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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello...

I have a female schnoodle (spayed), about 3-4 years old. I have had her for 2.5 of these, and was her third home.

From the onset, she has been obsessed with licking me. I find it disguising, and am constantly pushing her mouth away from my hand; most of the time, I end up hiding it. She also came with extreme separation anxiety, which has lessened over time.

She is mischievous, and when I am not looking, will jump onto the chair to get at food that may be on a plate on the table (I try to remember to pull the chairs away when I get up for something, but sometimes they aren't pulled away far enough...or forget). She has even jumped up on the counter to retrieve food (that landed her and one of the other dogs an overnight in a dog ER, as the food was full of raisins and chocolate).

I had figured she would grow out of this, but it actually seems to be getting worse. When we go for walks, I have to constantly yank her away from eating random things from the ground...caterpillars, beetles, mushrooms, etc.

In the past week, she has eaten the innards of a homemade microwave heating pad, which happened to be beans, and sugar-free gum. Turns out beans are toxic, so I had the joy of holding her down in the tub and forcing her to drink enough peroxide to throw up ... then I fed her a dose of activated carbon, followed by another 4 hours later, along with a water enema to make sure nothing was reabsorbed in the lower GI tract (DON'T GET ON MY CASE ABOUT HAVING TO PLAY VET. All doses were in the range outlined by the ASPCA. I presently live in a rural community, and the closest emergency vet is over an hour away. Options are (1) I do it or (2) she gets ill and may die).
Also turns out that the sugar substitute in sugar free gum is HIGHLY toxic...so, got to spend time tonight with the peroxide, charcoal, sugar water (it makes them hypoglycemic and can sent them into a coma), and first thing Monday she will go in to make sure her liver enzymes are in okay range (it also can affect the liver). Where the gum came from? No idea...I think she must have stolen it out of my coat pocket while I was in the bathroom.

Anyhow, I've ordered a muzzle to keep her from physically being able to eat things when I'm not in the same room as her and to prevent her from eating whatever she may find on the ground while I've stopped the walk to allow one of the other two dogs to go to the bathroom.

Is this pica? Technically, the items she goes after are "food".

Any suggestions? She knows that what she is doing is bad, because when I catch her she gets punished. However, it seems to matter none.

Thanks.
 

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Can dogs have pica?! I really don't think so. Yes, there are several terms for the more bizarre things that dogs eat, i.e., coprophagia, the consumption of feces (bet you're feeling better already :D).

I have known dogs, especially the curious ones to consume just about anything remotely edible. And that doesn't stop at food: grass, dirt, wood, paper, etc. It has been theorized that dogs have such a great appetite for just about anything because their tastebuds are extremely poor. As you can imagine, this is a large bonus for a species that subsists largely on scavenging.

TLDR: It's extremely normal for dogs to consume (or at least attempt) all things that are food and most things are not. Yes, there are pickier dogs out there who will even turn their noses up at most dog foods. There are yet more who like to expand their horizons, so to speak!

The key is management, management, management. Keep toxic things away from your dog. Things that could be tempting to chew or eat must be kept out of the dog's reach. For the licking, training a 'leave it' should suffice.

To make you feel better, there's this: http://www.dogforum.com/general-dog-discussion/dog-degustation-what-weirdest-things-your-121434/

Your dog is in quite good company! Just ask @secrets0stolen why she now keeps her $100 bills well out of her dog's reach :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
No, humans aren't the only animals that can develop/have pica. It seems fairly "common" in dogs. There is even a study describing motion-sickness induced pica being triggered in rats (Motion sickness-induced pica in the rat.).

I agree about management...but, lately it's been difficult, as what she considers to be "appealing" has developed a wider breadth. I mean...a pillow case full of dry 10 year old beans? Seriously?!
 

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I didn't see this addressed anywhere in your post: Have you taught a "leave it" cue or worked on impulse control? Everything you've described sounds like normal dog behavior that can be addressed through training and management. A muzzle can be part of that management; however, I'd use it as a last resort and only with proper introduction.

Also, she doesn't know she's "bad;" she knows that sometimes you get angry when she does dog stuff. The signs of guilt you're seeing are appeasement signals that dogs use to communicate that they're not a threat and don't want any trouble.
 

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I've heard of dogs having Pica as a result of nutrient deficiencies, but I think it's quite likely that some normal dog behaviours become what can be classified as pica when taken to the extreme end of a behavioural scale. Most dogs like to eat things that people wouldn't classify as suitable dog food, but it becomes a disorder when it's a compulsive behaviour. Though even dogs with no disorder can end up endangering themselves by eating something accidentally - I knew a dog that ate several biscuit Christmas tree decorations, including the tinsel attached to them.

I can't offer much advice I'm afraid. I was going to suggest a muzzle, but you've already thought of that (make sure she can get a drink when she needs to). Has a vet checked her for nutrient deficiencies? Sometimes medical conditions mean these can occur even when dogs are being given adequate food.

Yanking her away from things when she tries to eat them may not be helping her. It stops her eating things then, but doesn't teach her what's not food for her long term. Call her away when she goes to eat something and reward her for leaving things alone. Save the yanking only for times when she's about to eat something really dangerous. Are there certain things she always tries to eat? Take her out without the other dogs to distract you, walk her past the things she would try to eat and tell her "no" or "leave" or whatever word you use (be consistent - use the same word) if she tries to eat it, and reward her for leaving it.

Does she have toys she likes to chew on? Encouraging her to chew on things she is allowed, and praising her for eating her own food and treats may be something to implement. Also avoid confusing her about what she can and can't eat by being consistent about what and where she's allowed to eat.

