Dog

Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at momaha@owh.com.

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Dog Gone Problems,

I have a 10-week-old Papillon puppy who eats feces. She never eats her own, she only goes after the two male Shih Tzu's feces.

How do I break her of this? She's very smart and is an alpha female. She's bonded with our alpha male but bullies the older, partially blind and deaf male. How do I teach her to stop this, too? 

Signed,

Ellen

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Dear Ellen,

Some dogs have an inherent desire to eat droppings; others do so for other reasons. I'll touch on them below so you can identify why your puppy has picked up the habit.

Mimicking a behavior they see is one of the first ways puppies are introduced to the concept. A mother dog wants to keep the nesting area clean and will sometimes eat the pup’s poop when they are young. Also, many guardians clean up the dog’s poop in front of them. Exposure to either of these can cause a pup to think poop is a valuable item. Also, puppies sample things through their mouth and this can be another place where the behavior starts from.

Finally, some dogs develop the habit because of being fed lower quality food. When an adult eats poop, it's often for this reason. So if you are feeding your dogs low quality (cheap) food with corn and wheat as the primary ingredients, changing to a higher quality brand that doesn't include those ingredients may solve your problem.

The good news is most pups develop a distaste for eating feces and stop on their own. I like to recommend adding in a few kernels of pineapple to the food of any dog whose dropping your pup eats. I always laugh when I say or type this, but the pineapple does something to the food in the dog’s intestines that makes the poop taste bad.

Some dogs eat poop to get the attention of a neglectful guardian, since the behavior usually gets a rise out of the human. If you think your dog may be doing this to try to get your attention, look for constructive ways to interact with your pet, such as teaching a new trick each week for eight weeks, tossing the ball for a few minutes when it brings it to you or the long standing dog favorite, go for a walk.

As for your puppy being alpha and bullying the partially blind and deaf older male, you need to nip that in the bud right away. With dogs, if you don't disagree, you agree. Puppies carry a special pheromone that helps them bond with their mothers. This pheromone also helps other dogs feel compassion around the pup, letting it get away with things. But if the puppy continues this behavior once the pheromones are no longer produced, the adult may decide enough is enough and retaliate.

You are the leader. You set the rules of what is acceptable and what is not. Your adult is counting on you to handle this for him. If you don’t, he will eventually.

The next time you see your pup starting with the older dog, call it to you. If it refuses, put it on the leash and step on it about a foot from where it attaches to your pup’s head. Wait for the dog to calm down completely before you let it go. If you do that immediately when the pup starts, she will get the message and play elsewhere.

Good luck and remember: Everything you do trains your dog, only sometimes you mean it.

David

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Submit your pet questions to David Codr by emailing a photo of your dog and question to momaha@owh.com

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