Scooping may be only effective way to curb dog's poop-snacking habit

Tribune Media ServiceApril 8, 2012 

Q: Why do my two Shih Tzus eat one another's poop? I've tried different products available from pet catalogs to stop this behavior, but nothing has helped. Any advice? I'm 82 years old and running out of patience. -- B.B., Rochester, MN

A: No one knows for sure why some dogs start to sample their own feces or the droppings of other dogs. Once tasted, some dogs simply view poop as a delicacy. Some even have preferences, such as frozen "poopsicles" in winter.

There are several products on the market that you can sprinkle on a dog's food, as you've learned. You could try some different products that might yield better results. You could also sprinkle on Lowry's seasoned salt (don't overdo it), but the results are mixed at best.

Some veterinarians suggest the problem in some dogs is a lack of proper nutritional absorption and recommend a nutritional supplement called ProZyme. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it doesn't do a thing.

You can booby-trap a pet's feces by dabbing on unpleasant additives like lemon juice and hot sauce. However, you have to catch a dog in the act and quickly apply the concoction. Some dogs then learn to snack immediately after their bowel movements, before the mix can be applied. And remember, dogs who find their own feces delicious might view hot sauce and lemon juice as yummy condiments.

One website, www.dogpoopdiet.com, offers a supplement guaranteed to work or buyers receive 120 percent of their money back.

A leash with you at the other end is likely the best solution. After your dogs do their business, pick up after them. Once you get them out of the habit, you may not need to be so vigilant -- or you could be packing plastic bags and scooping for the rest of their lives. If you're physically unable to do this, the only solution might be to hire a dogwalker, or ask a friend or neighbor for help.

Q: Our cat, Leona, poops in the kitchen sink. We adopted Leona from a shelter six months ago. To stop the problem, we put Leona outside. Now, when she does come indoors, she never does No. 2 in the litter box, so the problem is now worse. Our other three cats are just fine. We're running out of patience. Any advice? -- T.J., Rochester, NY

A: First, have your cat checked out by a veterinarian to rule out a physical explanation. However, my guess is the problem stems from the fact that your other cats weren't especially welcoming to Leona. The sink offered a secure place for her to do her business. Leona apparently feels safe high up and away from the other cats.

What's more, you may (or may not) have enough litter boxes. Ideally, with four cats, you should have five boxes. The rule is, offer (if practical) as many litter boxes as you have cats, plus one. All boxes should be scooped daily, and the boxes should not all be in the same room.

Ever since you "put Leona outside," she's been coming home smelling like other animals, including cats she's encountered on her adventures -- and this is offensive to your other cats. I understand your frustration, but I'm not surprised the problem has worsened.

Ultimately, the only solution may be to improve Leona's relationship with your other cats. Begin by relegating her to a small room for about 10 days (a second bedroom or even a bathroom). Place a litter box in this room and plug in a Feliway diffuser to help ease Leona's anxiety. Spend time in the room and play daily with Leona using an interactive cat toy (another stress buster), like a fishing pole toy with feathers.

If Leona doesn't hit the litter box under these circumstances, contact a veterinary behaviorist or certified cat behavior consultant. If she does use the box, try spending as much time in the room as you can. Also, place Leona's towel or bedding a few feet from where your other cats eat (likewise, taking something any of the threesome sleep on and place it near Leona's food bowl).

When you finally re-introduce all the cats, only do so for moments at a time, and offer everybody an amazing treat like tuna or salmon. Hopefully, the cats will associate the treat with one another, giving them a reason to like each other. The other cats should only receive this amazing snack when Leona is present.

Q: My 2-year-old rescued Cocker Spaniel is adorable, but he's been marking the house. This dog is neutered. I've had him for six months, and every week or two, he marks. I yell at him and put him outside, but he returns all happy. He doesn't get it. Any advice? -- H.H., Las Vegas, NV

A: "Under what circumstances does he mark?" asks Dr. Theresa DePorter, currently completing her studies to become a veterinary behaviorist. "If this happens only when you're away from home the problem may be separation anxiety."

Getting professional advice is helpful so you can communicate the entire history of the problem, step by step. For example, DePorter says she knows of one dog who suffered from separation anxiety, but often piddled when the owner was home -- just as the owner "disappeared" to take a shower.

While DePorter, of Bloomfield Hills, MI, understands your frustration, hollering and then pushing your pet outside, unless you actually catch him in the act, does nothing to communicate why you're angry. The dog returns happy because he's glad to come back indoors to be with you.

In truth, the most likely possibility is that your pup is simply not as housetrained as you think. "Develop a new pattern and go back to Housetraining 101," says DePorter. "Take your dog outside on a leash to the same space, and reward him for going (there) with praise and a special treat."

It's interesting that your dog only has these "indiscretions" once a week or so. Could it be you're leaving him home alone for too many hours?


(Steve Dale's NEW EBOOKS, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!", are available on all major eReader devices and platforms. The basic version of each book is $2.99. An enhanced version of "Good Dog!" with embedded videos is available at iTunes for $4.99. For details, check the "Good Dog!"Facebook page. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com)

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