Kitty "tootsie rolls" can be very tempting from your dog's perspective, but nothing triggers the yuck factor more than being licked after the deed. To prevent "eau de poop breath," you can use some strategies to stop your dog from using the litter box or yard as a breakfast bar.
Evaluate why your kitty-doo eater is engaging in this pastime. Is your dog bored and looking for ways to occupy his time? Does he lack some minerals in his diet? Seeing your vet to rule out any underlying medical and nutritional problems is a good place to start. However, because this behavior is common in even in the most well-nourished canines, the attractive taste is a most likely the reason, explains dog trainer and author Kathy Diamond Davis. Indeed, cat food has a higher content in protein than dog food, and remnants of protein found in cat feces make them particularly appealing to dogs, according to Vet Info.
Choose some treats that rank high on your dog's top list of rewards. You want treats that make your dog drool and that from your dog's perspective are far superior to the cat doodoo. For some dogs, freeze-dried liver works wonders, while others may prefer slivers of hot dogs or some string cheese. For training purposes, using small, soft, bite-size treats are preferable than large, crunchy ones.
Get the cat's litter box and place it in the middle of a room or, if your cat stays outdoors, go outside and find some poop in the yard. If you use the litter box make sure it has some kitty poop in it. Grab a handful of treats, place them in a treat bag and get your dog. If you do not trust your dog or feel you do not have much control over him, put a collar and leash on him.
Stay a few feet away from the litter box or pile of poop, and the moment you notice your dog is about to approach the litter box or poop, block his way to the litter box with your body or place your hand in front of the poop and firmly say "leave it." The moment he backs or looks away, praise him and give him the treat. If your treat is truly more valuable than the kitty poop, he should be more interested in the treat than the poop. Repeat several times.
Add some challenges to proof your training. Stop blocking access to the poop and remove the collar and leash and continue with the "leave it" command followed by praise and a treat for obeying the command and moving away from the poop. As he gets good at this, you can also move slightly away and ask him to "leave it" from a greater distance. You can also try to pretend to leave the room or move away from the yard and keep an eye on Scruffy from a distance, implementing the command as needed. Spraying the poop with a taste deterrent may be helpful just in case he sneaks to eat the poop.
Make eating poop difficult for your dog. Managing your dog's environment is much easier and effective than getting frustrated and correcting a dog mishap after mishap. You can save your dog and yourself a lot of stress by simply placing the litter box in an area that only the cat can access or installing a baby gate around the box that has openings big enough for the cat to fit through but too small for the dog. If your dog goes outdoors, keeping him on leash will prevent him from going on a poop hunt. With the poop out of reach, your dog should be less likely to encounter the stuff, and should he ever come by some, your training should offer a good back-up plan.
- The "leave it" command can also be applied to anything you don't want your puppy to get in contact with or eat. It can be a lifesaver, and training it is ultimately well worth the effort.
- Training a "drop it" command is also helpful in case you're unable to say "leave it" in time and your dog has already picked up poop.
- For persistent cases, you may invest in taste deterrents that you can spray on the cat feces to make them taste horrible.
- Reduce as much as possible the chances for eating kitty poop when you are not around. Eating poop is self-reinforcing, and the more it is practiced, the more difficult it will be to eradicate.
- Avoid harsh training methods such as pushing your pup's head in cat feces or hitting him with a newspaper. These methods do not work and will only make your dog fearful of you.
- When adding challenges to dog training, always do so only once your dog is reliably obeying the command.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.