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Corpophagia, When Your Knotty Doggie Becomes Her Own Poop Scooper

Jul 23, 2008
Corpophagia is the polite word used by educated people when we want to say that our dog is eating her own or someone else's poop. We probably don't have to work hard to convince you that this is a bad thing, but just in case you were wondering, here are the large problems with this practice:

It's gross. No one wants to see the act, smell the breath, or even think about your puppy licking them afterward.

It's bad behavior. Your intelligent and healthy puppy should be doing more appropriate things with her brain, mouth, and digestive tract.

It's incredibly unhealthy. Poop contains toxins that her body got rid of for a reason. Additionally, if she eats someone else's poop, she could expose herself to all sorts of parasites and worms.

One universal problem with dog behavior is that we don't always know why they do things. Being the Humans In Charge, though, we like to make intelligent guesses. Some of the more intelligent guesses
include:

Imitation, mom dogs with new puppies will often clean up their poop to keep the area clean. This is an instinctive but temporary behavior. The theory goes, if a puppy sees mom eating the stuff, she figures that she can snack on it, too.

Diet Issues, If you are overfeeding your dog, her under digested poop looks a lot like what she had for lunch. If you are underfeeding your dog, she is scavenging for food and is willing to lower her standards. If your dog has a vitamin or mineral deficiency, she may be looking to cure it.

Boredom, She may be eating the poop for the same reason that she chews on your shoes or digs in the yard, she needs something to do.

Medication, some dogs have been known to start eating their own poop when they are taking certain antibiotics.

Habit. Whatever began the behavior, your dog will continue it just because it has become a habit. Dogs are as habit bound as we are, and once they have picked up a bad habit, it will take some patient persistence to break that habit.

Whatever the reason is for this disgusting behavior, it needs to be stopped. Now let's move on to what you can do about it. Before you take any action, make sure you are acting appropriately. Yelling at your dog or physically punishing her will not give you the results you want. Getting angry with her is useless, because she is not doing this to bug you. Your dog only wants to please you and therefore secure herself a warm home and regular food. If she can please you by eating the right things, responding to your commands, and doing the occasional trick, most dogs will concentrate on those things. The Human In Charge just has to communicate her expectations.

Your first step, after wiping your dog's mouth, should be to make an appointment with your veterinarian. She will help you rule out or fix any diet issues or medical conditions, and she will probably check for worms while you're there. You may want to ask about medications, such as Forbid or Deter, just until you can break your dog of the habit. If the veterinarian has any other advice, take it. She does this for a living, you know.

Next, you should remove the opportunity for the disgusting behavior. Clean up the pen and the yard, and avoid the stuff when you are on a walk. If she can't get to it, she can't eat it. Go outside with her when she poops, and as soon as she does her business, distract her by calling her over to you. If you distract her well enough, you may get a chance to clean the stuff up before she remembers that it's there and she's hungry.

A corollary to removing one opportunity is providing her with another one. If your dog is keeping busy with training sessions, toys, and lots of exercise, she won't have time to think about or develop any bad behaviors.

Finally, control your dog. Teaching her the command, "off" or something similar, will allow you to command her to stop eating. You can teach her this by saying the word "off" and then removing her food from her. Reward her right away so she doesn't think you're mad at her, and then give her the food back. Do this each time you feed her for about a week, and soon she will just stop eating on command. You should be able to use this if she is outside eating her own poop, or anything else she shouldn't be eating. Sometimes you can also use this command to keep her from attacking. Doberman Pinscher owners, take note.

One final note: be patient. Bad habits can sometimes be developed overnight, but it takes time and patience to break those habits.
About the Author
"Is your dog a doggie delinquent? Does your pooch embarrass you with his poor people skills? Dog Behavior Training, Dog Aggression, http://www.knottydoggie.com is your premier information resource for all things dog"
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