My rescue Goldens and I are locked in a battle of wills that can only be described as the Poop Wars.
On one side, there’s me — Private Exasperated (and Grossed Out) Dog Mom reporting for Poop Patrol, sir! My mission: stalking my two dogs with an extra large pooper scooper each time they go out so that their business barely hits the ground before it’s discarded. Next, it’s careful reconnaissance around the yard to make sure no poop has been left behind.
On the other side of the battle lines are Major and Max, two otherwise perfect boys (at least to me) with one truly repulsive habit. They (gulp) eat poop.
Actually, they don’t just eat it. They hunt for it. They savor it. And while they’ll take it any way they can get it, they have their preferences. Aged, yum. Frozen, even better.
The discovery that my boys had such a disgusting habit was traumatic. When my big guy Major came to us, he was friendly, but not overly affectionate. So imagine my delight when he suddenly trotted over one day and wanted to give me a big wet kiss. And now picture my horror, and colossal stomach turn, when I got a whiff of what he’d been up to. Worse, just like a typical big brother, he’s passed the repulsive behavior onto his impressionable younger brother Max.
Every once in a while, I emerge victorious, thanks mostly to my newfound skill of spotting enemy poop from yards away. But truth be told, my boys are ahead.
Why? It’s a poop-filled world out there, people. Even when I retrieve every trace of feces from our yard, there’s horse poop on our hikes, other dog’s poop left behind by inconsiderate pet owners on our walks, and the piece de resistance, literally, duck poop at the park.
Battle-weary and desperate for answers, I did what any soldier would do: I called in reinforcements, aka Debra Eisenstein, a veterinarian at Hickory Veterinary Hospital in Plymouth Meeting, PA, where I take my boys. Turns out, there’s a term for ingesting poop: coprophagia. Eisenstein said the behavior is common and (music to a dog parent’s ear) normal, especially among puppies, who usually outgrow the behavior. “Assuming it’s not a diet or nutritional issue, it’s usually behavioral,” she says.
But here’s the kicker: Even dogs who are on well-balanced diets, like mine — and who are otherwise healthy and well-adjusted, I swear — have been known to pick up the nasty habit.
“There’s always the danger that your dog might pick up a parasite from another dog’s feces,” she cautions. “But it’s not inherently dangerous.”
That’s the good news. Now for some not-so-good news. There isn’t a magic cure. There are, however, several options that I’ve put into three categories: home remedies, store-bought cures, and tough love. As always, please consult your vet before trying any of them.
There are a lot of other options, including pineapple and pickles (not kidding –- look it up). But these are three I’ve tried to varying degrees of success.
Verdict: Anyone need an extra can or 12 of pumpkin? These all worked for a while. And then my boys developed a taste for spiced poop.
Verdict: As soon as the boys were off the pills for a while, they were back on the hunt.
Distraction: It’s back to obedience school here. Try a stern “No!” or “Leave it!” any time you see your dog is up to no good.
Verdict: The dreaded doggie “No!” worked if I was right by their side when they went after the forbidden feces. But if I wasn’t nearby or on high alert, they tended to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.
If all else fails, some online sites even suggest a behaviorist. But I’m not ready to wave the white flag of defeat just yet.
So for now, the vigilant pooper scooping continues. My motto: Out of sight, out of mouths. Eisenstein agrees. Except -– who knew? — there’s apparently a proper way of scooping poop when you’re engaged in heated Poop Wars. “It’s best to pick up the poop out of the dog’s sight so that it doesn’t become a competition,” she says.
Have you dealt with this nasty habit? What’s worked for you? Please share your stories in the comment section.