Our expert says:
Dog Behaviour Expert
Hi El, although poo eating (called Pica)is often thought to be a symptom of a lack of something the dog needs, it is more likely to be a psychological problem. However, due to your older dogs age, I would suggest talking to your vet and perhaps trying to put the older dog onto a senior diet to make sure there are no deficiencies present. At the same time, there are specific enzymes that you can get from the vet to add to the food that apparently make the stool taste disgusting (although i have not tried personally!). Another old wifes tale that works with some dogs is to grate up pineapple. and add a bit to the food - this apparently has the same effect.
The younger dog is simply mimicking the older dogs behaviour, which is not unusual.
As this is normally a symptom of psychological behaviour and is usually linked to boredom and/or frustration/stress, I would suggest you also look at this side of things - make sure the dogs are getting out for a walk on a regular basis (keep on lead so they cant eat another dogs stool - supply nice interesting chew toys such as large sized rawhide bone (you can even smear a little peanut butter in the cracks, organic better, as large amounts of pbutter can be toxic). Invest in various types of Kongs and put their daily food in these. On my free www.friendsofthedog.co.za site there are two articles that will help: 50 Ways with Kongs and Chewing and Toys. These will give you some good ideas on this topic.
Your next step is pure and simple - management. Work out when the dogs eliminate and pick it up. this has become a habit and each and every time the behaviour happens it is reinforced.
Your last option, which I really dont like but is sometimes necessary, is dog wears a basket type muzzle. As the dog cant eat and drink, it really is not an option for long term, but if you are there to supervise, can be brought in to prevent the behaviour from happening.If you have a helper in the home, this is an area they can help with.
What I would also suggest is that when you figure out when they eliminate, you go outside with the dog, watch the behaviour, and the second the dog is finished, call it, praise lavishly and offer a food treat. This is not to be done on an isolated occasion, but each and every time the dog eliminates.
The above need to all be done at the same time, and as with any habit, it does not change overnight, it takes time.
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