We adopted a 2 year old hound/dane mix about a month ago from a rescue. He did come from an abusive household, but it didn't take long for him to fall right into place with our family. Though, he does something I've never seen a dog do before: he stacks/lines up his poop on the outdoor furniture. He doesn't eat it at all, just waits a day for it to dry a bit, then starts piling it on the outdoor furniture. When he first came home with us, he would line chunks of poop up along the back patio, which was weird enough, but then he moved onto stacking/lining it up on the outdoor furniture. I reprimand him verbally that it's not allowed with a solid, "No!" while pointing at the poop, then I lift the cushion to put the poop back in the dirt, and again, give him a solid "No!". But, he continues to do it. I'm not sure why he's doing it or how to get him to stop. Although he doesn't eat his poop, I did try Forbid with him, which worked for a couple of days, but he started tipping his food dish over on day 4 of using it and refusing to eat, so I stopped giving it to him. I've googled this behaviour but can't find anyone who has experienced this. Does anyone know why and how to stop him from doing it?
This is a wild guess on my part but the only explanation I can come up with.
What he does seems to be a misguided way of seeking your attention.
You can sometimes see the same development in humans, especially mistreated or psychopathic children. They want the attention of their parents. If "normal" ways of attention seeking like speaking or otherwise interacting with them don't yield the desired result, they simply try out other things. Sooner or later, by pure chance, they will do something bad enough that their parents do react and reprimand them. The reprimand doesn't matter at all, they got the attention they were seeking for so long. Over time this kind of behavior can spiral out of control until the children have a completely upside-down moral compass and are incapable of compassion.
I do think that he learned this behavior at his abusive former home. Who knows how much play and positive attenmtion he got there... presenting poop on furniture sure as hell provoked some kind of attention from his former owners.
And there lies the crux: You reward this behavior with your reprimand. If you want him to stop doing it, you must stop reprimanding him at once. He actually didn't even know why you reprimanded him. Dogs cannot connect their own past actions to a present reaction from you, even if you point at the poop. Their brains are simply not able to draw the connection.
Instead, you should:
- Only tell him "No!" when you catch him in the act of carrying his poop or laying it on furniture. If he already put it down and turned away, it's already too late to reprimand him.
- If you find dry poop on your furniture, treat it just like you would treat a dry leaf. Don't speak to him, don't complain about it, don't get angry, don't make a fuss about it at all. Just let it dissappear quietly. That way he doesn't get the attention he tries to trigger with his behavior.
I don't know how many toys he has. Dried poop might have been the only "toy" he could find at his former home. Maybe refocusing his attention onto a specific toy could help the situation.