Dogs are rarely fussy eaters; most will happily chow down on expired meat and leftovers. They typically favor strong-scented objects, but you need to draw the line when they start eating things that are harmful, such as soap. Soaps contain detergent, which is poisonous and causes dehydration and blockages. Tackle this problem from two angles: Make it difficult for your dog to access the forbidden soap, and then under controlled conditions help him to build negative associations with the soap.
Tip #1 - Put all soap out of Lucky’s reach. Dogs are opportunistic eaters; if Lucky spots the soap, he’ll eat it, but if he doesn’t see any soap, he can’t eat it. Keep the door to the washroom closed, so Lucky can’t wander in and explore. If necessary, train Lucky that the washroom is off-limits. Walk him around the house on a leash and gently tug the leash when he heads into the washroom. Reward him when he walks past the washroom. Over time, he’ll learn that you don’t want him in there.
Tip #2 - Find the causes. If your soap-eating pet is between 6 and 9 months, it’s probable that he’s teething. When teething, dogs will chew on anything they can find. If Lucky likes the smell of your soap, chewing on it is a self-rewarding activity. He relieves his gum pain and enjoys the smell. In rare cases, soap eating is due to a behavioral or psychological problem. Some dogs eat strange objects because of a compulsive disorder called pica. This disorder makes the dog fixate on eating non-food objects such as soap, rocks, their own fur and even poop. Take your dog to the vet if you suspect his behavior is compulsive.
Tip #3 - Encourage appropriate chewing by putting down a wide selection of chew toys. Lavish Lucky with praise when he shows an interest in the toys and interact with him. This helps Lucky build positive associations with the chew toys. Once Lucky understands that the toys are for chewing, he’ll be more inclined to focus his energy on these than on the soap.
Tip #4 - Put down one chew toy and one piece of unscented soap. Leash Lucky and walk him toward the two objects. As you walk him, give him praise. If he goes for the chew toy, continue to give him praise and fuss to reward him.
Tip #5 - Restrain him gently with the leash and stop praising him If he sniffs the soap. Lucky will notice that the positive stimulus of the praise was removed when he sniffed the soap. With sufficient repetition, Lucky will build a negative association with the soap and his positive feelings toward the chew toys will be stronger.
By Simon Foden
ASPCA: Bar Soap
Milford Animal Hospital: Brushing Your Puppy's Teeth
PetWave: How to Stop Dogs from Eating Strange Things
Cesar's Way: Ask the Vet: Rock-Eating "Pica" Pup
Cesar's Way: 5 Steps to Correct Inappropriate Dog Chewing
About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.