There is any number of bad habits that dogs can pick up over time including things like aggression, noisy barking, nipping too hard, or rolling in unpleasant smells. One of the worst habits that puppies can develop early on is the act of eating feces. Called “coprophagia”, this happens with many puppies for several months and when left alone, can continue to be a behavior that progresses into adulthood.
Eating feces is a natural behavior exhibited by mothers of litters as they clean up after a puppy’s waste. Puppies can mimic this behavior early on. Other reasons why your puppy may be consuming waste are a vitamin deficiency, underfeeding, or outright boredom. No matter what the reason, the behavior is usually not at all appealing and it’s understandable to want to put a stop to it as soon as possible. After all, it might make for some awkward conversation when you’re visiting a dog park and Fido is a few yards away enjoying a bit of “canine cuisine” left over from someone else.
While catching your puppy eating fecal matter may be incredibly frustrating, it doesn’t have to be a behavior that persists. There are a few tactics to getting him to understand that it’s not acceptable. Be aware, however, that natural behaviors like coprophagia can be a little more difficult to wean your puppy off of if he’s particularly stubborn.
Still, it’s important to begin your intervention as soon as you notice the behavior. Waiting too long may mean that it takes him longer to learn your expectations and may also lead to illness if your puppy is particularly fond of eating what other strange animals leave behind. The sooner, the better. Set aside one to three weeks to really let your training take hold and be persistent with it. With enough time and effort, your pup can be quite content to just leave waste alone in the grass where it belongs.
Before anything else, take your puppy to the vet to have him checked for any health issues. There are some illnesses or other conditions which may make him more prone to consuming feces, so it’s good to rule those out. Once you’ve done that, consider your approach and gather up treats for positive reinforcement, cleaning supplies to remove any mess before your puppy can get to it, and the different ingredients you’ll need if you choose to tamper with your puppy’s waste to make it unappealing. Have these items on hand whenever you know a bathroom break is coming up. Preparation is important.