Dog housebreaking question
September 20, 2010 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Why is my dog pooping in my bathroom, and how can I stop him from eating it?

We have two chihuahuas, about 2 years old each.

They were both housebroken as puppies, although the female took about a year to fully housebreak, mostly because she didn't like going out in the harsh Illinois winter. There have been no accidents in our house for well over a year. The male is even trained to ring bells at our back door when he needs to go outside. (The female never got the hang of the bells but she does go and sit by the door if she needs to potty).

I say no "Accidents" in a year because I think what's happening is intentional, but I don't know why. Any time the doors are left open to our master bedroom and master bathroom, if no one is in the bathroom at the time, the male dog goes back there and poops on a shower mat (sometimes he misses the mat but it's obvious he was standing on the mat when pooping).

Then many times he will eat it, a few smears being the only evidence of this crime.

Now he has been a bit of a poop-eater his entire life, eating both his poop as well as our other chihuahua's poop, but we thought we had fixed that through training and diet change.

Now, he NEVER poops in that bathroom if we're in there. He also doesn't poop anywhere else in the house if those doors are closed. It's only if both doors are open and he can go in.

He also never eats poop if we're watching (though he sometimes will perform analingus on himself or the other chihuahua, obviously for the taste, and we reprimand him when he does).

So my questions are, in order of import,

1) Why is he pooping in this bathroom, and only in this bathroom, and how do we stop it? (Beyond being religious about door closing)

2) Any tips on getting him to stop eating poop in general? (Stopping the analingus would also be a wonderful thing if there are tips).

And one other thing of note--this is the bathroom where he gets his baths. He hates getting baths. A lot. Could his association with that room and baths be his motivation? Or am I anthropomorphizing the dog here?
posted by arniec to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Regarding the coprophagia; years ago we had a shih tzu that did this. The vet gave us some powder to put on his food which (mutatis mutandis) apparently tasted repulsive as poop. It worked, sort of, but he'd do it on and off again his whole life. We joked that if we just encouraged it really strong, maybe we'd only have to feed him once a week. Anyway, check with the vet on the powder.

I think the constant butt-licking thing, assuming he's not irritated by parasites or something, is going to be hard to stop.
posted by jquinby at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2010

It's the mat. My chihuahua will pop on a bathmat any chance she gets- perhaps it reminds her of grass, or feels good on her little dog feet? I don't know. I don't have any other carpeting in my house other than that bathmat. I got religious about door closing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:41 AM on September 20, 2010

...the powder, by the way, was probably something along these lines. I don't recall the exact formulation. Only that it was a powder, and we got it from the vet.
posted by jquinby at 10:41 AM on September 20, 2010

Dogs sometimes eat poop to keep their living area clean, or maybe he doesn't want you to see it because he thinks he'll be punished.
posted by wayland at 10:46 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a cat who eats bath mats (seriously, the bath mat has bald spots), and so I hang it over the shower curtain bar unless I am in the shower. If I'm in the shower or right after a shower, the door is closed and the cat can't get the mat. Once I'm done, the mat is back over the curtain bar.

Concerning the poop eating, the trainer on "It's Me or the Dog" once told someone to feed the dog pineapple. Apparently dogs like pineapple, but it tastes horrible from the other end.
posted by catwoman429 at 10:47 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I swear there is something about certain rubber/vinyl/chemical scents that makes some animals very weird. I had a cat with a fixation for using bathmats, and I have a female boxer-mix who will balance on her front feet in order to pee on tires, landscaping railroad ties, and tomato plants (the look on her face when she does it is even more bewildered than standard boxer-face, and not the same as her normal business face, so I think there's some sort of compulsion to do it).

You could try a different bath mat, I guess - though the last new bath mat I bought offgassed for three weeks, I can only imagine how compelling that would be to a dog who's already inclined to do it. There are some animal behaviors that are not correctable, just preventable, and you just remove the opportunity. I'd be tempted to start hanging the mat over the towel bar or stick it to the wall and see if he'll do it in the bare tub, but probably the simplest solution is the door-closing.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:58 AM on September 20, 2010

Our vet told us that a little meat tenderizer sprinkled on our dog's food would stop the poop-eating. I'm not sure if it works or not.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 11:14 AM on September 20, 2010

The meat tenderizer (unflavored variety) does work. The story is way too gross to tell, so suffice it to say that I had a dog who ate poop, and then, a short tme later, I had the same dog who didn't.
posted by LyndsayMW at 11:29 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder if the effect of the meat tenderizer and the pineapple are related -- pineapple and papaya have similar protein-digesters (papain, bromelain) to that of powder meat tenderizers.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:30 PM on September 20, 2010

The bathroom smells of defecation to a dog's sensitive nose, so, in addition to any textural/scent bonuses the mat provides, that IS the room he's going to pick.

My 6mo pup is self-housebroken; his accidents have all been in front of outside doors, or in bathrooms. The doors indicate he knew where he wanted to be, instead; the bathrooms smelled like a second-best option (IMO).

Eating the poop, of course, is a standard way for mother dogs to clean their dens before their pups are ready to go outside. Ergo, if your dog wants to clean up, he's predisposed to eat it to achieve this.

The meat tenderizers might break down the nutritious, high-protein portions of the undigested poop, leaving it less tasty. Pineapple contains similar protein-breaking enzymes.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:48 PM on September 20, 2010

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