How do I prevent my dog from literally eating any crap she can find?
December 2, 2004 9:42 AM   Subscribe

This is a serious request for help. My dog is approaching a year old now and is fascinated with eating shit. Cat shit is her favorite but she's now pulling dirty diapers out of the trash and licking them clean.

Helath issues aside, this is so incredibly disgusting to me that I simply cannot take it anymore.

My question is: what can I do to stop her from eating crap and what can I do to stop her from wanting to eat crap?

I've been thinking setting her up with some specially prepped crap that's been heavily, heavily douses in some of that 9 billion scoville units hot sauce but don't want to hurt her.

Some people have said that she'll grow out of it on her own but its not happening and I'm just not willing to wait anymore. Knowing that my dog's stomach is filled with my son's poop is beyond gross, its revolting.

Sorry for the visceral nature of the post but I'm still venting the nastiness.
posted by fenriq to Pets & Animals (26 answers total)
I've had the same problem with our golden retriever. The only thing we could do was, um, keep the house clean.

Seriously, instead of throwing dirty diapers in the trash, we bought one of those Diaper Genies, which encloses the diaper completely. Spraying a bit o' bitter apple on some maverick diapers on a young puppy may discourage it from trying diapers ever again.

We then got a litter box with an enclosed cover, and placed it so only the cat could easily get to it, and not a dog's head. We change it more frequently as well. Though now I'm looking into one of those fancy schmancy automatic ones.

There's some good info here as well.
posted by icontemplate at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2004

Female dogs eat poop because it's an instinct that comes from them wanting to keep their dens clean for their pups.

I'm going through the same thing with my 10 month old female puppy. She isn't eating from the trash, but when I walk her, I have to keep a watchful eye whenever she starts sniffing incessantly at the bushes. She has an incredible ability to find the smallest, most buried piece of poop along the sidewalk.

The best thing to focus on is prevention. Puppy-proof the diaper basket. Hide the cat's litter box. (Or put it up on a shelf the cat can get to, but the dog can't.) When you're out walking, keep a close eye on what she's sniffing at.

The best time to train her is at the moment before she goes in for the bite. Give her a loud "Leave it" or make a loud sound (I slap two blocks of wood together) so she associates the thought "I'm gonna eat that poo." with a loud, scary sound. You can even set it up... put a diaper on the ground and when she goes for it, make the sound and block her from eating it. Then do it over and over agian. Pretty soon (in about 5 minutes) she'll have a negative association to eating poo.

The worst thing you can do is punish her AFTER the fact. Puppies have a really short memory and if you find she ate some poo and 5 minutes later you yell at her, she will have no idea what you're yelling about.

You need to train her to associate the thought of eating poo with a "negative environmental stimulus." (Loud sound, firm command, etc.) But don't hit her! Lound sounds work great.

Good luck.
posted by evoo at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2004

I've been thinking setting her up with some specially prepped crap that's been heavily, heavily douses in some of that 9 billion scoville units hot sauce but

it won't work. listen to icontemplate. I've been more succesful securing litterboxes.
and remember, cat shit's taste is nothing, for dogs, when compared to rabbit shit pellets -- dogs just go crazy about them (it must be all that tasty coccydia). be thankful you don't have a bunny and secure litterboxes and trash cans. and pat your dog on the head for me.
posted by matteo at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2004

We had the same problem with our dog. It was absolutely disgusting and we never managed to cure her completely. Sorry, no advice, just commiseration...
posted by widdershins at 10:04 AM on December 2, 2004

fenriq... Don't give your dog hot pepper sauce or you'll have a whole other kind of poop problem! icontemplate is right... Bitter Apple works great on things you don't want your dog to nibble on. But you need to change the dog's behavior altogether with the poop thing. Don't put bitter apple on the poop and try to get her to taste it... You need to get her to avoid poop completely.

Go find a pile of poop with your dog and try to loud noise thing every time she goes near it. You might need someone else there holding the leash and giving her a slight tug every time you make the loud sound. After a few five minute sessions, your dog will start not wanting anything to do with poop.
posted by evoo at 10:28 AM on December 2, 2004

Our twelve year old lab bitch does it. It can become an issue if she eats poop from other animals with bowel infections. What I don't get is how she smells some poop and then rejects it, rolls in other stuff, and wolfs yet other stuff down with relish ...
posted by carter at 10:35 AM on December 2, 2004

Heheheheh..... he said "bitch".... heheh.

