Sometimes it is difficult during heavy rains and really cold weather to stand outside in the backyard when our dog poops so we can make sure he doesn’t eat it. Is there any way to stop him from this habit except to stand outside and grab it before he eats it? — Virginia Salow, Bellerose, NY
Coprophagia, which is a Greek word that means “to eat feces,” is not uncommon in dogs, but the reason for it remains somewhat of a mystery. There are theories, ranging from nutritional deficiencies and malabsorption issues to compulsive behavior disorders. As a result, it can be challenging for pet owners to help their dogs break the feces-eating habit.
Here are some ways to address the problem, including what to do in bad weather.
First, rule out a health problem, especially if this is a new behavior for your dog. Sometimes dogs eat things they shouldn’t or adopt new behaviors when they don’t feel good.
Second, it’s great you already know to pick up your dog’s poop as soon as he defecates. Removing temptation helps deter the habit. You can’t eat cake if there is no cake on the menu.
Third, when you can’t go into the yard and pick up the poop, you need to rely on training. Training your dog to “leave it” will help thwart many bad habits, from stealing food off counters to poop-eating in the backyard. The training involves dropping a treat to the ground, asking your dog to sit, saying “leave it,” and then rewarding your dog with treats from your hand — not the treat from the floor. Your dog should only eat things you give him and only when say you say it’s OK to eat it. Never let your dog eat the treat on the ground. Pick up the training treat from the ground and hand it to him instead.
Next, use a corrective measure that can be used at a distance, like shaking a can of coins or spraying condensed air from a product like the Pet Corrector, to distract and get his attention when he goes to sniff or eat the poop. When he looks at you for instructions, say “leave it,” and tell him to “come” to you, assuming your dog knows this command as well.
Finally, there are over-the-counter supplements available at pet stores and online (search Coprophagia dog tablets) that when given to your dog make his stool taste bitter and unappetizing. Since dogs are equal opportunity poop eaters, these supplements need to be given to every dog in the home. Some of these supplements also improve the breath for obvious reasons.
Hopefully, these strategies will keep you dry and warm in bad weather.
I have a 14-year-old min pin (miniature pinscher) who has diabetes and is blind. She has started going in circles to the left, sometimes very rapidly. Do you have any idea what might be causing this? — Rande Repke, Naperville, IL
While circling could just be a new behavior, your girl’s age and compromised health also may mean the behavior is related to an underlying health problem, like an ear infection, vestibular (balance) problem, diabetes, or even neurological issues. I would have her checked out by a veterinarian to rule out any new health issues.
Some 4th of July tips
If you have a noise-phobic dog — a dog scared of thunder, fireworks and other loud sounds, then I know how you will be spending the 4th of July weekend. As soon as the first firework pops off, you will be trying to calm your trembling, panting, pacing and generally freaked out dog who will be hiding under the bed or climbing the walls, depending on how he or she handles their anxiety.
While some noise-phobic dogs calm down in an Anxiety Wrap or ThunderShirt, most noise-phobic dogs are so panic stricken that they also need medication. With two noise-phobic dogs in the family, we have to combine wraps, medication and an action movie turned up loud to drown out the sound of the fireworks outside. It’s my family’s 4th of July tradition.
Keep in mind, animal shelters receive many lost dogs and cats the day after the 4th of July. Some dogs and cats may bolt out an open door, and some dogs have been known to crash through windows to escape the sound of fireworks. Keep your pet’s ID tag and microchip current to ensure he or she can be returned to you.