September 22, 2009 08:00 PM

It’s a nasty, gag-inducing habit: dogs who like to dine on their doo-doo. For those of you who haven’t turned to the Internet for an explanation of this behavior, you should know that this disgusting habit actually has a name. It’s called coprophagia, and no one is really sure why dogs are especially afflicted. Some theorize that it could be the unimaginable: It tastes good to them (yuck!).

On that note, is there anything a person can do to stop their pooch from thinking poo is on the menu? Dog trainer Kyra Sundance, author of The Dog Rules: 14 Secrets to Developing the Dog You Want, says there are two things we do know about this icky problem. First, nursing dogs will often eat their puppies’ feces to keep things clean, and puppies less than a year old are more likely to do it and successfully grow out of it.

Sundance, who has worked with dogs on this very problem, says there is no easy and effective solution. But she says the best thing you can do is keep canines away from their excrement.

“Limit your dog’s opportunity to engage in this undesired behavior. After the dog has been prevented from eating feces for a considerable length of time, the habit tends to fade,” she says. “The most effective solution is management of the environment. Keep your yard picked up at least twice a day, and immediately pick up after your dog whenever possible.”

She also suggests saying a resounding “no” when you catch your dog eating feces, “to let him know that this is not acceptable behavior.” Additionally, there are products out there that may help some dogs, “which presumably make the feces distasteful. Pineapple may also accomplish this goal,” she says, suggesting that dog owners also try Tabasco sauce as a deterrent.

This unpleasant activity could stem from a hunger issue, so Sundance says you should feed your pooch more than once a day. But be careful not to dole out too much food: “Do not overfeed your dog, as his feces may not be fully digested and therefore more appetizing,” she says. It’s also a good idea to give your dog plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, so he doesn’t look to his poo as a playmate.

How would you deal with this situation? Leave your suggestion in the comments below!

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