Q: My Chihuahua is eating his own and my other Chihuahua’s poop. Is there something wrong and how can I stop this?
Dr. Brian Loon: Coprophagia, or the consumption of faeces, is a common problem in dogs and can be disturbing for their owners.
Exact causes for this behaviour are yet to be fully established. But they could include medical causes, such as:
- nutritional deficiencies
- gastrointestinal conditions (e.g. exocrine pancreatic insufficiency)
- behavioural causes, such as attention-seeking, a lack of environmental stimulation, or learned behaviour from other dogs in the household
To treat this problem, I recommend a veterinary assessment first to investigate whether it’s a medical cause. If it’s not, you can then turn to behavioural modification.
Do not scold or punish your dog when he is eating his or another dog’s stool, This may create anxiety and only result in him consuming stools faster to avoid getting caught.
One way to prevent Coprophagia is to try products that you can add to the stool or the diet to make it unpalatable. The success of this method requires consistency. But it may be difficult if your dog is also eating other dogs’ stools.
Besides that, behavioural strategies involving avoidance, redirection, and response substitution should be practised:
- Avoidance: Minimise opportunities for your Chihuahua to consume stools. For example, keep him leashed during toilet time until someone clears both his and your other Chihuahua’s stools.
- Redirection: Use a toy or treat to distract your Chihuahua when he seems interested in the stool.
- Response substitution: Teach your dog a command, such as “sit” and use it when he seems interested in consuming the stool. Offer him a high-value reward when he obeys the command.
As with all behavioural modification exercises, consistency is crucial. Everyone in the household should perform the above steps every single time your Chihuahua has an opportunity to consume stools.
If you are not achieving success with behavioural modification, I would recommend engaging the help of a certified canine behavioural trainer who uses gentle and positive training techniques.
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