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My dog eats poo and dead animals. What can I do?

Ellena Swift offers some advice to halt a revolting habit

dog on long line lead

Trainer Ellena Swift uses a slip lead on labrador in conjunction with a long lead

So your dog eats poo?

Q: I have an eight-month-old German shorthaired pointer who has taken a liking to poo, dead animals and, actually, anything she can find. Once she has something in her mouth, she will bolt. I have tried high-value treats, toys and using a stern voice, but nothing works. If she steals something at home, I can walk over with a treat and she will drop whatever she has and give it up. But out on a walk, it is hopeless. We have done lots of ‘leave it’ training but nothing seems to work.

What is the advice?

A: She is young and has discovered that if she takes something, you will reward with a high-value treat and lots of fun play beforehand. This is exactly how she sees this scenario. Mummy plays with me, then gives me something yummy.

You need to prevent this behaviour first and foremost, so keep her on a lead or long line. (Read our guide to the best slip leads.) That way, when she picks up something, you do not need to chase or even pursue her.

Ask for a recall and see it through, using your long line if necessary. Do not ask her to give up her prize. Fuss her while she holds it — unless it is something truly dangerous that you need to remove immediately, obviously. Call her to heel while she is carrying the item, then ask her to sit. Practise little recalls while she is carrying.

After a few minutes, remove the item, then offer something as a reward. Do not offer the treat as a bribe, but always a reward after she has delivered. In the house, try to keep anything dangerous or valuable safely out of the way. Leave things she is allowed to carry around and encourage her to pick them up. Then wait for her to come and engage with you before you play. Again, make the game on your terms, not hers.

If she wants your attention, she must bring the item to you. If it is something she is allowed, do not take it off her. Allow her to carry it. As she gets more confident carrying items she deems of high value around you, take it off her, reward and immediately give it back. She must know that to share with you is good and does not always mean she doesn’t get to keep the item. Also, she needs to know that if she wants your attention, she has to play the game by your rules. Otherwise the fun simply stops.