My Dog, the Poop Eater; Corprophagia

Probably one of the most offensive and unattractive things a dog or puppy can do is seek out an consume his own waste. This is such a common occurrence that almost anyone who has ever owned a dog has been witness to this canine practice. As pet owners and dog lovers, we want to protect our fur kids the same way any parent would and stop this habit. First though, we must learn why our precious pooches subject us to view this ghastly behavior so we can end it at it’s source!

The cause

There is speculation as to why dogs love to eat poop. Almost all dogs love to eat the feces of other animals, especially cats. This is most likely due to the taste aspect, as inconceivable as it may seem! Others may develop the habit of eating their own waste from puppy hood, particularly if they were not raised in a clean whelping pen. These dogs are also known to have potty training problems, unable to fully grasp the concept of not eliminating where his living quarters are!

Other reasons could be a lack in nutrition in the dog’s diet. In the wild, many species of animals including canines such as coyotes and wolves will eat their own feces to reabsorb passed nutrients. Check the quality of your dog’s food ingredients. Does your dog food brand of choice import a synthetic blend of vitamins and minerals or are all nutritional qualities in the kibble based from whole foods such as meats and vegetables? Consider switching to a fresh diet, either raw or cooked, to make sure your dog really is getting all the benefits of a healthy diet!

According to WebMD.com, dogs with illnesses such as Cushing’s disease and diabetes are also known to partake in corprophagia. Not only is the eating of stools unsightly and can make any human who views such a behavior to become disgusted, but it can actually cause harm to your dog. Especially when eating the fecal matter of other animals, the spread of internal parasites can become a danger. The use of a fecal exam from your veterinarian can rule out parasites that may cause the eating of feces as well as determine if your pooch ingested parasites while eating stool.

The fix

Probably the easiest and most obvious way to end your dog’s poop eating habit is to pick up his waste as soon as it hits the ground. Not only will this encourage cleaner habits for the both of you, but it will make it impossible for him to eat it if it is not within his reach! You can use regular plastic grocery store bags that you have saved after shopping trips to pick up dog waste, or purchase colorful bags made specifically for this purpose. Simply put your hand into the bag and pick up the waste, then turn the bag inside out and the poop is neatly in the bag without you touching it!

If your dog has been looked over by a veterinarian and there is no health concerns that could cause corprophagia, it is time to start looking into training techniques to dissuade your dog from continuing in this practice. Always take your dog to his elimination spot on leash, just as if you were house training him all over again. Right after he has finished going potty, he should be praised and moved away from the area. If you can, clean up the mess first and then have a play session. After doing this as a habit, he will learn that moving away from his potty place is far more fun than eating poop!

There are products on the market that is meant to make your dog’s poop distasteful so that he will not wish to eat it. These are usually meaty flavors chewable pills or powders that you add to his food or give as a treat. They are safe, and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t! It all completely depends on each individual dog. There are other items you can add to your dog’s food that some claim to make his feces unappetizing such as meat tenderizers, canned pumpkin, and vitamin-B complex. Again, it may work for some dogs, but not for all!

Your best bet is to simply keep your dog away from feces! Clean up after him the moment he has finished with his business so that he cannot turn around and eat his own waste. If on a walk and you come across another dog’s droppings you should be able to tell your dog to “Leave it!” on command so that he will walk away and provide his full attention back to you. Start teaching him this command indoors so that he gets the hang of it first! With a bit of training, a diet change and a vet check up your dog can quickly stop the act of corprophagia!

How to Potty Train a Puppy

Bringing home your new puppy can be an exciting and joyous time for everyone involved. One of the very first things you will be doing with your new canine companion is building trust, beginning obedience training and of course house training so that he can live as a happy and welcomed family member within your home. Potty training should not be as stressful as it may seem, and you most certainly never have to punish your puppy for a misplaced potty accident! Preventing mistakes and helping your dog to learn what you do want him to do instead of punishing unwanted behavior leads to a lifelong reliable potty habit!

Prevention

When we speak of prevention, we mean that your puppy should not be given the opportunity to potty outside of his designated potty place, be it a puppy pad, litter box or outdoors. Prevention includes keeping your puppy contained in a safe and properly sized crate, playpen or quiet room whenever you cannot keep your eyes on him at all times. Doing this keeps him from being able to potty on your floor or furniture, and thus potty mistakes are reduced if not prevented completely.

However, to make sure he also never potties in his confined space it is up to you to make sure he is able to relieve himself as often as he needs. He should be given potty breaks and taken directly to his potty place every 40 minutes to 1 hour, about 20 minutes after eating or drinking, directly after all play and training sessions, first thing when he wakes up and last thing before bed. If you remove food and water from his reach within 4 hours of bed time and he is allowed to eliminate before sleep then he should sleep throughout the entire night without needing another potty break. With consistency, this popular potty schedule will enforce a habit in him, making his needs predictable and easy to manage.

Prevention also means cleaning up any messes that have happened. According to Shelly, if your puppy makes a potty mistake, rubbing his nose in it, yelling at him, hitting him, or making him go into his crate are all punitive consequences that can directly harm, if not completely break, the trust he has in you. Furthermore, dogs simply do not understand this form of learning the way a human does. He will not associate his potty action with your anger, but he will associate you with the pain or punishment that you give him. Clean up any mess with an enzymatic cleaner and consider how he was given the chance to make this mistake. Did you ignore his body language giving the signs that he needed to go, or were you not paying attention? Perhaps he was out of your sight for a short time and that is when it occurred. Find the mistake and fix it to prevent further problems.

Rewards

It was B.F. Skinner, the famous scientist who discovered that behavior that was rewarded with a primary reinforcer, such as food, is more likely to happen again than behavior that was nor rewarded. Likewise, he found that behavior that was punished did happen on occasion but not as often as if nothing occurred afterward. Through his proven research we are able to correctly and easily train our new puppies that relieving themselves in their designated area is a rewarding behavior.

If you reward your puppy for doing his business in the correct place, then praise and a reward will tell him that what he did was correct and it brought along something he desired, such as food or play. While he begins to associate his need to potty with going to his potty place, he will develop a behavior that lets you know he needs to go. This will take some observation skills on your part, as no two puppies ask to go in the same way all the time. For instance, your puppy may bark, whine or scratch at the door when he needs to go. Another may paw at his leash, as he associates the leash with going out. When he is taken to his place and relieves himself, he will associate this behavior with the rewards that follows. In time, just going potty is a self reinforcing behavior all on it’s own for the relief he gets when he goes and the association he has been conditioned for with going in the right place.

Be patient with your puppy during this process. Work on training at his own pace but stick to your schedule. Your consistency in his potty and meal schedule will speed up his house training process substantially. Keep in mind that young puppies are not able to hold it for long as their bodies are still developing. This is why it is so important that you are the one who takes him at the right times, so he will never become comfortable doing his business in the house. With adamant consistency, your puppy will potty in the right spot every time!