But seriously, we had to do two things: one, we put our kitchen garbage inside one of the kitchen cabinets. (we have a cat as well, and had to spring the door closed to keep him out). We never had a dog that went into the litter box while we were around, and when we left the house we leave the dog in the front part of the house and close the door to the back of the house where the litter box is. (Of course, sooner or later you lock the cat up front too by mistake and he doesn't have a litter box to go in, but that's another story.) As others said: prevention.
posted by Doohickie at 10:46 AM on December 2, 2004

Response by poster: Alright, the hot sauce is out, I was thinking it might make for some nasty fire hole anyway.

Thanks for the advice and insights.

I've been working on the prevention thing but she's very quick. She will no longer eat poop when we're out walking because I've trained her not to but she doesn't understand that the same rules apply at home.

I will have to go with the conditioning routine and see how it works.

She is, in almost all other respects, a great dog, I just refuse to let her lick my face or anyone elses because I know for a fact that there's poop in there.
posted by fenriq at 11:39 AM on December 2, 2004

what can I do to stop her from eating crap

Don't let her get near crap.

and what can I do to stop her from wanting to eat crap?

Euthanasia? Your dog will want to eat crap as long as she is alive. Dogs are absolutely disgusting -- it's a good thing they are so loyal and eager to please.

Cat shit is her favorite

The most disgusting thing I've ever seen outside the Internet: a dog slurping up cat diarrhea "from the tap." Be glad you haven't seen this yet, you'll be scarred for life.
posted by kindall at 11:41 AM on December 2, 2004

With our own puppy, we have a "baby gate" between the kitchen (where the trash and the kitty litter are) and the rest of the house. It works really well.

Despite the fact that our puppy (7mo old boxer) could jump over the gate, she seems to know not to. Also, she seems to vaguely frightened of the gate. It gives the cats a place to go where the dog can't get them too....
posted by jaded at 11:49 AM on December 2, 2004

Thank you, kindall, for that image. I'm torn between taking a shower just from the thought of it and actually searching for the image....
posted by jaded at 11:50 AM on December 2, 2004

Our dachshunds used to cleverly get into our cat box...size-wise (our cat has a colon most men would be proud of), these things were like hoagies for the dogs. It was pretty gross...but the simple solution (for small dogs) was to raise the litter box out of their reach. Now they stand on edge, sniffing wantonly, like a midget at the Sizzler bar...but nary a poop to eat.

One of the best tools EVER in training a dog is a simple squirt bottle. Spray a dog when they are behaving poorly, and they'll be terrified of the bottle forever. We just have to show our dogs the squirt bottle and they'll drop their ears.

A funny story...we were dogsitting a dog that had never seen a cat before. After a short while, the visiting dog started to *freak out* at our cat, so we squirted him with the squirt bottle...and that freaked the dog out. From that point forward, whenever the cat walked into the room, the dog jumped under a table or chair and shook as if he were getting doused with water.
posted by tpl1212 at 11:59 AM on December 2, 2004

Others have already said it but I'll repeat: don't go the hot sauce route. If there's one thing I've learned about dogs it's that they don't connect their mouths to their stomach's or their asses. IE, problems in either won't make a leap to the brain not to eat it in the future. My dog ate a 10 foot long medical gauze bandage which was a nightmare for both he and I. He'd eat another one in a second if he had a chance.
posted by dobbs at 12:00 PM on December 2, 2004

wtf did that ' come from? :)
posted by dobbs at 12:01 PM on December 2, 2004

One of the best tools EVER in training a dog is a simple squirt bottle.

More proof there is no one way to do anything. Our dog loves the squirt bottle and tries furiously to drink from it.

I have heard putting monosodium glutamate in cat food will make their poop distasteful to dogs. Maybe you could do that with your child as well. Though I don't know how healthy it would be for either the cat or the kid.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:16 PM on December 2, 2004

Response by poster: The water bottle won't work on my hound, she absolutely loves, loves, loves water. I can't water my plants without her leaping up into the water stream again and again. Its pretty funny unless you're in a hurry.

MSG is bad for people, I can't imagine its all that good for cats. Besides, the cat poo she finds is from cats around the neighborhood since our's died last year.

We've used a shaker can with some success before. I'll get some training in with her tonight and see how it goes.

Thanks everyone!
posted by fenriq at 12:31 PM on December 2, 2004

More proof there is no one way to do anything. Our dog loves the squirt bottle and tries furiously to drink from it.

Ah yes, I realized this was the case right after I opened my big mouth and pressed "POST."

I used to own a cat that purrrrrrrred when its temperature was taken.
posted by tpl1212 at 12:40 PM on December 2, 2004

I have yet to find the dog that doesn't love chowing down on cat poop. I'm pretty sure my dogs will take it over treats, if given the option.

The only solution there is to keep the cat poop inaccessible to the dog.

