Training Dogs And Humans For A More Enjoyable Life Together

By Susan Smith, East Valley Dog Training 

Answers to questions are based on the information provided. It’s always a good idea to have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinarian when having behavior problems. Although I can give general information and management suggestions on serious behavior problems such as aggression, issues such as these can be a very serious problem and a certified dog trainer should be consulted. 

I like to take my dog out for walks off leash, but he eats other animals’ poop. Why does he do this and how can I make him stop?

Ah!  The infamous poop-eating dog!  Coprophagia is a disgusting habit to humans, but very normal for dogs.  No one knows why dogs eat poop, but there are some interesting hypotheses.  Some think it’s a deficiency in the dog’s diet, although this has pretty much been shown not to be the case; others think it might be a nest-cleaning instinct gone awry.  We know that dogs are scavengers and are designed to eat things that humans could never survive eating, so it could simply be a survival behavior – eat poop when you find it, because you never know when you’ll have your next meal!  Dogs love a variety of poop – cat poop is particularly delectable!  But there’s nothing wrong with deer poop, rabbit poop and even dog and human poop.  So, no matter how disgusting you find the poop-eating habit, you’ll have better peace of mind if you accept it as normal dog behavior.

There are some things you can try; please try these one at a time, so you know what’s working and what isn’t.  For dogs that eat their own poop, feeding the coprophagic dog crab apple has been known to work.  If your dog is eating the poop of another dog, try feeding the other dog tropical fruits that give her poop an undesirable taste; Fig Newtons, papaya, pineapple juice, or monosodium glutamate. 

The most reliable way to keep your dog from eating poop is to manage the environment.  Keep the cat box in a location the dog can’t access, pick up poop in your yard, keep your dog on-leash while on walks until you’ve trained a reliable “leave it” command.  Be aware that if your dog does eat strange poop, there is the possibility of parasite transmission, so you should have him checked regularly. And last but not least, know where your dog has been before he gives you kisses!

Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer in San Tan Valley, AZ, specializing in pet dog training as well as cat and parrot training—from obedience behaviors to serious problems such as aggression. She can be contacted at Sue is also the owner of Raising Canine, LLC which provides professional education to animal trainers.