Is your dog eating poop? If the answer is “Yes” then we have the solution!! The key is to make your dog believe eating poop causes something he does not like. This can be done by using our proven training method.
Our method was put into effect as part of our efforts in dog and cat rescue, fostering, and rehoming over the last 10 years or so. Eating poop is especially common among hungry street dogs. Bad habits like these need to be corrected to help dogs get good homes as soon as possible.
We did try other methods to stop the feces eating first, but they were neither simple nor reliable. I will point to those further down the page so you can try them for yourself if you have more time than we do – and you’re prepared for a higher rate of failure.
Some do not approve of our method because we use an electronic training collar. But this is not inhumane at all if done as I will describe. It is no more painful than a snap on the leash, a move commonly used by professional dog trainers. We do not support the use of electronic training collars for every aspect of dog training, but to stop a dog from eating poop, they are perfect.
Before you proceed, you must first rule out any underlying medical cause. Have your dog examined by a veterinarian! It could be that the dog needs a special diet. Once you rule out a medical cause for coprophagia, you can start training.
It is crucial that you use a high-quality training collar with a:
- wide range of adjustment for the levels of correction,
“continuous” correction function,
- signal range of at least 300+ yards (300m), and
- comfortable shape and strap that can be adjusted for your dog.
Ideally, it will also have:
- a choice of size for the collar receiver (if you will train dogs of different sizes),
- waterproof seals,
- renewable rechargeable batteries, and
- resistance to a bump or two.
Our collar of choice is the TRI-TRONICS Sports Combo G3 Dog Training Collar. It meets all the above criteria and then some. However, TRI-TRONICS has now been taken over by Garmin Electronics, and this excellent model has been discontinued. For that reason only, we can no longer recommend it.
Take a look here and select a collar made by a reputable manufacturer (such as Garmin or SportDOG) that at least meets the first four criteria. For your sake and your dog’s, do not choose from the cheap range. Those will almost certainly have poor functionality and reliability. Weak signals, delayed corrections, malfunctioning controls, and breakages make for bad results and worse.
Outsmarting a smart dog
We came up with our method to stop the poop eating after thinking about why others had failed.
Dogs are smart. They learn by association and repetition. Simply put, if they get a positive result (praise) for obeying a known command (such as “Off!”), they learn to associate that result with their action. The same applies to a negative result (scolding) for an action. What they learn is then reinforced by repeating until it is memorized. Some dogs get it faster than others.
But all too often dogs are also smart enough to learn they can still behave badly when you’re not around. In the case of eating poop, the lesson the dog learns is “Don’t eat poop when the boss is watching”. And the bad habit is not fixed. You’ll only find out when you smell poopy breath or find the cat-litter box has been raided again. That’s where the electronic training collar comes in.
A training collar will enable you to make your dog believe eating poop is the cause of something they don’t like. Follow our method, and it will seem to the dog that the action of picking up poop itself causes an unpleasant sensation. This is how you train a dog not to eat poop. You make him associate the unwanted behavior with something he does not like.
Never try to teach more than one dog at a time, as you have to be focused on his actions. Timing is everything, and you must be consistent. Never give any voice command to stop the bad behavior. Give no indication you are even watching him – although you will be watching very closely. (Tip: Wear dark glasses so he can’t see the direction of your eyes, and turn your head slightly away.)
Setting the scene
Our training sessions take place during walks in a park where there are a lot of feral cats – and what can best be described as a cat-poop buffet for the canine connoisseur. In this situation, we need to use an extending leash to allow our student enough roaming freedom to seek out a “tasty morsel”.
Your dog should not be too distant from you during training. You need to be able to see exactly what he is doing and be ready at the precise moment he picks up poop. We recommend a training collar with a long-distance transmission range only because you can then be sure a strong signal will reach the collar’s receiver. We have tested some collars whose range was less than half of what the manufacturer claimed in the documentation.
You might not have access to a situation like our aforementioned cat-poop buffet, so you may need to set up a situation in which your dog will try to eat poop. Unfortunately, that means you need to collect and put down one or two pieces without your dog seeing you. (Think of them as training materials, if it helps.)
If your dog eats his own feces (autocoprophagy), then you will need to plan accordingly and be ready for the moment. If your dog raids the cat-litter box to eat poop, that’s your training area. If you can use an enclosed area for the training, you may not need an extending leash. If you do need one, good ol’ Amazon.com has a great range of those here.
Make sure you get one that extends at least 15+ feet (5m). And it should be suitable for your dog’s weight. We’ve always used the Flexi brand, and never had any complaints. Made in Germany, good quality, and durable.
Oh, and you can’t attach the leash to the training collar. The training collar needs to be worn above the regular collar, or better still attach the leash to a body harness. If you need to buy a harness, here’s the place to check.
Step-By-Step Training Guide
- Buy a high-quality electronic training collar.
- Read and understand the user manual for the collar.
- Get the collar ready and its strap adjusted for your student.
- Do not power it up, but have him wear it during walks or sessions in your planned training area for 3-5 days before training starts. (The idea is to disassociate the collar with training.) Do not take the collar’s remote control with you.
- Pre-training session. Power up the collar and put it on the dog. Do not let your dog see the remote control handset, but power up and set the stimulation level to the minimum. Keep the handset hidden (e.g. in your pocket or a bag). When your dog is distracted, press the button to deliver a “momentary” (quick) correction. If you see no reaction, try again. You are looking only for a sign that the dog felt something. A twitch of the ears or a head movement is enough. If there is still no reaction, move the stimulation level one place higher. Repeat this until you see a reaction as described. Do not set the level any higher. If your dog vocalizes or seems distressed, the level is set too high. (Do not let your dog see the remote control. He should not associate the stimulation with the remote control, with the collar, or with you. If he gets wise to what’s happening, the dog will learn to stop eating poop only when the collar is on and you are watching.)
- Training session #1. Collar powered up. A collar on the dog. Remote control powered up, set to correct level, and concealed in a pocket or bag. With your dog in a situation where poop is available to eat and you in watching distance, wait for the moment poop touches his mouth. Then immediately deliver a “continuous” correction. Cease the correction the moment the dog breaks contact with the poop or drops it. Do this for every instance of unwanted behavior during the session.
- Repeat step 6 every time your dog is in the poop-available situation until the unwanted behavior ceases entirely. (How long this takes will depend on the dog, but I have never had a student who needed lessons for more than five days. Three or four sessions (walks) are more common.
You stopped your dog eating poop. Your student has graduated. Healthy treats to celebrate! Oh…And you deserve something, too.
But it cannot be overemphasized that you will get to this stage only if you ensure your dog does not associate the stimulation with the remote control, with the collar, or with you. If he gets wise to what’s happening, the dog will still eat poop when you are not watching, or when he is not wearing the collar.
And please do take care not to cause your dog pain or distress. We are only aiming to teach him that picking up feces causes a mildly unpleasant sensation. We are not punishing him. This will be counterproductive, as you will not get the result you want.