Monday, February 15, 2016

Dear Mother Nature... A Stinky Little Problem

Dear Mother Nature:

I’m sure you’re totally swamped, but I hope you can spare a moment to discuss coprophagia.  

Yeah, that’s a mouthful… and a revolting one at that.  I guess no one really wants to talk about poop-eating, yet it’s an issue that plagues many dog-owners and it’s time we spoke up.

I’m the first to admit I was naïve about dogs before Riggs came into my life, but the scales had fallen from my eyes by the time Mabel arrived.  I was prepared for double the scooping, double the dirt, and even double the death-rolling.  I knew Mabel would follow Riggs’ dubious lead and that it would sometimes end badly. 

Mabel is not Riggs, of course.  Dogs are like snowflakes, and imperfections are part of what makes each one special.  With all credit to you, Mother Nature, Mabel is the darling to Riggs’ rogue, the sweet to his salty.  But she also has a taste for poop that he never had. Oh, Riggs will pick up a stray morsel now and then, particularly cat or bunny poop.  With him, it’s casual, an idle pastime, whereas Mabel takes it very seriously indeed.  Poop-eating has become a passion, a vocation… an obsession.  If she has to choose between chasing a squirrel or grabbing a turd, the turd wins.  And that’s just not right.

My reading suggests that mother dogs clean up after their pups and the pups learn the behavior.  Some say it goes back to the wolf den, where reducing smell could discourage predators.  Okay, I’m prepared to accept that coprophagia served an evolutionary purpose.  Now that dogs have joined us in our living rooms, and even our beds, I entreat you to turn your considerable talents to addressing the problem.  I’m confident that you can natural selection this trait right out of the domestic dog population.  

Yes, wild dog packs may need to continue eating poop.  Scavenging must leave them short on nutrients.  Here in North America, however, where dogs are increasingly treated like “fur kids” and fed high quality foods, I humbly submit that coprophagia is not only pointless, but potentially dangerous.  In warmer weather Mabel is at constant risk of ingesting parasites.  

You might remind me that dog ownership isn’t all roses, and fair enough.  I was even warned about this possibility before I knew coprophagia was a word. My cousin regaled me—in fits of disgusted giggles—with stories of her poop-eater and various (failed) attempts to combat the problem.  A good friend had a trio of poop-eaters—the smallest would actually stand under the largest in open-mouthed anticipation.  Her husband called them a “self-cleaning machine.”

So I don’t whine often.  I can and do follow Mabel into the yard at all hours in all weather to scoop promptly.  I can and do keep her leashed on the streets, although she still snags the odd tidbit, since people seem to think snow gives them a free pass on poop collection. 

The real challenge is in the parks and ravines where it’s a veritable poop buffet.  I find it hard to believe you’d want me to leash her there. Surely you prefer your canine creations to have freedom to romp and run.  Mine have great adventures on the trails and a pretty good life overall, if I do say so myself. 

It’s just that “poopsicle” season is wearing me down.  Apparently freezing brings out the finest qualities in poop, and Mabel is working like a… er, dog… to clear Toronto’s ravines of all deposits before the spring thaw. 

One of my dog-walkers, a man with a strong constitution, squealed like a schoolgirl this week:  “Mabel’s relentless.  I caught her with 10 different turds, and that’s just what I witnessed.  Have you talked to your vet?”

I have talked to my vet.  First I talked to the vet’s staff, who recommended For-Bid, a product you add to a dog’s food that renders the subsequent output unappetizing.  They speculated that baiting Mabel with nasty-tasting poop in my yard might put her off the whole business.  Seemed like a reasonable experiment for $22, so I bought a box. 

Then my vet weighed in directly.  “Don’t even bother with For-Bid,” she said.  “It won’t work, and it might make things worse.”  Turns out dogs can be intermittently rewarded with swell-tasting poop in the park and become even more fanatical.  

“Well, what then?” I asked, helplessly.

“If ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’ aren’t working, you’ll have to leash her.”

Drop it and leave it work when I can focus exclusively on Mabel’s toxic truffle hunt.  If I’m distracted for a moment, however, she returns with a s*#t-eating grin.  And when she’s off my watch, it’s a free-for-all.  

“Most dogs do this in winter,” my other walker assured me.  “I’ve seen worse.”   

Luckily, Mabel doesn’t suffer from her dietary indiscretions.  So far, the major impact seems to be on her own poop production.  The dogs eat exactly two cups of the same kibble daily.  Riggs produces a modest amount of poop, whereas with Mabel, it’s like the biblical loaves and fishes: two cups of kibble turns into five massive poops per day.  I can only assume some of it is re-poop.  

She also fills a room with eye-watering flatulence.  I can and do deploy my mouth-breathing skills.  And sadly, I must decline the kisses she offers so freely.  Her beard is always suspect.

Anyway, Mother Nature, I realize coprophagia isn’t high on your priority list, what with disappearing habitats and species.  But if you have a moment, I’d appreciate your looking into the matter. 

I know plenty of dog-lovers, by the way, and they’re great people.  If you ever have aspirations to run for higher office, you can count on us to get behind you… and scoop hard.




  1. This repulsive behaviour has appeared at our house but only in our female dogs. Kali is particularly keen on eating poop, even her own...and it doesn't have to be frozen. So we make sure her two daily poops are done on leash or under supervision in the backyard.

  2. Sandy, I feel your pain. As you know I also have a turd connoisseur. I have tried every trick and product known to man and beast to stop this behavior With no luck. The only way I know that he is not munching on a delectable butt nugget is to pick up the messes as they happen. He does not eat his own only his 3 brothers. I watch my little poo muncher like a hawk when he is outside. You can just see the glee on his face when he sees one of the others doing the poop walk, and then comes that sideways glance of his, to see if I'm watching, and of course I am, I am always watching and ready to scream, "no uckies" yes I am that crazy neighbor. I Love the little poo eater to pieces anyway.

    1. Laurie, that is hilarious! Mabel definitely gives me that sideways glance. Regrettably, she is often turning as she does to grab her own output before I can - yikes! And yes, the neighbors definitely hear me yelling! Basically, I just suit up and go out there with her each and every time. It's the only way.

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