food off counters to poop-eating in the backyard. The training involves dropping a treat to the ground, asking your dog to sit, saying “leave it,” and then rewarding your dog with treats from your hand – not the treat from the floor. Your dog should only eat things you give him and only when say you say it’s okay to eat it. Never let your dog eat the treat on the ground. Pick up the training treat from the ground and hand it to him instead.
Next, use a corrective measure that can be used at a distance, like shaking a can of coins or spraying condensed air from a product like the Pet Corrector, to distract and get his attention when he goes to sniff or eat the poop. When he looks at you for instructions, say “leave it,” and tell him to “come” to you, assuming your dog knows this command as well.
Finally, there are over-the-counter supplements available at pet stores and online (search Coprophagia dog tablets) that when given to your dog make his stool taste bitter and unappetizing. Since dogs are equal opportunity poop-eaters, these supplements need to be given to every dog in the home. Some of these supplements also improve the breath for obvious reasons.
Hopefully, these strategies will keep you dry and warm in bad weather.
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