By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Ew! That's gross, Fido

I think I am into my second decade of writing “Happy Tails,” and it feels like I have covered every dog-related topic, however mundane, at least twice. So if you readers have any ideas about things you’d like me to explore, feel free to fire an e-mail to me at

You'll understand when you see what I was reduced to writing about this week.

The July 2014 issue of Dog Fancy magazine features an article by Karen Asp titled, “Why Does My Dog Do That?” She attempts to explain why our dogs do things we really, really wish they wouldn’t, ranging from the mildly annoying to the truly disgusting.

You may want to stop reading this right now and go find something else to do. Remember, you were warned.

Asp covers five behaviors in the article, getting the most disgusting one out of the way first.

Why do dogs eat poop?

Yuk! Ugh! Gross!

I must admit right here and now that with the exception of our rescued greyhound — for virtually trouble-free dog ownership, look into adoption of a greyhound — all my dogs have been caught at one time or another in the act of eating poop. And it's very hard to feel unconditional love after witnessing such a thing.

There actually is a name for this behavior — coprophagia. I don’t know if it’s any better to say my dogs suffer from coprophagia or to just own up to the fact that they eat poop. It’s a moot point.

There actually are some poor souls at the University of California at Davis — graduate students, no doubt — who have studied this phenomenon. They came to the determination — totally useless, in my opinion — that 16 percent of dogs eat poop, sometimes theirs and sometimes someone else’s.

There are other percentages about how much is consumed within the first few days and how many dogs confine themselves to eating only their own. But honestly, who cares? Who on earth pays for these studies?

Besides the fact that their owners want to throttle them for it, dogs face little dangeer from the behavior. A few who already have digestive problems might add to their woes, but believe it or not, most can indulge in their repulsive habit and still feel great.

Pet stores sell additives that claim to deter the practice, but if you try any of them, save your receipt. I haven’t found any of them to make any difference.

The article suggests walking around your yard sprinkling piles of poop with Tabasco sauce. But wouldn't it be simpler to simply pick up the poop before they can get at it? Really, isn't that going to be the most effective treatment?

I'm all for changing the subject. But behavior No. 2 on the list is still somewhat offensive.

Why do dogs hump each other, and the occasional human or inanimate object?

The reasons given in the article are a little vague. It settles for, “Humping means different things to different dogs.”

Some behaviorists think dogs that want to be alphas — but aren’t — might be more predisposed. Regardless, it’s particularly common in puppies and intact adult dogs.

But as with many irritating behaviors, the cure is more important than the cause.

Just physically stopping the dog may backfire. You may end up just paying attention to a behavior you want to go away, thus reinforcing it.

I would recommend teaching the command “off” and rewarding Poochie when he has all four paws on the floor. This can work no matter what your dog is humping.

If the behavior continues, and it is certainly annoying, not to mention embarrassing, it might be worth consulting a dog trainer.

The third behavior tackled by Dog Fancy is “strange sniffing,” but I would term “crotch sniffing.”

When it’s dog-to-dog, there’s really no reason for concern. Dogs navigate their world through their noses, and apparently there is a lot of useful information to be gleaned from one another’s rear ends.

From a dog’s point of view, the bottom half of a human is equally informative. But from his owner’s perspective, sniffing below the belt represents very rude behavior.

If your dog starts to make a habit of it, Dog Fancy recommends teaching him “sit” and “down.” Dogs can’t get themselves into much trouble in either of those positions.

The fourth behavior is scooting. Poochie sits and drags his bottom across the floor, usually in full view of the company you’ve invited for dinner.

If it's only occasional, just pretend it isn’t happening. If your dog scoots on a regular basis, however, it could mean he has a medical problem requiring a trip to the vet.

The fifth behavior the author singles out tail-chasing.

Compared to the first four, it doesn’t seem like much to worry about. I mean, if your dog is constantly chasing his tail, he may be developing the canine version of obsessive compulsive disorder, but at least he’s not eating poop, humping your guest, sniffing someone's crotch or scooting his tush across the carpet.

However, if tail-chasing becomes your dog’s only pastime, a visit to the vet is in order.

Dogs. Why do we put up with them?

I guess it’s because, despite the occasional totally disgusting behavior, they do light up our lives with their affection and general adorableness. And I suppose human behaviors could as easily be seen as bizarre.

I wonder what an article titled, “Why Does My Human Do That?” would include. Undoubtedly, talking endlessly into a little plastic thing we hold in our hands. Probably staring intently at pieces of paper. And I wonder what they’d say about our habit of collecting their poop and putting it into little plastic bags.

Nancy Carlson can be reached at

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