04 November 2008

The Scoop on Poop

Top Five Reasons to Clean up Pet Waste
Dealing with pet waste is something all pet owners must do, but few ever really discuss. The majority of pet problems in neighborhoods result from the inappropriate handling of pet waste. Additionally, pet waste is the greatest source of health risk for your family and your pet.

1. Disease Control
There are several very common diseases that can be transmitted to dogs, cats and people through feces. These include giardia, roundworms, salmonella and E-Coli. In addition, your dog can contract and spread parvovirus or coronavirus through infected fecal matter. All of these diseases are very common and very serious and every effort should be made to keep pets and family members away from potentially infected feces.

One of the simplest methods to dispose of feces is the installation of an in-ground stool digester. These digesters work like a septic system, safely breaking down feces and allowing the residue to harmlessly sink into the surrounding soil.

2. Make your Yard more Useable
No one likes to walk through a yard with "landmines" lurking in the grass. If you and your family are afraid to use your yard because of the dog, then you are wasting one of your biggest time and financial investments. Additionally, your pets will get less interactive exercise and suffer as well. "Scooping" off your yard once or twice a day with a shovel or "pooper scooper" will only take a few minutes and it helps make your yard a place where everyone can enjoy spending time.

3. Fly and Pest Control
Flies consume and lay eggs in feces. These same flies then come into your house and spread disease as they pause on your counters and food. That should be gross enough to motivate anyone to clean up after their pets.

4. Be Responsible
It is ultimately your responsibility to clean up after your pet, both outside of your yard, and inside your yard. One of the most annoying things to neighbors is a dog that "goes" in their yard. Pet owners need to clean up after their dogs every time they go to the bathroom. No exceptions, no excuses. If you are walking in the woods and your dog goes, clean it up. If you are in a neighborhood or a park, clean it up. If you live somewhere without a yard, walk your dog and make it your responsibility to pick up after your pets.

5. Poop du Jour
Most of us think this doesn't apply to our dogs, but the shocking truth is that most dogs will engage is stool eating at some point in their life. Dogs started as carnivore scavengers and feces were considered fair game in lean times. To prevent this occasional indiscretion from becoming a life-long habit, clean up feces as soon as possible, especially with a young dog where stool eating is more prevalent. At the first sign of this habit, add an oral product to your dog's food to decrease the palatability of the stools.

My Dog Is Eating Poop!!
Coprophagia or feces eating is not an uncommon behavior for those in the dog family. Some dogs are particularly predisposed to coprophagia regardless of other factors. What causes dogs to consume feces could be chalked up to nutritional, metabolic or behavioral factors. Some dog experts recognize that this habit disgusts us, but is relatively harmless for the dog. If your veterinarian agrees that the behavior is harmless, one approach is to ignore the behavior.

Veterinary Visit and Dietary Guidelines

Talk to your veterinarian about the specific problem. Some think coprophagia may be more common in dogs fed one meal a day or fed a low quality food. There are also theories that dietary deficiencies or malabsorption (unable to absorb nutrients in the small intestine) could be the culprit. If food is not completely digested, feces may appear as food to the dog. There are also commercially manufactured food additives designed to make feces repulsive to your dog. These additives have received mixed reviews. Some home remedies that can reduce coprophagia include adding some canned, crushed pineapple to the food, adding some canned peas to the food or sprinkling enzymes such as a meat tenderizer on top of the food. Commercial and home remedies should be cleared with your veterinarian before using them. If this behavior is due to stress, there are training and conditioning exercises you can try.


Prevention is the first step to managing your dog’s “poop du jour” habit. Start by not allowing your dog to eat poop. Go back to house training basics and read our house training and crate handout. Only allow your dog access to the toilet area under supervision. Take your dog outside on a leash until he goes to the bathroom, and then bring him back into the house. Go back outside without the dog and immediately clean up the feces. Make certain the dog does not watch you clean up and derive some sort of entertainment or reward from your activity. Adult dogs should eat at least two meals and young dogs more meals in a day. If you are using food during your training sessions, you can practice during meal times. With challenge (specific feeding times) feedings you also are creating a more predictable elimination schedule for your dog. What goes in on a schedule comes out on a schedule. With this management, your dog should show improvement but it may take several weeks and probably months to see an actual behavior change for the positive. Give your dog time and don’t test too soon or you’ll be right back to square one.

Can You Change the Behavior?

Has anyone in your household inadvertently rewarded this behavior? Did someone see it happen? How did they react? Your dog may be doing this to gain attention. If you race over to get him away from the poop, that’s attention and diversion – a reward. If your dog knows “Take It” and “Leave It” don’t use those terms for corprophagia. The dog may think it is part of a game to get the poop. Your dog may also be bored and is playing with the poop for something to do. This is common in the winter months in cold climates where regular poop turns into poopscicles. Again, management is the answer. Teach and reward a substitute behavior as a home-alone hobby.

Will Aversives Work?

Making poop gross by putting a taste deterrent on it is an aversive that has helped some dogs and their owners. Aversives have a detrimental effect on the dog. You can also try adding some canned peas into your dog's food to assist in keeping them from eating poop.

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