I can assure you with the utmost certainty that if the neighbors in our apartment building ever listened to the conversations in our house, they were horrified and moved on. That’s because my partner and I usually talk about dog poop.
Our Labradors, Daisy and Jackson, are having trouble pooping. It makes urban living in our backyard-less Boston neighborhood a challenge. When one of us comes back from a walk with the dogs, the post-walk interrogation and bickering begins: ‘Did Daisy eat poop? Why didn’t you keep a closer eye on her? Did Jackson poop? You know he hates pooping in that park!’
For Jackson, the wind, air pressure, and temperature have to be just right to poop. He also needs the perfect bush. Once he finds this precious bush, he’ll push his behind right in and poop. Sometimes its deposits fall on various branches and decorate them as Christmas tree decorations. If I pick it up with a pouch I can’t wiggle the limbs or poop falls on my arm.
Why are some dogs such picky poops?
“Aren’t we all a little picky about where we, well, go to the bathroom? Dogs are no different,” says board-certified veterinary behaviorist Lisa Radosta of the Florida Veterinary Behavior Service.
Canines have several reasons for being picky. “Some dogs have been taught, sometimes unintentionally, from their human parents to eliminate in one area or surface,” says Dr. Radosta. “If a dog lives in a house with a yard and always eliminates on grass, getting that dog eliminated on concrete or stone can be a challenge.”
dr. Radosta suspects that Jackson is scared when he is outside. “Dogs that are scared are constantly hypervigilant, scanning the environment,” she says. “It’s hard to be vulnerable and settle for a good poop when you →
are always looking for the monsters behind the next house. He can go back to the bush, because that seems safer.”
Interestingly, before we adopted Jackson, he was a stray in a rural area and probably had to be wary of staying alive.
For some pups, being picky can be a battle. “Dogs can use urine and feces to mark territory,” says board-certified animal behaviorist Megan Maxwell, PhD. “You may see a dog looking for an elevated spot to defecate or one where the wind is likely to carry the scent.”
While Jackson’s pooping is mysterious, Daisy suffers from Seasonal Rudeness Disorder. In the winter, she gobbles up poosicles, frozen dog poop that irresponsible owners leave behind. Eating feces — coprophagy — is downright horrifying to humans, but experts say it’s common.
“This is normal dog behavior,” says Dr. Radosta. “Mother dogs eat their pups’ feces to keep the den clean. Dogs can learn to eat feces by doing normal research. Dogs certainly can’t have proper nutrition or have underlying systemic disease, which can also contribute.”
dr. Radosta adds that feces containing undigested food can smell appetizing to dogs. My guess is that Daisy, who eats almost anything, is probably thinking, “Oh, the smell! I need to devour this quickly before my mom freaks out!”
Does this look normal?
Cori Johnson definitely can’t participate in those social media games where people are asked to post the third photo on their phone because chances are she has a pile of dog poop.
The former nurse volunteers at an animal shelter and uses her medical skills to solve the concerns of foster parents. Cori’s phone is full of poop photos and texts saying, “Does this look normal to you?”
“Some dogs come straight from shelters,” Cori says. “They have not always had the best nutrition or care. The photos are revealing.”
Board-certified veterinary nutritionist Lindsey Bullen of VetScoop.com says her inbox is also flooded with photos of feces, and she’s excited. “Poop is a window to the inner soul. It tells us a lot about the body.”
So, what’s normal? “We want stool to form and look that block,” says Dr. bulls. “If you pick it up, it shouldn’t fall apart. It should not smear, but it should not dry out.”
If a puppy’s poop changes in appearance, smells normal, or changes color, that could be a problem. If a dog goes more or less often, pay attention.
“You are the expert when it comes to your pet,” explains Dr. Bull out. “You know what their poop used to look like. You know how it used to smell. You know how easy or hard it was to pick up. Any change may warrant an investigation.”
Anything outside the norm is worth seeking medical advice.
“It’s never wrong to call your vet. I want to emphasize the importance of finding a vet that parents are comfortable with talking about poop or sending pictures,” says Dr. Bullen.
Vets can perform tests to find the cause of a poo problem. But don’t wait for a predicament; regular exams, fecal testing and heartworm prevention with a dewormer are crucial to keeping dogs healthy.
Problem Solving: Behavioral Challenges
What Are Solutions For Dogs Eating Doo And Peculiar Poopers? If puppies with coprophagia have no underlying medical problems, immediately scoop up the poop in the backyard so there is nothing to eat. And work on training.
“Teach the dog a let-it-cue,” says Dr. Radosta. “If you see your dog moving toward the poop, ask her ‘leave it,’ and when she comes back to you, reward her with a tasty treat every time.”
dr. Maxwell also suggests positive reinforcement for picky poopers like Jackson. “You could let him walk in more open spaces so he gradually gets used to defecating on grass,” she says. “Bring a treat, and as soon as he’s done pooping on a flat surface, praise merrily and give a treat.”
Vets, behaviorists, and certified trainers are excellent resources for concerned pet parents — or even bickering — about their dog’s pooping habits.
If a puppy’s poop changes in appearance, smells normal, or changes color, that could be a problem. If a dog goes more or less often, pay attention as well.
Poo problems can be caused by many different things, which is why dog lovers should become poo cops.
- stomach flu
- eating pattern
It could be a sign of:
- vitamin deficiencies
- gastrointestinal disease
If a dog poops or poops less often, it could be:
Cleaning up poop is so much easier with today’s poop products. Here are just a few:
Nature’s Miracle Advanced Stain & Odor Remover $15.49† tough.com
The Original Poop Bags: USDA Biobased Peanuts Leash Rolls and Peanuts Dispenser $4.99 / 60 Bags and $4.99 Dispenser† poepbags.com. *part of the company’s You Buy, We Donate program, which helps animal shelters, dog parks and animals in need.