“Coprophagia”, meaning the act of a dog eating poop, can be one of the more disgusting habits dogs acquire. Not only is this a gross habit but it can cause an upset stomach to your dog resulting in diarrhea or other bowel problems.
But this is not an uncommon occurrence. Many dogs eat their own or other dog’s droppings, but why?
Before dogs were domesticated, they were living in the wild fending for themselves. These pack animals had natural predators and to keep safe dogs would eat their fecal material. This consumption help keep predators from finding their dens. Now that dogs have had hundreds of years of domestication this instinct has greatly diminished. However, if you find that your dog has begun eating their poop this can be due to boredom or because they find it reinforcing.
But how do I stop it!?!?
To stop coprophagia, here are several helpful tips to rid your dog of this habit.
1) You can buy a chew tablet or pill from your vet that makes their fecal distasteful and unappealing. Dogs under 40 pounds usually only need 1/2 a pill to 1 full pill. So be observant to determine the dosage.
2) pick up poo in your yard or pee pads. Removing the poo helps to avoid and eliminate further problems .
3) place an aversive on the poop! Hot sauce has been a common product. This helps your dog to associate fecal with a negative feeling and thus will help to stop the problem .
In my opinion, if you have multiple dogs or indoor dogs that use pads the pills and chew tablets are a great help. Many clients have reported success with this product .
Remember that this a fairly common problem and it is not actually harmful to your dog but it is a dirty habit that can be treated.
If your dog is emitting sit on the first approximation (first time) you ask for it, move on to the next behavior. Down can be difficult for some dogs so work slowly. First ask your dog to sit say good (or any positive word) then reinforce that. With your dog still sitting get another treat say the word down and move your treat down to floor. if your dog moves his head downward take that, say good and reinforce. Now do it again but move your hand further down if your dog leans down further reinforce that. Now the next time when you start bringing your hand down to floor, say down and move your hand away from the dog on the floor. If he starts crawling down to get the treat, say good and reinforce that. This is called using small approximations or steps to get desired results. Dont expect your dog to just lay down. lean him down through positive reinforcement. I know some dogs just seem to get “down” but this method is great for dogs who just need more guidance. Remember also to always end on a positive. If your dog has improved at all after a few sessions stop and give them a play. Then after some time start again. Your dog will learn down in a day if you work on it in small positive steps. Anytime you dog doesn’t do what you want, ignore the behavior and ask again. Reinforce only improvements!!
To solve a puppy biting issue I use a method called redirection. Puppies have a natural instinct to nibble, bite and eat objects and/or body parts ( fingers, toes, hair etc). So how do you stop a behavior that teething puppies have such a strong want? You redirect!! When puppies play with other puppies one way they know the play is too rough is when a puppy yelps. The puppies are startled and will actually stop playing . This can also be used in training. When your puppies nibbles on your fingers or toes , give a high-pitched yip. This is one way to let your puppy know that hurt and play needs to stop. However if your puppy is still nibbling away redirect their behavior with a toy. Let your dog know that chewing toys gets praise and biting fingers gets negative responses. Since puppies will need to bite this will be a long process but you will realize how nice it is that your dog bites his toys instead of you or wires.
Once again if you cannot supervise your puppy around wires, shoes etc. limit their space.
There are also sprays to discourage biting but remember to always be behavioral so if you use sprays also use the training techniques as well.
Biting can be solved by redirecting biting to a toy. Saying no or yelping when the puppy bites you and supervision if puppy bites wires or shoes so you catch them in the act and can redirect.
Puppy biting is also temporary but you don’t want the puppy to mature and have the play, soft biting escalate to aggression or aggressive playing.
Today, we will discuss the behavioral aspects of pulling and straining on a leash.
We will be using positive reinforcement training so bring some treats with you on your walk. When you begin the walk don’t get your dog overly excited especially when you know you are battling with leash pulling.
Be calm and head outside. Now your dog probably is already pulling. Be patient!!! If your dog knows basic obedience training use it if they don’t start your dog on a program of sit, down, stay and come. Now that you are outside do not move your feet if your dog is pulling. It is so important to never give in to the pull . Best thing to do is not move until they stop or change your direction in walking . If your dog responds to any of these changes reinforce that behavior . The purpose of this is to keep your dog on his toes. You’re the leader and your dog should follow you. Once again reward small improvements, don’t expect to see miracles in a day but if you expect and anticipate small changes to occur you will be excited with the results. The more confidence you begin to have it will translate to your dog . Also remember if you have a large breed dog make sure to also give them a lot of exercise!! If they go for runs or to a dog park and release energy you will notice your dog walks will start becoming more behavioral and your dog will be less hyper active . I love when I start walking dogs and in the middle of the walk ask them to come closer and do a little sit and down behavior. I reward all these behaviors and it builds a great bond with my clients and myself.
There is never just one way of fixing leash pulling problems but collectively if you get the best leash , train your dog in basic obedience, give them exercise, and be the leader walks will become such a positive fun part of your day with your dog .
Even though all breeds can pull on the leash, those owners with large breed dogs have the most complaints. This is for obvious reasons: dogs are larger , harder to handle, and can physically over power you.
When it comes to pulling on the leash there are actually multiple ways for fixing the problem. So even though it is great to have options, you must realize that might mean trail and error. Be patient. Since this is a lengthy topic, I will concentrate primarily on leashes today and on pulling tomorrow.
First get the proper leash. Many dog owners have choker collars which I do not recommend. Don’t use aversive conditioning!!! Positive reinforcement over punishment always. There are fabulous leashes on the market for all dog types. So find the one that best suits your dog.
Here our 3 choices in leashes that will be great for your dog !
Front clip harness: A leash I recommend often, this leash clips in the front on your dogs chest. The point of this and why it is so effective is when dog suddenly pulls it is pulled right around to face you. This is very annoying for the dog and you will see a change in the behavior quickly.
Sporn Harness: I see many owners with these. The way this leash works is when the dog is pulling on the harness it will tighten slightly in the front around the legs. The dog will feel like their feet are being lifted off the ground. So larger dogs or aggressive ( bully) breeds that can knock you off-balance, this leash could be good for you. This leash puts you in control.
Head collar: This leash is becoming very popular for dog owners. The leash fits around the snout or mouth of your dog. Even though many owners swear by this leash it is not intended for dogs that lunge or pull abruptly or dogs that have eye or neck issues. Injuries to eye and neck are more common.
Now pulling while walking is not just about changing your dogs leash. Be behavioral ! Tomorrows blog will explain more behavioral aspects of this common dog problem.
But remember always set your dog up for success and a great comfortable leash for both you can your dog is a great start.