Ask The Trainer
Ask the Trainer: Eating Poop
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Q: I live in New York City where occasionally my dog Dino likes to delight himself in a little poop-appetizer in the dog run. Dino plays a lot and is well fed at home, so I don't see it as a problem related to hunger or boredom. I got Dino through a rescue organization that found him wandering emaciated in the countryside. Thus, my guess is he used to have to eat poop for survival and still considers it a viable choice. I know I can run around the dog run and sprinkle hot sauce should there be poop laying around, or I could try a shock collar and zap him when he partakes, but I was wondering if there are any behavior modification methods to try. If I run towards him when I see him eating poop, he tends to just eat faster. Sometimes, however, if I shriek his name I can break his concentration. This does not always work, so any advice is much appreciated.
A: Coprophagia is so common – even many dogs who don’t eat dog feces will snack out of the cat box or eat deer or horse droppings. Often the cause is mysterious, but it’s always worth remembering that dogs evolved as scavengers; from their point of view, feces may just be another kind of food.
In your dog’s case, a history of near starvation may contribute to the behavior.
Depending on how long he’s had to recover, consider a vet checkup to make sure his nutritional status is good.
If you are feeding a supermarket brand of dog food, try switching to a “boutique” brand: these contain smaller amounts
of filler such as grain and beet pulp, and some dogs seem to find them more satisfying.