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Pet World: You can train a dog not to put things in his mouth

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have a seven-month-old “Shihpoo” who eats everything he smells. I have tried a spray water bottle to get him to drop the garbage, but it does not work. He eats leaves, bugs, dead frogs, worms, paper; you get the idea. He eats things so fast; I don’t have the time to stop him. He also loves to roll in any kind of animal poop. How do stop this behavior? He is driving me crazy. Thanks for any guidance you can offer.

–Lori, Parkland, Florida

Dear Lori,

Your little “Shihpoo” is still a puppy and puppies love to put things in their mouth. The good news is, you can use positive training to teach him to “leave it” and, over time, he should become less interested in eating everything in sight.

To begin, get some treats and ask your puppy to sit. If you hold the treat a few inches above his nose and then move the treat slowly over his head, he will tilt his head up and his body back into a sit position to see the treat. Viola! You just taught him to “sit.”


When he sits, say his reward word, like “bingo” (for example), and give him a treat. As he progresses, he should look at you after the “sit” command, which is what you need him to do to get him to the next level of training. When you feel he understands his reward word (he did something you asked, like sit, and he receives a treat), begin the “leave it” training.

For “leave it,” drop a treat to the floor and tell him to “leave it." He should look at you – and not the treat. After a second or two of him “leaving it,” say his reward word and give him a treat from your hand. Then pick up the treat off the floor. Repeat this process several times each training session, and train him a few times a day, extending the time he can sit without touching the treat on the floor. Never let him eat the treat (or other food) off the floor. If he learns he can only take treats from your hand, he will begin to leave food and other items on the ground alone.

When you feel he understands this concept, you can say “leave it” when he goes to eat anything else you don’t want him to eat. Always reward this good behavior with a treat during these early stages of training. Of course, you will need to catch him in the act for this advanced training. Dogs are smart, though. Once he understands what “leave it” means, he will eventually leave things alone even when you are not around.

As for rolling around in poop, the best remedy is to pick up the poop in his yard so it’s not accessible to him. Keep him leashed when anywhere else to prevent him from rolling around in another animal’s poop. When he finally understands “leave it,” you should be able to say “leave it” when you see him sniffing poop, and he should walk away from it.


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