Question: Friday we picked up a female German Shepard. Dixie is 7 weeks old and doing great. She appears to have been the runt, but she has a great personality.  Can you tell me why she eats her own poop? I know that the mothers do. I just don’t remember having a puppy do it. She is a little boney, but we have filled the empty hole and are now getting onto a regular feeding schedule.  Also, can you tell me about some of the basics for puppies? Thanks. Cara.

Answer:  For starters, 7-71/2 weeks of age is the time puppies learn bite inhibition. Dixie should have been left with her mom until 7 1/2 weeks. . .SO. . .make sure if she makes any biting moves on you at all, “yipe” loudly, like a dog, and she will learn that humans are off limits for rough play.

For socializing her to scary noises, shoot off a cap gun occasionally when you are feeding her and give her extra special treats during thunderstorms. The goal is to associate loud and scary noises with good things.

Have friends of all shapes, sizes, and colors visit you when she is still a puppy. Vary the outfits they wear and include men in hats and umbrellas, which are opened in front of her (at the same time she is offered a treat.)

German shepherds have the tendency to be fear biters. The more you socialize as a puppy, the better dog she will end up being. Don’t worry that you will train her out of protecting you. It won’t happen. When she smells danger, she will be there for you.

Her bladder control at this age is only about 3 hours. As she gets to be 5 months of age, she will be able to hold her urine for up to 9 hours. She will want to pee or have a bowel movement

  • 10 minutes after she eats
  • 5 minutes after she gets up from a nap, and
  • 5-10 minutes into play

So take her out and reward her for doing her business outside with a little Easy Cheese (bacon and cheddar is the favorite dog flavor.)

Now, about the poop eating. . . This is a sign of a nutritional . . .usually trace mineral . . .deficiency. Give her good-quality puppy food as puppy formulas have more protein and vitamins/minerals in the formula. Also, add one tablespoon fresh raw fruit/day (pineapple if she’s eat it)  and 1/4 cup raw veggies (especially parsley) and the poop eating should stop within a few weeks.

One reason why they eat their own poop is because humans teach them that pooping inside is bad. The human error in potty training is

  • Not knowing the signs of readiness to eliminate,
  • Not taking the puppy out at the appropriate times, and
  • Punishing the animal too late.

Saying “bad dog” after the fact and rubbing their nose in their urine or poop only trains the dog to hide the evidence. If you can’t catch the dog in time, and they can’t hold it any longer, thus making a mistake, don’t make a big deal out of it. Clean it up, sanitize the area with some white vinegar and water and redouble your efforts to take the animal out in time.

Chronic problem animals can be crate trained, but this does not make a larger bladder if the animal is not being let out regularly. Moms only eat the puppy’s poop and urine when they stimulate the puppies to go. Usually this only happens when the animals are less than 3 weeks of age. If they are eating poop outside of this window of time, they are also trace mineral deficient.

Big bellies equal worms.  Roundworm her with Pyrantel Pamoate once now and once again in 10 days, then twice a year after that. She should have a corona vaccine along with her 7-in-1 shot. Booster shots should be given 3-4 weeks apart after the first set until she is 24 weeks of age. Rabies is given at 3-6 months of age depending on which state you live in. Bordetella (kennel cough) is given intranasally every 6 months, only if the animal is boarded or she is taken around strange dogs (like during puppy classes or to the dog park.)

This year, especially, we are having lots of challenges with all kinds of diarrhea-type diseases such as Parvo, Rotavirus, Corona, Coccidiosis and other diseases causing bloody stools, so it’s your responsibility as a pet owner to protect them as best you can and watch for signs of illness (yes, even if you have to follow them out into the woods to watch them poop.)

Helpful Books/Links/References: