In a previous post, we talked in great detail about poop -- with pictures! -- but there is another side to the story. If you have delicate sensibilities, or are eating breakfast, you might want to stop reading now. If you’re sufficiently prepared, we shall now commence to talk about poop eating.
First, it’s officially called copraphagia and it isn’t all that unusual. In nature, poop eating is actually quite common, especially among nursing mothers. It’s also frequently seen in puppies, which usually outgrow the habit by six months with just some mild discouragement.
For a number of our otherwise perfect pooches, eating poop – their own, other dogs’ or the cats' – can be quite a hard habit to break. For some it's seasonal. Can we all say poopsicles? But for many dogs it becomes a way of life. We sure wish it wasn’t so. Not only is it disgusting, but it can transmit bacteria, worms and other baddies.
For those of you with poop connoisseurs, there is hope! Below are some coping mechanisms for backyard snacking.
The first defense is keeping the yard clean. Pooper scooping after every “outing” is a good habit to get into and eliminates the buffet in most situations. We know that’s not always practical and if you have multiple dogs, might not be effective. Yes, there are some dogs that are so quick off the mark that it's a race to see who can get the "prize" first. In that case we recommend . . .
Muzzles! Yes, we've blogged about the benefits of muzzles before. Here is another one. The standard basket muzzle can be equipped with a "stool guard" or "poop guard" to make it poop-eater proof. The poop guard is a white plastic cup that fits over the end of the muzzle's basket and is attached with a small zip-tie to prevent yard snacking.
If you've been dealing with this for a while, just take a moment to absorb the fact that this issue is so common there’s actually a plastic accessory to prevent it. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you don't have access to a commercial poop guard, add this to the 1001 problems duct tape can solve in a pinch.
Pooper scooping and muzzles will remove the opportunity. There are other strategies for dealing with poop eating. For example, you can make the poop less delicious (yes, we know!) to your dog. There are a variety of additives that make poop distasteful. Talk about weird science! Some swear by Dis-Taste and For-Bid brand additives. You can also try a little bit of pumpkin, pineapple or a sprinkle of MSG in their food. If you have a lot of dogs, though, and the poop-eater is indiscriminate about whose poop they eat, you are stuck having to use the additive in all the pups’ food.
Some folks have had success changing food entirely. Especially if the poop eating is a relatively new behavior, a change in diet might help make what’s in the bowl more interesting than what's in the yard. In theory, higher-quality kibble might digest more thoroughly and leave less "good stuff" for the output, making it less tempting.
If you'd rather try a behavioral deterrent, there are positive and negative reinforcement options. For positive reinforcement, try calling your pup to you as soon as they've done their business. Use the time while you wait for the other dogs to finish (when the poop-eater might otherwise be trolling for goodies) to work on recall, obedience or fun tricks.
On the negative reinforcement side, there's our old favorite--the Super Soaker! It's only an option during the warmer months but can be quite fun for everyone involved and a good opportunity to work on your aim! In colder weather, some have had success using a citronella collar with a remote. Either way, you have to commit to always supervising your dogs' potty breaks. Your success will depend on your dogs' motivation and your own aim or timing.
One thing that is not recommended is “booby-trapping” the poop. This rarely works and, really, stuffing hot sauce in the middle of a poop pile is, shall we say, not a good time had by all. And, heaven forbid, rubbing your dog’s nose in the poop as a punishment is totally inappropriate and ineffective!
Keep in mind, if you're just not able to break the habit and your dog's snacking seems to have taken on the urgency of an addiction, please don't be embarrassed to consult your vet. Make sure there are no metabolic or nutritional issues– especially if it’s happening suddenly in a dog that previously didn’t relish the delicacy.
We hope this information is useful. Be sure to share what’s worked for you in the comments. In the meantime, let’s keep the doggie kisses to a minimum!