McNeil Labradors

Stool Eating (Coprophagia)

By the time puppies are three weeks of age, a new awareness for their surroundings takes place and they begin to discover their litter mates and a world of activity going on around them.  They become interested in playing, and focus on the person who has been holding them for the first three weeks of life.  The eyes and ears are open and they suddenly realize, “Oh you’re the person that has been holding me, the one I’ve smelled that smells different from my mother and litter mates - a new beginning!   

Along with the new beginning comes a myriad of social and physical developments.  Puppies urinate and defecate on their own, and gradually begin to pick a spot away from their nest that they will most likely use on a regular basis.  The natural tendency or instinct is to keep their sleeping area clean.  As puppies play and wrestle around they begin to lose their natural aversion for cleanliness if the whelping box or play pen isn’t kept clean.  This means that they are likely to begin stool eating as puppies which becomes a bad habit as an adult, not to mention health problems such as gastro enteritis. 

There is much controversy relative to stool eating, and though I prefer to deal with this as a learned bad habit and training issue resulting from lack of training or boredom, the opposite side of this is nutritional and dietary deficiency, sometimes is a possibility.  Improper digestion relates to undigested protein in the stool which could be caused by a poor diet or poor quality food. 

The behavioral side effects of stool eating translate to problems with housebreaking and crate training.  Awareness of this bad habit and early training will help curb the desire for an extra “snack”.  Teaching the puppy to sit on command, teaching the puppy what “leave it” means, walking the puppy on a leash and NOT allowing the puppy to sniff what another dog or puppy left behind will help the puppy understand that this is unacceptable behavior.   

Make sure the food you are feeding is high quality, nutritious and palatable.  Large stool content or a loose stool often means that you need to change something.  Be very conscientious about keeping your yard and kennel area clean.

Home remedies such as Tabasco Sauce or cayenne pepper on old stools serves to mask the problem rather than eliminate the problem.  If the stool is not there, it will not be a problem.

Go out with your dog when he goes to the bathroom and reward him for a job well done.  If you are not there, you can not reward him, and you certainly can not correct him.  Daily leash walks pay dividends toward curbing the bad habit.  If he stops to sniff and snack, a quick leash pop with a verbal “leave it” usually diverts attention elsewhere.   

McNeil Labradors
Statesville, NC 28677

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Last Updated:  January 29, 2008

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  Thought For The Day:

"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can
spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's
the best deal man has ever made." - M. Facklam