All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dogs eat Poop

Dear Marie,
I am the proud grandmother of two Basset Hounds (4 and 2) who I am babysitting while my son and his wife are in the Peace Corp.  Have had them about a year now - another year to go.  They have always been poop-eaters.  Recently I started giving them a little variety and, hopefully better health, by adding some olive oil at breakfast and non-fat, plain yogurt at dinner to their lamb/rice dry food.  AND, I am giving them pills from PetSmart that are supposed to make the poop taste horrible so they'll quit eating it.  Well instead, it hardly hits the ground and they are both at it!  So, I follow them into the yard and grab it before they can eat it!

Help!!!  It's disgusting!

Dear Sheri,
Thanks for the interesting question!  I have answered this one a few times over the years – but your “grand-dogs” have added an unusual twist. Generally, when dogs eat feces, it is because they are missing various nutrients that seem to get processed out of commercial dog food.  Cat feces are frequently a big attraction for dogs because there tends to be a lot of protein remaining in these droppings.  But – it sounds like the Basset Hounds are getting plenty of good food.  You might want to add a vitamin supplement to their diet to see if it helps; however, I suspect dietary issues may not be the only triggers involved in this situation.

Usually, when dog owners add the type of product that you have used – one that makes feces have an intolerable taste - that puts an end to the behavior.  Yet, you say it is even worse now.  I am assuming you've already made a trip to the vet to make sure that the dogs don’t have intestinal parasites.  If not, please do.  Dogs with parasites have an insatiable appetite and as a result, almost always eat feces.   

If you have ruled that out, then the last idea I have is that this is somewhat behavioral.  Do you get upset when the dogs eat the poop?  Do you yell or act in a way that may make the dogs feel like they are doing something bad?  I have a feeling that initially, this all began just as a normal behavior that many dogs do from time to time.  However, if you possibly reacted in a way that made them feel “in trouble”, they may have decided that doing their business is what makes you upset rather than their eating of their own excrement.  This is further compounded by the fact that you immediately scoop everything up.

In a nutshell, they see a huge reaction from you each time they have a bowel movement.  They hear a tone in your voice that means “no” or “bad” and that’s very stressful for them.  They also see you rush to get rid of their droppings.  So, in spite of the horrible taste that they now have to endure, they are compelled to “get rid of the evidence” so that you won’t be upset.  Remember, dogs will do almost anything to please their people.  So even though they are misunderstanding why you do what you do, they think they are helping and being good dogs when they do what they do! 

Here’s what needs to be done now.  First, the cycle needs to be broken.  You can accomplish this by letting only one dog out at a time – on a leash.  When he’s finished going potty, walk him away from the area, give him lots of affection, and pay no attention to what he’s left on your lawn.  Put him back in the house.  THEN clean up the mess, and repeat the process with the second dog. 

Eventually, this habit will be broken and you’ll be sending back to your son and his wife two perfectly behaved Basset Hounds.  

Hang in there!

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