Help with Dog eating other dog’s “poop”

Question:

My question is regarding Tibault’s nasty habit of eating other dog’s poops, which makes me have to be hyper-vigilant on our walks.

Anything I can do to train him not to eat poop?

Answer:

Hi Gita,

Sure, a nasty habit indeed but depending on whom you ask! Right?

Dogs can eat their own excrement or that of other dogs for a variety of reasons. The “truth” is that we really don’t know why they do this. Perhaps the dog did not have enough access to food at some point in his life – literally there was some nutritional deficiency so the dog resorted to getting some “nutrition” by eating what was available to him. Now the dog has enough tasty food available, but his consuming of excrement has become a habit. And you know the thing about habits… they are hard to break.

A second possible reason why Tibault is eating dog poop is that he simply likes it. Period. Remember dogs are scavengers. This is hard-wired. An animal that is a scavenger will take any opportunity to eat what they find – sometimes better for them and sometimes not.

There might be other possible reasons, of course, behind his consuming habit.

You are correct that being hyper-vigilant to prevent him from eating other dog’s poop is definitively a choice. In addition, I’ll say that I would not only stop him (I am not sure how you deal with the stopping him from eating the poop while on walks) but also ask him to do something else instead of bee-lining to a poop pile. In other words, you substitute the behavior that he finds reinforcing (something he wants) for something else he would also want as strongly.

One very easy way of doing this while on walks is to always walk him when hungry. Carry with you some really tasty treats that you will offer him when you see him just starting to get interest in the poop.

You must continue to be vigilant of course – no talking on the cell phone or walking with your latte. Timing is everything here. If you time it correctly – that is before he is engaging with eating the poop you call him to you for the treat, it is very likely that after a few trials you can in fact use the sight of the poop as a visual cue for his reinforcer: the tasty treats. Here is where you bring the hamburger meat, salmon skin, etc. you get the idea. Do not be stingy on delivering reinforcer for leaving the “nasties” behind. And in the event that you are wondering if you will always have to walk with tasty treats and a hungry dog I will say this: The answer is…. Yes! However, in time you should be able to redirect him more readily and just slip him a treat once in a while not as you had to do at the beginning of the training supplying him one reinforcement per behavior.

The reality is this: If reinforcing of (ANY) behavior ends (this goes for any species BTW) the behavior will also subside or completely stop. In other words: Reinforce for what you want to see more of … Tibault moving away from poop and coming over to you for a better meal choice so that you have some sort of guarantee that his eating of poop will subside or perhaps even stop because it is not getting reinforced.

You did not say if he is eating his own poop at home/yard. Here management (management – poop gets picked up very regularly,) is also a good option but in a pinch you can practice as above.