Ask The Trainer
Ask the Trainer: Eating Poop
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When your dog responds immediately and consistently (80% or 90% of the time) to the “Leave it” cue even when the temptation is strong, you can use it in a real-life situation such as the dog park. With many behaviors we teach our dogs, we expect to use fewer food rewards eventually and to rely more on praise, petting, and other goodies. Your dog has an established history of poop eating, though, so plan to always reward him for a successful “Leave it” with a delicious food treat.
If you give the “Leave it” cue unsuccessfully, your dog needs more practice. Unscooped dog feces on the street, when you’re taking a walk on leash, provides the perfect opportunity. Use the leash to keep your dog from getting to the feces – no collar jerks! When he looks back toward you or stops pulling toward the feces, click or say “Yes!,” then reward with food.
A shock collar (or other painful or frightening method) would be completely inappropriate for this problem. To learn why, please read the position statement on punishment prepared by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, available here.
Finally, it may seem like heresy to say this, but if your dog’s coprophagia is only occasional and isn’t doing him any harm, you could choose to simply let it go. In fact, if you treat feces as insignificant, your dog may begin to find it less exciting as well. Never underestimate the extent to which your dog takes his cues from you.