Is your dog a picky pooper? Here's a potential solution

A new scent stimulant may help dogs know that "it's okay to poo."

January 16, 2020 

Is your dog a picky pooper?

It’s 6 a.m., and you’re outside with your dog waiting for your dog know. You haven’t had your coffee yet, but your dog doesn’t seem to care. She sniffs a bush, rotates in a circle, sniffs the bush again. She decides against it, and follows a trail of scent across the yard. Then she’s back to the bush again. 15-minutes later, you’re shivering in your pajamas, thinking "my GOSH will you just POOP already?!"

Sound familiar?

Greensboro-based Kepley BioSystems has developed a solution for canine parents and perhaps more importantly, dog shelters.

It’s called the “Kepley K9™ Strategic Scent Stimulant” and it’s a combination of scents that tell dogs “hey, it’s okay to go.”

A dog’s connection to smell

Anyone who needs a cup of coffee to complete their morning routine can sympathize with a dog’s defecation needs. But for dogs, smell is hugely important for information and interpretation of the world around them.

Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose, compared to a human’s mere six million. Their noses break down odors into distinct components. This sense of smell is why dogs are so often used for bomb, drug and even cancer detection.

But for defecation, dogs are looking for a specific set of smells that tells them, “it’s okay to poop here.”

“We’ve observed that dogs are looking for a combination of organic, botanical scents that are more or less always present in the environment but are decreasing in abundance, especially in industrial areas,” said Anthony Dellinger, PhD., lead scientist and co-founder of Kepley BioSystems.

Dellinger’s theory is that urban and suburban ecosystems may not have the same complexity of smells that natural landscapes have. Pavement and roads separate dogs from that fertile, botanical scent of biota in the soil.

“Those smells let dogs know that this is an acceptable place to eliminate,” said Dellinger.

So his team decided to bottle that smell and sprinkle a few drops on a dog’s paw, giving them the cue to poo. The smell dissipates quickly, so it won't lead to accidents later. Several of the team members at Kepley Biosystems tried it on their dogs, and it worked. The next step was to bring the product to a dog shelter.

Opportunity for shelters

Shelters across the country are notoriously overcrowded, underfunded and staffed by volunteers. Dellinger said there’s often little time for dogs to comfortably use the bathroom outside, leading to both indoor accidents and a breakdown of natural behaviors.

“The longer a dog stays in a shelter, the more likely they become retrained to soil their crate, which makes it harder for them to be adopted,” said Dellinger.

The scent stimulant is designed to help speed up the pooping process, and help dogs retain their natural inclination to poop outside instead of in their crate. A preliminary study in partnership with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of the Triad shows promising results. Each dog in the treatment group received a drop of the scent stimulant on their front paw before going outside, and most had more luck with their poops. Overall, the product led to a 50 percent decrease in time needed for managing the dog’s poop routine.

Dellinger said that if dogs are hyper-focused on making sure they can poop, they don’t enjoy the precious few minutes they get outside each day.

“It's a vulnerable time for dogs," he said. "Anything we can do to encourage them and give them more time to exercise and take in all the smells of the outside world is a good thing.”