Posted 5 months ago ago
Written by Rachel Mainwaring
Owning a new pup can be a pretty overwhelming time, especially if it insists on eating his own poo during the night.
But Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly host Graeme Hall says you can rest assured that your puppy’s questionable night-time routine is actually not that unusual and won’t last forever.
In his latest podcast ‘Talking Dogs with Graeme Hall’ the dog behaviourist says that, while it seems pretty gross to humans, eating poo is completely different for a dog, whose amazing sense of smell can detect some yummy treats within their number two.
He dedicates his final podcast to the weird and wonderful questions he’s received from dog owners, but he says most dog problems are way more common than you think – and that’s especially true for dogs who delight in a diet of their poop.
Nicky, owner of gorgeous Miniature Schnauzer Otto, is at the end of her tether because her 14-week-old pup has started feasting on his number twos during the night and does not want it to become a habit.
She tells Graeme: “In the last week or two, weirdly when he’s got better at toilet training, and going outside, he hasn’t been letting us know when he wants to go for a number two so we’ll find that he wakes us up, normally around the same time, and we’ll go to his crate to find that he’s already been awake and he’s gone for a number two and he’s eaten it. I told him ‘no’ and took him straight outside. Why isn’t he letting us know he needs a poo and why is he eating it?”
Graeme, who has been training dogs for more than 15 years, says it’s still early days for Otto but some changes in his feeding and night-time routine might help.
He says: “It’s not unusual at 15 weeks and I’m pretty sure this is going to fix itself. But when you’ve got these kind of issues with a puppy, it feels like you’re the only one in the world because everybody else you talk to says their puppy was perfect!
“The word for eating poo is Coprophagia and behaviourists are very familiar with this. Don’t think of this from a human point of view. We’re not dogs and they have a fantastic sense of smell. And that’s the first clue! The other thing about their sense of smell is that it will split out lots of different smells in one single thing. It’s a hunting skill. As a predator you have to be out in the field or the woods, thinking ‘Right, I can smell tree, grass, earth, rabbit. Ah rabbit, I’ll focus on that one.
“The next thing to know is that some commercial dog food has a very strong smell when it goes in and it’s still there by the time it comes out the other end! So, unlike us, when he sticks his nose in that general direction, he doesn’t think ‘Ugh, dog poo’ he thinks ‘Ooh, there’s that chicken supreme meal in there somewhere.’ Because he’s a puppy he wants every bit of nutrition he can get to build his body. That’s why it’s not as unusual as you think and they do tend to grow out of it.”
And Graeme, who criss-crosses the country helping dog and puppy owners with behaviour problems, said the best solution is to try and prevent it happening by feeding him less and at a different time so he has plenty of opportunities to clear out his system before bed.
He explains: “Prevention is better than cure with this issue. If they are in the garden and go to eat it, make sure you are there when they do it and clear it away straight away so you reduce the opportunity. If they do go to get it it’s ok to tell them off but don’t go over the top. Catch them if you can.
“If it’s happening at night, ask yourself how much you are feeding them. If it’s too much he will be producing more out of the other end so maybe try feeding him earlier in the day so it’s gone through his system before he goes to bed. Give him lots of opportunity to go before bed, hang around in the garden so as far as you can you want to be basically emptying him out before he goes to bed.”
Graeme says you will soon by able to nip the behaviour in the bud, although he did once have to deal with a Labrador who hadn’t grown out of the habit.
He said: “The worst case I ever saw as a two or three-year-old chocolate Labrador who was getting up in the night, going over to the rug on the living room floor, doing a number two there, picking it up, taking it to her bed, having a bit for now and saving a bit for later so by the time they woke up in the morning, it was all over the bed, all over her, and because she was a chocolate Lab you couldn’t tell what was fur and what wasn’t. Yeah, not nice.”
- You can hear other doggy dilemmas on his podcast ‘Talking Dogs with Graeme Hall’ and see him work his magic with pooch problems on Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly on My5.