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DOGS - TRAINING

Putting a stop to your pet's coprophagy
Published 2012/08/01

 

PUTTING A STOP TO YOUR PET’S COPROPHAGY

As an animal behaviourist, pet owners often ask me what they can do about their pet’s coprophagy or scatophagy. When they tell me nothing seems to stop their pet from engaging in this revolting habit, I give them simple tips that have worked wonders in the past.    

So what is coprophagy? It’s the eating of feces, one’s own or those of another animal. Coprophagy is common in dogs, but less so in cats. Although people understandably find this behaviour disgusting, it usually isn’t dangerous to pets unless the feces contain parasites.

Contrary to popular belief, pets don’t eat feces because they lack essential nutrients or have a gastrointestinal disease. The most likely reasons behind this behaviour are as follows: 

1)      Dogs descend from wolves, scavengers that ate whatever was on their path. So it stands to reason that dogs can exhibit similar behaviours. 

2)      Some pets eat feces because they’re bored.   

3)      Some pets develop this bad habit as a result of their training or their genetics. 

If your pet is eating feces, don’t punish him, as this may lead to fear, anxiety or even aggression. A better approach is to use positive reinforcement, i.e. to reward him for good behaviours. Here are a few specific tips that should help:

1)      Give your dog or cat more of your time and attention; play with him and give him toys to keep him occupied when you’re away. 

2)      Immediately pick up his feces; if the feces aren’t lying around, your pet can’t fixate on them! 

These simple tips should put a stop to this unusual habit.  Just remember to be patient and supportive, and not punishing. Pets are living, intelligent beings. They’re perfectly capable of understanding what’s unacceptable behaviour if you show them in the right way! Good luck!

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