The bigger problem (as far as I see it) with the diapers is keeping the dog out of the trash can. As it's been said before, there are lots of ways to dissuade a dog from doing things (squirt bottles, bitter apple, loud noises, etc). Any one of these things may not work, but there is *always* something that will work. You just have to find out what works with your pooch.

The trick is making it so that they understand that you don't want them to do something. With my pooches, I had to make sure they understood that I didn't even want them *sniffing* at the trash can. Any time they start, I just have to say the words 'Time Out' and they book it.

Now I can put raw meat, a box full of cookies, and pretty much anything else I want in the trash and forget about it, because they know it's a no-no. You just have to find the angle that they understand.
posted by icey at 1:51 PM on December 2, 2004

Tried electrodes?
posted by Pressed Rat at 4:17 PM on December 2, 2004

Have you talked to your vet? Some cursory googling indicates that persistent coprophagia may signal a nutrient deficiency, and also your dog could have picked up some nasty intestinal parasites from all her poop-scavenging, which you'd want to take care of in any case.
posted by ambrosia at 4:32 PM on December 2, 2004

ambrosia nailed my first point. This could be a medical problem (or could have caused one), trying to treat a medical problem as a behavioural problem is doomed to failure, not to mention unfair. It's more usual that dogs eat dog poop when it's a medical condition, not people poop, though. And cats have very inefficient digestive systems, cat shit has a lot of "food" left in it, that's why dogs like to eat it, this isn't a behavioural problem per se, it's a dog being a dog (dogs are opportunistic feeders, they eat when food is available, and cat shit is "food" to many dogs).

The best way to manage this is simply not to let the dog get at the diapers or cat shit! By leaving temptation within reach, you are setting your dog up to fail. Keep the diaper pail in a room with a door that closes and close the door, get a covered litterbox and turn it so that the cats can get in easily but it's harder for the dog to get at the poop (and keep the litterbox clean). Keep the dog on a lead at all times in the house for the next little while: poop-eating is obviously a very rewarding behaviour for your dog, and the more times you allow that reward to take place, the harder it will be to break the habit (you also can't break a habit while the habit is being allowed to continue). Start exercising your dog much more: exercise is often a panacea for dog behavioural problems, a well-exercised dog has far less energy for mischief. Train your dog regularly with fun, rewarding training sessions a few times a week, a mentally-well-exercised dog has far less mental energy for mischief, and a better-trained dog is always easier to live with.

From a behavioural modification standpoint (and assuming medical causes have been ruled out), don't punish your dog for this, punishment is at best less effective than other methods, and at worst outright harmful and/or counterproductive. When you see your dog going for poop, distract it, have extra-yummy treats on you (and I mean EXTRA yummy, like bits of turkey or chicken or cheese), disract the dog with the food, feed the treats, play a game of tug. You need to make NOT eating poop, and choosing another activity when the urge/opportunity strikes more rewarding than poop-eating. Teaching a dog what TO do (play with this toy, fetch that ball) is much easier and better all around than teaching a dog what NOT to do - dogs repeat behaviour which works (i.e. rewards them in some way), obviously poop eating "works" for your dog, you need to find out what need she is addressing by eating it, and find something more acceptable to replace it with.
posted by biscotti at 5:33 PM on December 2, 2004

Our dog used to occasionally eat catshit when he was younger. I think he just grew out of it. As regards trying to stop this behaviour, we did as we were advised: we only scolded him when we caught him in the act of stealing or eating the shit, and, on one or two of those occasions did the 'dominant down' thing where we held/pinned him down for a short time, which was supposed to assert our 'pack-leader' status. Still, I am left with the unpleasant memory of having to clean up vomited semi-liquid catshit at 3 o'clock one morning...
posted by misteraitch at 3:12 AM on December 3, 2004

>Cat shit is her favorite

Obviously she has not tried horse dung yet. This is my dog's absolute favorite.
posted by evilelf at 7:17 AM on December 3, 2004

the 'dominant down' thing where we held/pinned him down for a short time, which was supposed to assert our 'pack-leader' status.

Please don't do this, it's based on outdated theories about dog training, in turn based on completely inaccurate intrepretations of wild dog behaviour. It used to be recommended in the older Monks of New Skete books, they have completely retracted it and specifically recommend against it in the new book. It's a good way to get bitten, and it is not an effective way to assert your leadership (for one thing, leaders don't do this as a general rule, it's lower-status dogs who do, for another, you're not a dog, you're a person, you cannot accurately read or replicate dog communication methods).
posted by biscotti at 10:31 AM on December 3, 2004

Also, coprophagy has nothing to do with pack order, so trying to dominate the dog will have no effect on the behaviour.
posted by biscotti at 10:32 AM on December 3, 2004

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