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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dirty habit

Dear Dogs Today

My six-month-old Maltese-Shih Tzu cross has developed a dirty habit - she is bringing poo in from the garden and leaving it on the floor!

I first discovered something funny was happening a couple of weeks ago when I noticed our cat had dog poo stuck in his fur. I have never seen him roll in our garden so I thought it was a bit strange. I then found a few deposits on the floor, but as my pup is housetrained, I kept a closer eye on her. I then caught her coming in from the garden carrying poo in her mouth!

She has been housetrained without any accidents for a few months now and so I have stopped praising her when she had gone outside correctly. Do you think the reason could be that I have stopped praising her and she is bringing the poo inside for attention?

I really don't know what to do, she was doing so well! I would really appreciate any help or advice anyone can give me.

Thank you.

Justine, Surrey


  1. Hi Justine

    Do you give her attention when she brings it in? If so, she is doing it for just that.

    can you clean it up before she has chance to bring it in?

    Can you see when she has 'been', call her away from it and reward?
    Just a few suggestions and I hope they help and I don't believe this has anything to do with house training.

    Warmest wishes


  2. Only your puppy knows why she is bringing in the faeces. If only dogs could talk!

    But could you have inadvertently rewarded her with some sort of attention? Any attention can be rewarding and finding mess in the house certainly creates a reaction!

    Similar to the advice from Gill, try keeping an eye on her when she is in the garden and reward her with a tasty treat (away from it) as soon as she has gone. Encourage her inside. Remove it from the garden straight away when she can't see you doing it. That helps to stop the association between you and her waste and it means the mess isn't there to be retrieved by her.

    In time it should stop because
    a) You are rewarding her for moving away from her deposits.
    b) Due to consistant prevention, the habit will fade.

    I notice the word cat. Is it the cat faeces which she is bringing in? If so, again, try and keep the garden clean to prevent it.

    One may have a good little retrieving dog there! Perhaps get a toy or ball that she can bring back instead. Hide it in the garden regularly and reward her with a fantastic game or treat when she finds it and brings it in.

  3. Justine, the main thing is to ensure the garden is clean before she goes in it, and ensure she is *always* supervised when outdoors (that actually has more applications than making sure she doesn't pick up poop by the way).

    On a longer-term view point, you could teach her a leave it or an off, or a drop it, or even a give. If you're unsure how to do this, have a look at the UK APDT's website to find trainers local to you who should only be using kind, fair, and effective methods. Make sure you go to see a class without your dog first, to make sure they are sticking to the Code of Practise - if they are, then go along; if not, please report them to the APDT office.

    For some more tips on how to find a good trainer or behaviourist, check out my blog post here:

  4. Hi Justine

    This is an interesting one, but often dogs will pick up and carry items they quite like. Poo is no exception, since at times it smells rather like food as it may not be fully digested. Especially common in puppies, who often seem to pick up, carry, and eat all sorts of things! If there is a cat using your garden as a toilet, this is often very attractive to dogs as it is quite strong-smelling, although this is unlikely to be your own cat as they rarely toilet in their own territory.

    I don't think this is a housetraining issue as it sounds like you have done this correctly - your dog is probably quite pleased with her 'prize'!

    If you can, check whether or not it is your dog's own poo. If so, perhaps look at her diet and check if she is digesting it properly, even talk to your Vet about what might be an appropriate food choice for her.

    If you begin rewarding her with anything - attention, food, and so on, for bringing it in she will do this more and more. Alternatively if you punish her, she may decide to eat it or hide instead.

    A good solution is to wait until she has toileted (keep your eye on her!) and immediately call out to her in a happy, excited way to praise her, but call her AWAY from the toilet area and then reward her before she has a chance to pick anything up! This way, you can intervene rapidly and break the chain of behaviour. You can also pick up the poo whilst she is eating her reward. If she learns to toilet, leave it behind, then race back to you for something better (and eventually this will mean racing back inside of course) then this is probably the most efficient way of getting her to ignore the tempting prize poo!

    Best of luck!