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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Icky-poo or Okay?

As disgusting as it may be to us, it's probably not harmful for your dog to snag an occasional piece of horse poop, deer carcass, or other slimy unidentifiable organic mass once in a while when you're walking in the woods.  A steady diet of any of these things may spell trouble.  But dogs are animals with incredible constitutions.  They are grazers by nature, and they enjoy exploring the world with their mouths.

Used to be, I'd have a screaming "Leave it, ick, ishy, ICK!!!" conniption fit any time my dogs' noses would go toward something yucky on the ground.  The nose would wiggle, I'd see the tentative little nibble, followed by the big "hurry up and gulp it before she can get it away from me" response.

No more.  I've loosened up.  While I won't let my dogs make a whole meal of elk poop, I will at least not lose my mind if I see them go toward it.  That's just not the hill I want to die on.  There are more important things I can nag them about.  If I waste my nagging on fairly insignificant stuff, they won't listen to me when it's really critical.

Mind you, if your dog is scarfing up cigarette butts, dirty diapers and similarly disgusting human litter on the sidewalk, that's a different situation.  Get out your best Mr. Yuck face and voice for those moments, and employ that "LEAVE IT!!!" command.

Today Angus, our 11-week-old Lab pup, found a couple turkey egg shells in the tall grass.  He crunched them down like fried pork rinds.  I let him.  The shells are rich in calcium.  Yesterday he found a crumb of charred wood under the smoker on our patio.  I let him crunch that down too.  The day before, he found a dead rodent in the grass and brought it to me.  That went away.  Worms, fleas, whatever...I didn't want him ingesting any of those nasties. Still, I didn't yell at him when I took it.  Overreacting could have caused him to mistrust me the next time.  I just quietly took it from him, disposed of it, and stuffed a Nylabone in his face instead.  He was happy with that.

Supervise your dogs as closely as possible,  but do allow them  some time for safely exploring--and tasting-- on their own.  It's part of the fun of being a dog.

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