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Old 24.07.2019, 12:28
meloncollie meloncollie is offline
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Re: My dog eats (plays with) his poo

Is your dog still a puppy? Or a very old dog?

In very young pups coprophagia is often just a 'what is this on the floor? Maybe I should eat it to find out" behavior, one that you want to train out just as you would any inappropriate exploratory eating behavior. Not much to worry about.

In very old dogs, sometimes cognitive decline can lead to coprophagia. Worth a discussion with your vet - but as mine become very elderly I tend to prioritize my worries.

But if coprophagia persists in a healthy dog mature enough to control impulses, my first reaction is a vet check to rule out any nutritional or medical cause.

Some dogs eat their own poo because of malabsorption or other disorders, some because they are missing a specific nutrient, some it's a learned disordered behavior - and some just like the taste of poo.

When dealing with a behavior problem I always find it prudent to rule out any possible medical issues first, as medical issues are often quicker and easier to fix.

So, ask if a fecal test is warranted when you see the vet (maybe before, to save time) and if so collect a stool sample(s). My vet always wants three days' worth, but call your practice to ask their protocol. Ask to check for the usual parasites, and ask if any of the 'unusual' ones are worth checking for.

Then have the vet do a full check up.

If it's thought that your dog is missing a nutrient then yes, changing foods often helps. Discuss this with your vet.

If nothing is found, you may have a behavioral issue. Welcome to the club.

When one of mine shows this behavior without a medical reason, I use good ol' counter conditioning and environment management to stop it.

Environment management: As others have advised, always go out with your dog and pick up immediately. No poo, no poo eating.

Counter conditioning: If I'm not fast enough with the Robisack and one of mine starts to try to eat his poo, I give an interrupt signal. (One of the basics, something every dog should learn.) After several hundred thousand iterations, mine have learned that the interupt signal means 'Stop what I am doing, whatever it is, and look at mum'. If my dog stops and looks at me I click and reward with a meaty treat. (I find meaty treats best - it has to be something of pretty high value because poo is high value - you need to better that.)

If my dog ignores my interrupt signal or quickly gobbles the poo beore looking for me, we have more work to do.

In that case, I deliberately do not pick up immediately, but rather stay very close to my dog, ready to give the 'leave it!' command the moment he turns around to look at the poo. (Leave it is another basic, one that we constantly train.) Click and treat for leaving the poo. To reinforce 'don't touch the poo', I will do some heel walking by the poo, clicking and treating every time the dog successfully ignores it. I might even start some more involved activity, keeping that third eye in the back of my head on the poo, clicking and treating every time my dog overcomes his instinct to snarfle the contraband. The idea is to teach that ignoring poo = look to mum for a better reward.

Of course, I can only do this in my private garden. In public, the only correct response is to pick up immediately.

---

Whenever Heffalump starts up with the coprophagia that usually means he has a parasite infestation. That is not really a common reaction, but that's his normal. Hence my suggestion to check out medical issues first.

Good luck!


ETA:

Another training trick:

Because I walk more than one dog at a time I need more control - so I have taught my dogs that while on walks they are to sit after pooing. Thus they are in a controlled, stationary position as I bend down to pick up, the one time my eyes are not on the dogs and the horizon.

You could do this in your garden too, to reinforce 'leave the poo'. If he learns the routine 'poo, then sit until released' the dog has less chance to turn and pick up his poo before you get to it or to him. Standard command/reward, just as you would train any routine or new behavior.

Last edited by meloncollie; 24.07.2019 at 13:16.
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