Dog Coprophagia Treatment through Canine Behavior Modification

Dog coprophagia is the behavior of a dog eating his own feces. This is a normal behavior in the wild as dogs often have to consume nutrients from feces when there is no other food available. However, behavior modification is successful in eliminating the behavior.

Why Dogs Eat Feces

Eating feces is a normal part of puppy development as they learn how to live in the world. Most will break the habit by the time they are a year old. However, not all puppies will learn not to eat feces, which is quite appalling to their owners.

Canines are scavengers, which means they eat whatever will provide them with nutrients. On a slow hunting day, this might be feces. Since there are unprocessed nutrients in most feces, it can be a sufficient meal.

This may continue in captivity because a dog isn't getting enough nutrients from his diet. Many commercial diets are low-quality, filled with cheap fillers that your dog can't digest such as corn, wheat and meat byproducts. Before beginning a behavior modification program, consult your veterinarian to check for illness and change your dog's diet to a food higher in protein.

Dogs may also engage in coprophagia because the yard never gets clean, so they try to dispose of old feces. They may do it because they are bored or because it gets them attention.

Behavior Modification

Teach your dog a "Leave it" command by holding several treats in your hands. Give him one and say, "Take it." Repeat this a few times. Then say, "Leave it" and close your fist. Leave your fist right by the dog's nose. He will try many behaviors such as licking, nipping, barking and pawing. Ignore all these.

When your dog offers you a polite behavior, such as sitting or looking at you, say, "Good, take it" immediately and let him have the treat. Repeat this until he is looking at you immediately when you say "Leave it."

Then open your hand so he can see the treat. Say, "Leave it." If he dives for it, close your hand and wait for the polite behavior. Repeat this until you can have anything in your hand and your dog will ignore it when you say, "Leave it."

Place the treat on the ground. Say, "Leave it." If he dives for it, cover it with your foot. Wait for polite behavior. Practice until he can leave anything you place on the ground.

Keep all poop picked up in the yard. Take him on walks so he can go where you can pick it up immediately. Take him out in the yard or on his walk and practice leave it with his feces. Practice until he will look away from feces anywhere it is.

Leave him out in the yard by himself with feces and watch from the window. If he goes over to sniff it, yell, "Leave it" in a loud and commanding voice. If you repeat this a couple of times, he will think you can see him all the time and leave his feces alone.

With practice, your dog can learn to ignore his feces. However, in the meantime, be sure to limit his access to his own feces so he doesn't have the opportunity to practice the behavior when you aren't there to train.