Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Evolution of My View on What Is and Isn't Dirty

dirt [durt] - a) any foul or filthy substance, as mud, grime, dust, or excrement b) earth or soil, especially when loose
As many things as we share with our dogs, the definition of what is and isn't dirty is not one of them. 


It's not because dogs are filthy animals. They like to keep themselves and their den clean. When Cookie leaks, she's not happy about it and she will do her best to clean it up. She'll try to lick it off or, when that's not possible, bury it by pushing her sheet around.

Yuck, you might think, licking it up. 

How else is she supposed to clean it up? She doesn't have thumbs and she's quite limited in available tools. I always hurry up and take care of it for her. That makes her happy.

Dogs don't like to have their dwelling soiled. Cookie, even though she grew up tied outside, never soiled the house. She just needed to be shown where to potty and how to get there.


While dogs don't like having their den soiled, they are pretty happy to eat poop for reasons other than cleaning it up.

A mother with pups will eat their poop. This is to keep the den clean and to keep away predators.

Some dogs will eat any poop they can find, including their own, some can be rather selective about it.

They might eat poop because of its nutritional value. Being originally scavengers, they'd eat anything that might have had any nutrition left in it. There are also theories that they might do it because something is missing in their diet or their digestion isn't working properly. They might do it out of boredom, stress, hunger, to get attention or just because it's there. Puppies are particularly prone to doing this.

If they consider poop yummy, why do they mind it in their den?

Well, I don't know about you but I wouldn't want my food spilled all over my bed either. So perhaps that explains it.

Dogs are also perfectly willing to eat anything else disgusting they can get their mouths on.

Things we find foul-smelling obviously smell awesome to dogs. Beside poop, any ol' rotten thing will do, including stinky shoes or socks, stinky carcass ...

All our guys love munching on horse poop, deer poop, rabbit poop ... those things are probably salad to them.

And what is not good enough to eat, is definitely good enough to roll in.

There are a number of theories why dogs do that but I think we really just don't have a clue. Maybe one day we'll understand. Will that make us feel better about it? Probably not.

One time Cookie found a dead mouse and was seriously considering eating it.

I'm fine with her catching and eating freshly killed mice but there was no telling how long this one was dead. So I asked Cookie nicely not to eat it. She took it in her mouth again, as if negotiating. I asked her nicely again. She put it down and rolled on top of it.

From my perspective, she obliged my request not to eat it.

As much as I didn't like that either, I praised her for altering her choice to respect my wishes. I figured it was only fair.

Living with dogs for 20 years, I gradually revised my definition of dirty to accommodate their nature.

First I decided to divide dirt into two categories: clean dirt and dirty dirt. Not surprisingly, the clean dirt category has grown over time while the dirty dirt category shrunk.

First items included in the clean dirt category were sand and mud.

Dogs like to play and they get dirty. And then they get tired. No point troubling them with a bath every time they get some mud on them. Our guys are self-cleaning and once the mud dries it just comes off by itself. All one needs to do is to clean the floor or the bed.

I still remember the day when horse poop made it on the clean dirt list.

Jasmine was quite young and spent the day at the horse farm. She came home exhausted and covered in horse poop. Who would have the heart to make her have a bath as tired as she was? All she wanted to do was curl up and rest. So I let it go.

I decided horse poop was OK but I drew the line at deer poop. It is so much more foul and stinky. Whichever dog decided to roll in it payed the price by getting a bath right after.

Until the day Cookie came home, just like Jasmine, defiled by deer poop but dead tired.

So I let that go too.


These days, the only things remaining on the dirty dirt list are those that are a potential health threat. Though when Cookie decided to roll in fresh bear pile she did have to get cleaned up. Somehow I draw the line at omnivores ... for now.


Related articles:

From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
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Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat 
Observation Skills Of Dogs  
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It  
Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks 
What Constitutes The Perfect Dog?
Are Dog Training Classes Really For The Dogs?  
Look Where You Want To Go: Finding My Reactive Dog Training Zen Zone? 
Dog Training And Emotions 
Dog Training And Emotions: Postscript
Dogs Love Sentences In Question Form?
Not All Dog Trainers Were Created Equal Either 
A Thought On Separation Anxiety
Happy One-Year Adoptoversary, Cookie!
About Freedom, Trust And Responsibility: A "Pilot Study"
So, We Have A Bear 
About Happiness: What Makes Your Dog Happy? 
Our Example Of The Use Of "Look At That" (LAT) 
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Your Dog Wants To Follow You. You Just Gotta Be Going Some Place
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The Stench of Fear: Is There Good and Bad Timing for Vet Visits? 
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Things Always Change: Cookie's Hunting Adventures 
The Advantage of Your Dog Not Barking All the Time: Cookie Saves Horses' Asses
"Look at That" (LAT) Game and Barking at Traffic  
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12 comments

  1. It's amazing how easily our dogs can train us to see their (and therefore the rational ) point of view. We are such good learners. :-)

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    1. I think it's only fair. We want them to adopt our point of view on so many things ...

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  2. Even covered in dirt and mud, Cookie is adorable. My own dogs try to eat their weight in chicken and duck poo, which we have in abundance.

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    1. Yes, she is :-) Today she rolled on snake skin, at least that's relatively clean LOL I think I'd actually worry about chicken poo. But your dogs sound like they're handling it well.

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  3. The one nice thing is Cookie's coat is probably pretty easy to clean if it's just a little dried mud or dirt. Poop though, that's a trip to the bathtub, lol!

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  4. I still can't get with the whole poop eating thing - Yuck. But I'm okay with a little mud between friends.

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    1. The way we see poop and the way the dogs see poop just isn't the same. Though I can understand eating herbivore poop much better than poop of other animals, I can appreciate their point of view. Though our dogs mostly stick strictly with herbivore poop. All that really is, is fermented vegetables LOL

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  5. I've stopped freaking out so much about what our dogs get into. They kill everything that gets near them, there has been poop eating in the past, and they snacked on a dead rabbit for a week before I realized what they were doing. Whatever. LOL

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    1. LOL As long as it doesn't make them sick, right?

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  6. This is oh so true...after 5 dogs, my ideas of what's bad or good.

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    1. One gets much more relaxed about dirt, don't they?

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