How do I stop my dog from eating poop?

Q: My dog has the grossest habit: he eats poop. How can I make him stop?

A: According to a veterinary study, picking up dog droppings immediately was the only effective way to control this habit.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the traits common to dogs that engage in coprophagia (the medical term for this habit). As part of this study, the owners of nearly 1400 dogs identified as eating feces 5 or more times were surveyed to find out what they’d tried to do and what had worked. The researchers found over a dozen products (online and in stores) that claim to curb the habit and asked brand-specific questions about the effectiveness of each of these products. They asked about different behavior modification techniques. And they learned…

  • Behavior modification had a “cure rate” of 1-4% (depending upon the techniques used).
  • Products sold specifically to stop coprophagia cured 0-2% of dogs.
  • Doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING resulted in 1% of dogs kicking the habit on their own.

Based on these results, the authors offered some suggestions (most with tongue planted firmly in cheek) for treating coprophagia:

  • Get a poodle: while members of most AKC breeds were among the dogs reported to eat feces, there wasn’t a poodle (toy, mini, or standard) among them.
  • Avoid Shetland sheepdogs: four in ten Shelties in the study ate feces.
  • Get a male dog: they’re less likely to do it than females.
  • Only have one dog (perish the thought!): coprophagia is more likely to happen in a multi-dog household.
  • Forget about training. This behavior appears to be instinctive, and it’s nearly impossible to change an instinct.
  • Don’t bother with the miracle products advertised on the internet.
  • Pick up dog poop immediately. Most dogs eat droppings that are no more than 2 days old.

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