Coprophagia & Urination Troubles

Your Questions Answered

by Marcia Herman and Stef Brandon

No luck here. There will be no coprophagia in this poop-free yard. Marcia Herman


I love my dog dearly but she has one bad habit — coprophagia (poop eating)! Daphne has a fenced-in pen and a field where she goes. I am consistent about scooping the poop in her pen but I don’t always find it in the field. We tried Forbid but it had no effect and we once even sprinkled hot sauce over the stools, leaving it for a few days before scooping. (But if you go to the trouble of sprinkling on hot sauce, you may as well just scoop.)

Daphne is four and a half and healthy, although she is on thyroid meds and her diet is Hill’s Prescription C/D. I just dread it when she comes back inside smacking her lips!

Beth and John Bonanno, Hiram, Maine

Marcia: This problem is a common one and many theories have evolved as possible reasons for this activity. There are two trains of thought on this.

One train of thought is related to nutrition. Among the reasons given are: the dog is missing some nutrient that the body is craving; the dog detects that the stools have plenty of still-usable nutrient material in it; the dog is still hungry; the diet has a lot of delectable fat in it which the dog is craving; and, if it’s winter and the poop is frozen, it tastes like a poopsicle and is fun to eat.

In Daphne’s case, she is eating CD food. Prescription diets tend to not be as tasty as regular, over-the-counter food. Perhaps Daphne is missing some satisfying ingredient. Conversely, perhaps she likes the food so much she is trying to squeeze every ounce of flavor out of it, as disgusting as it sounds.

Another aspect to consider is behavioral — even genetically behavioral. It’s a throwback to an ancient day when poop was eaten to hide one’s presence. Hounds kept in crates too long at some tracks often must defecate in their crates. They don’t like lying in their excrement, so they clean their crates by eating the feces. Some greyhound owners have seen their once clean dogs kept in these circumstances become poop eaters out of necessity which then became habit.

Mother dogs (dams) clean up their pups’ droppings. Pups who live in dirty whelping areas or who have dams who can’t or won’t clean up their pups’ excrement sometimes eat their own excrement. If one has a brood bitch (not likely in Daphne’s situation), this may be a related behavior.

No one can know for sure why dogs (not just greyhounds) engage in coprophagia. Just know that you are right. Picking up the stool when you see it is the best course of action.

House Urination Problem

My husband and I adopted our second greyhound several months ago. She is a five year old spayed (had several litters) blue female named Katie. She joined our  eight year old female that we have had for three years. Katie’s personality is somewhat submissive, as the older dog could be an Alpha.

Since the beginning we have had trouble with her urinating in the house; we have not been able to catch her in the act, so we cannot discipline her.  We take her outside, and twenty minutes later she is having an accident in the house.  It is as if it does not occur to her to go outside; that it is  okay to go in the house!

We have had her tested for diabetes and she is clear; she drinks a lot of water, it seems (she came from an environment where she always was last to get food and water, so I keep thinking she thinks it is going to be gone!)  We are limiting her water during the day now; however we went one week with no accidents and had three yesterday!  My husband works out of our home so he is there frequently; when we leave we always cage her.

Do you have any thoughts or advise for us? Katie is such a dear sweet dog; we really want to help her anyway we can.

Susie McQuade Dallas, Texas

Because Susie wrote to both Stef Brandon and to the editor, we are including both responses. — Ed.

Stef: I cannot promise any quick fixes, but I can give a few quick tips for Katie. First, I recommend you check your old Celebrating Greyhound magazines for recommended training books. I’m thinking that there was an issue which listed some. Also, I’d email or write the editor, Marcia Herman, who is very wise about recommending such reading material. For now here is a little of Stef’s homespun advice.

1. Continue to monitor her water drinking. When you are going to be out, stop heavy consumption a few hours before you leave, so she can void most of it before you go out. When you return, let her tank up again. Of course, you do not want her to ever get dehydrated; this is a very serious condition in dogs. We water our five greyhounds lavishly at night when we are home and can let them out any time they want (we have a fenced in yard). In the a.m. before work, we limit how much water they get to drink.

2. If your husband is  at work in the house, he should keep her with him — in the same room, I mean. She will either urinate in his presence and he can scold her, or she may cry to be let out or walked. Then he can take her out and praise her for urinating outside.  Another thing with greyhounds — their methods of signaling that they need to urinate are pretty subtle. I have one you must make eye contact with. Then she rolls her eyes in the direction of the back door. Another just presses to be petted a little more than usual; still another just pants. So be ever alert for clues that she has to go out.

3. When you do get the opportunity to see her urinate outside, give her treats, love, and in general make a BIG happy fuss over her so she knows that’s what you want her to do. Also some greyhounds simply prefer to not do their eliminations while on a leash. You may have to wait even longer outside with her until she goes. And then, do the praise thing big time.

Does she soil her crate? If not, use it more often. Whenever you do not think you can monitor her actions in the house, put her in the crate to keep her from having accidents. The more accidents, the more reinforced the behavior will become.

4.  The best way to teach her not to urinate in the house is, as you know, to catch her in the act. When you are home and can watch her, work on it. If she’s not in her crate, she must be in your presence all the time when you are in the house. You may have to baby gate her in the room with you or just shut the door. The minute she pees in your presence, seize the opportunity to correct her. Just yell in a loud voice “NO” as she is in mid stream and rush her outdoors without letting her finish even if this means a trail of pee through the house. When she finishes outside, do the praise thing big time. This usually makes the point very quickly, by the way. They often need not get caught more than once, twice or three times before they get it. BUT you have to catch them midstream.

Marcia: I’d say there are a few possibilities. Perhaps she is still being submissive. Perhaps she may have a urinary tract infection, although I suspect she’s been tested for that if she’s been tested for diabetes. (Don’t know if you ever had a UTI, but anyone who has had one knows that the need to urinate is sudden, urgent, and painful.)

If Katie simply does not understand the concept of where to urinate, do the following. It has to work. Keep her on a leash in the house. She must stay within your sight. This will take a day or two or more in stubborn cases, but you will catch her in the act and can then take her right out. This little tip came from an excellent book called The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete, published by Howell House. But house training is house training, be it a puppy or an adult. It’s worth a try and certainly easy to do.

Ed note: Since 1998 scads of good house-training books and articles have been written. Do search for them, although the suggestions here still stand.

CG F 98

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This article and any photos or artwork contained within may not be reproduced or reprinted without express written permission from the author, artists, and/or photographers. 

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