I was just perusing the website of my new friend, fellow NYC dog trainer Jessica Jacobson. Hola, Jessica! She is the mistress-in-chief of Dapper Dogs. On her site, I came across a word I’d never heard before: Coprophagia. I never studied in Greek in high school. Was too busy doing other really useful things (drinking coffee, life drawing, musical theater, crying). But mostly, I didn’t take it because I knew that one day I’d have Wikipedia to fill me on all the things I would’ve learned. Wiki-man says:
Coprophagia is the consumption of feces, from the Greek κόπρος copros (“feces”) and φαγεῖν phagein (“to eat”).
Then I Googled it. First site that comes up? DogPoopDiet.com. I know what you’re thinking: Is this a diet where you are supposed to eat dog poop? Or a diet where your dog eats poo? Neither, folks. It’s a site to get your dog to stop the consumption of crotte de chien (just starting to think this post might have reached it’s quota for the word “poop.”).
I’ve heard many different methods for solving the problem of dogs eating you-know-what.
Of course, it’s more of a problem for humans than it is for dogs–they don’t find it yucky (obvi) and, for the most it isn’t harmful.
There are products out there that make your dog’s feces taste bad so that he won’t eat it. I’m suspicious of these. The idea behind them assumes that without the additive, it tastes good.
I tend to think these sorts of methods are less preferable than using behavior modification — but there are lots of approaches to modifying behavior like this. I recently saw Victoria Stilwell deal with an issue of five pugs eating their own shits on It’s Me or The Dog (on Animal Planet– she’s like the Super Nanny, but prettier and with dogs). She solved the problem by teaching the dogs to avoid little flags, and then having the owners (who were too busy to pick up after their dogs in the yard) go out and plant the flags in the turds and leave them there until they could pick it up later. According to Victoria, this worked.
Having to run around and plant flags in your dogs’ waste doesn’t seem like much of a solution to me. I can think of a couple of solutions that might be a little easier. And if Animal Planet wants to give me my own TV show, I’d be happy to share them! JK!
Solution 1: Pick up after your dogs! If you’re already sticking flags in it, is it that much more trouble to baggy it? Better yet: pay someone else to do it for you. It’s a booming industry! (Pet Butler, Poop Butler, ScoopyDoo, Pup Cleanup, to name a few–I know right?)
Solution 2: Walk your dogs and reward them like crazy for doing their biz on the leash. Only let them into the yard when you know they’re empty inside. Off-leash time in the yard can be their reward for going on the leah. I don’t think that walking five dogs would be much more trouble than the whole flag thing. Which is less patriotic: Putting flags in poop or refusing to deal with the flags all together? Discuss.
Solution 3: Build a box with a grate on it in the yard and reinforce them with lots oftreats and rewards when they go there. You want something where their turds will fall through so they can’t get to it. You could even put a remote operated treat dispenser like a Manners Minder near the grate so that you can reward them even when you’re not standing at the grate at the moment of the deed.
Solution 4: Don’t have five dogs.
Anyway, it looks like Vernon Lee of The Dog Poop Diet takes the behaviorist approach. I bought his eBook and will gladly report back with my learnings once I sit down and inspect it. Clearly bathroom reading.
After I made the PayPal purchase, I saw the disclaimer on his site. Made me think that maybe Coprophagia isn’t a problem that is better off unsolved. You can get the book for $10, and if your dog keeps Coprophaging, he’ll send you back $12.
I smell profit!