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My three-year-old female whippet has been obsessed with eating poo since she was young. She has a sensitive digestive system and was diagnosed with large intestinal probs. Successfully eating Purina Pro Plan kibble for about 1-2 years. She isn’t confident or a hunter, but she loves playing with sticks and frisbees. I’ve tried using the scent collar to train her when she found poo, but after a while, the lemon scent wasn’t enough of a repellent. Now, I use a muzzle for the problem areas on our walks. I do my best to keep a close eye on her when she’s off her leash (80% of the time) she has excellent recall!
I feel it’s time to try again. Any tips or suggestions?
The Dog Mom with a Dog with Weird Taste
That does not sound like a fun problem to deal with!
Some dogs who have intestinal issues have trouble absorbing their nutrients properly, and they seek out feces to get the nutrients they’re lacking. This seems like a problem your vet is helping you with, so you’re on the right track!
I would recommend, training-wise, to start practicing a really strong leave-it and take-it command. The leave-it means “absolutely by no means is that for you,” and take-it is “this is for you, you can pick it up/eat it.” I like to practice “take-it” because she’ll eventually start asking you if something is okay for her to pick up. It’s almost like “leave-it”, but it isn’t stated until something she has done. It may build a little bit of her confidence that she might be lacking by taking away the uncertainty of what she can and cannot have because she will be asking your permission. Once you establish a strong “take-it”, you’ll want to work on her “leave-it” with the things that she still goes after consistently (i.e the poop!).
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to train your dog to “take-it”
1. I hold a treat in the palm of my hand, and bring it towards the dog slowly. If the dog lunges, jumps, grabs, etc., bring the treat farther away until they show patience (similar to a “wait,” but you want this part to be non-verbal!).
2. When the dog shows patience and impulse control, say the command “take!” and reward. You will be marking/rewarding her “taking-it” when she is told, not the waiting. Be consistent! Anything she is allowed to have should be a “take” (you won’t always have to say it with her toys, she will learn what is hers).
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to train your dog to “leave-it”
1. To practice “leave-it”, put something enticing on the ground that isn’t harmful if she eats. Maybe a piece of hotdog or cheese!
2. Cover it up with your hand, and wait for her to ignore the item for any reason. As soon as she looks away, mark with a verbal “yes” and give her a different treat from your other hand. You want to make sure that this is not the same item you are telling her to leave, because “leave-it” should mean you are never ever supposed to have this. A lot of dog parents use “leave-it” to mean “wait until I say so” but you don’t want her to think “leave-it” means just until you’re not paying attention!
2a. The treats you’ll give her out of your other hand won’t be as enticing, but eventually, she will understand that they are free and the piece of hotdog is too much work to bother with. She will (hopefully) become more interested in the treats she is getting rather than the one under your hand.
3. As she gets better, start to move your hand away, keeping it close in case she tries any funny business, so she can see it is reachable, but she still shouldn’t bother with it.
4. When you and your dog are outside, make sure you’re practicing with less interesting things, like smells or trash, and practice with the poop slowly! Be ready with a bag as soon as she poops too if she grabs her own quickly.
Hope this all helps, and good luck!
Some dogs who have intestinal issues have trouble absorbing their nutrients properly, and they seek out feces to get the nutrients they’re lacking.