Ok – so it’s time to talk about something pretty gross. I am talking about coprophagia or to put it bluntly, poop eating. Many people know that dogs will occasionally sneak a little snack out of their cat’s litter box, which is disgusting enough, but some dogs also eat dog poop. Some dogs eat only other dog’s poop, but some will even eat their own! ICK! No one knows why dogs do this – some theories are that they are missing something in their diet, or that they were raised in a dirty environment, or that they didn’t get enough to eat as a puppy, but the honest truth is NO ONE knows why dogs do this.
The treatments are as varied as the theories, but usually involve either setting the dog up by putting something on the poop like hot sauce, or using a powder sold by veterinarians or in pet stores specifically designed for this problem. You sprinkle the powder on the food of the dog who’s poop is being eaten. Usually the powder is some form of meat tenderizer with enzymes that once digested make anything that comes out the other end taste really bitter and nasty – as if there is anything more nasty tasting than poop in the first place! Some dogs who are really devoted to this practice seem to enjoy the hot sauce “hey thanks for spicing this up for me, yum!” and the really determined poop eaters grin and bear it when dealing with the bitterness of the result of the powder.
I have unfortunately dealt with this issue more than I care to think about. I have lived with some of the most devoted poop eaters on the planet. Here’s a fun fact – in my experience some dogs learn this behavior from watching other dogs do it. That’s right. I’ve had dogs who have come to live with me as adults that did not have this behavior in their previous home, who have started to do it after hanging out with the culprits living here who partake in this disgusting practice. Gee – how fun, now I have even more dogs who eat poop. More dogs who I can’t let lick my face or the faces of visitors, and more dogs who have shit breath (literally).
Anyone who has lived with a dog that does this will tell you it is a REALLY hard habit to break. After all, everybody poops, hey there’s even a book with that title. In a multiple dog household it is a real challenge, I mean you can’t always predict when they go out to potty whether or not they need to pee or poop. Vigilance is required.
I have taken extreme measures to deal with this issue. For example, my dogs don’t go out into my yard and randomly poop wherever they want to like most normal dogs. No, my dogs are let out onto my enclosed deck to potty most of the time. I have an actual poop deck. Isn’t that some sort of nautical term? “Ahoy matey watch for pirates on the poop deck!” Don’t worry, it gets cleaned with bleach daily. This way I can pick up their poop immediately without running all over the yard, chasing after them with bags or my pooper scooper. This has resulted in better success preventing the poop eating issue (although it isn’t a perfect system) and an unexpected added benefit is that I know immediately if anyone is sick or having any bowel issues. I also have a poop free yard.
Because several of my dogs have ended up with me because of housebreaking issues, I have created an indoor potty area in my family room with puppy pads. It is quite convenient for the little senior and handicapped guys. Again, this way I can usually get to the poop before anyone else. The family room has sliding doors that go out onto the poop deck so everyone is pretty much contained to the same general area this way. Believe me, when you’re picking up poop from 20 dogs anything that makes it easier is appreciated.
Even with all of my measures to control the situation I do still have a few sneaky, determined poop eaters to deal with. Whenever I catch them in the act (it’s even better if I catch them on their way to the prize) I have started yelling “NO! No poop for YOU!” It works – the offender usually stops dead in their tracks and slinks off and I can clean up the turd. The added benefit is that it entertains me, since I am a huge Seinfeld fan.
Hey – in my life having a good laugh is always the way to go.