And with managing the environment to keep dangerous things where she can't get at them - remember it's very easy to underestimate what dogs can do!
 

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One of the hallmarks of pica is that the individual is only fixated with eating one or two choice objects. They have a taste for dirt. Or they consume dish detergent by the box. Snack on toilet paper. Just one strange craving.

If your dog was obsessed with eating just dirt, and could continue to eat it for extended periods unchecked, or was abnormally bent on wood, etc, then yes, that would sound like something pathological.

As someone before me mentioned, a good 'leave it' is instrumental. Or a muzzle if you feel that it's necessary. Honestly, I just pick my battles with dogs and let things slide. A mouthful of dirt every once in a while won't kill them. Bugs? Extra protein. Grass never hurt a dog either (although excessive consumption might indicate a pre-existing digestive upset). This enables me to discourage the dogs from eating more dangerous things, like discarded chicken bones or pork ribs, or dead animals, while not wearing my 'leave it' into the ground.
 

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It's also worth remembering that most dogs have very robust digestive systems compared to people. Whether bugs and mushrooms are harmful I would imagine depends on the particular types she's trying to eat. I wouldn't worry if my dog ate a beetle, but this probably depends on where you live and what species are around. Do you know if the ones your dog is trying to eat are dangerous, HardyFisherBear? One thing to look out for is poisons people leave out for pests, though that applies with any dog.

Our dogs have always been allowed to go off by themselves when out on walks, even out of sight from whoever's walking them when in woodland. My previous dogs could (and did) eat anything they found. My current dog doesn't, but only because she sticks like velcro to us. Our previous dogs never came to any harm from this - we'd catch them eating dead animals and animals' faeces sometimes, and they must have eaten all sorts of bugs and things too. So eating these types of things may not be a big problem in terms of risks to the dog, only in terms of obedience, and whether she's trying to eat them to the point where it's obsessive.

Btw, I thought being licked was just part of being a dog owner :p . You really don't like it? Though having just said my dogs ate faeces, I guess it could be thought to be disgusting! Even my current dog, who doesn't leave my side while out on walks, will grab a mouthful of cow pat when she can... and yet I still don't mind her licking me. I seem to recall hearing that it's because people's skin tastes salty that some dogs like to lick it, though I've no idea if that's true.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the replies. She is very stubborn and has been difficult to train, in general (for instance, she has come in from outside to relieve herself on the carpet more than once). We barely made it through a dog training 1 class due to her stubbornness. She is generally obsessive, and her obsessions are (1) food, (2) licking, and (3) other dogs. She actually will keep on the alert for where there are sometimes other dogs present along the path we walk, and when one is spotted, she will go into, as Cesar Milan would say, the "red zone." I actually had to stop walking her on the same side as one of the other dogs, because she will snap and attack him because he's accessible. A few months back, she snapped at a Chihuahua, and had him in her mouth shaking him. I realize that when I am able to relocate to a less rural area that a behaviorist is going to need to enter into the equation.

As for providing her things to chew on, and encouraging that...yes, I make sure she always has something. In regards to yanking her away from things she is about to eat, I generally do that only when it's something that I know is toxic or expect to be toxic. For impulse control, I make my dogs sit and shake before they are allowed to eat their meals. Also, she will not get into things when I am in the same room as her...but, being mischievous, she goes after whatever the second I leave the room. I have not had this sort of issue with my other two dogs.

Has anyone ever tried "setting up" their dog (i.e. leaving something in reach but making it so the experience of eating it is unpleasant, such as by putting Bitter Apple or a similar product on the item)?
 

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You totally did the right thing by getting her to vomit. I encourage all dog owners to educate themselves about induing vomiting, as some times there is just not time to get to a vet and time is of the essence. Feeding activated charcoal is also a useful skill to have if you don't have easy access to a vet.

There are several things going on here with your dog. One that is clear is that she is a very sensitive, submissive dog. Dogs lick your face in order to appease you and solicit affection rather than punishment. My dog is a very "licky dog" and I also found it rather unpleasant. But I've learned to cover my mouth and let him get it out of his system, as I understand the compulsive needs behind it. The fact that she does this a lot indicates that she is nervous and is trying to appease you. As she becomes more confident she won't do it as much.

She also clearly is reactive with other dogs, this is due to innate fearfulness. It can result from lack of socialization at a young age, genetics, early bad experiences, or a combination of any of those. If you take a look at this thread below, you will see that you are not alone, it is quite common. As a result of this fear, she finds it difficult to concentrate and "work" in situations with other dogs around, such as a training class. Difficulties with training are more likely a result of these fears, or a communication issue, not stubbornness.

http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training-behavior/reactivity-progress-techniques-suggestions-78554/

Please be aware that Cesar Milan is generally despised here. He promotes a type of training that is old-fashioned, backwards, punishment/correction oriented, dis-proven by science and not helpful, especially for nervious, sensitive dogs such as yours. This forum promotes positive-reinforcement training. You'll learn a lot about this if you read some of the training stickies and follow the links. I hope you will stick around here as this type of training is very effective with dogs like yours.

I would also take a look at her diet. I believe that dogs that eat (not just chew) a lot of basically inedible objects are missing important elements in their diet. If there is room for improvement in her diet I would definitely consider that. At the minimum she should have a high quality grain-free kibble. The addition of a raw meaty bone now and then would probably be helpful.
 

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She's not stubborn, just insufficiently motivated. What does she love? Sounds as though she's very food oriented - that's great!! Use that to your advantage. Have treats that she loves available to reinforce desirable behavior. Things like cheese, deli meat, leftover steak and roasts, hot dogs, etc. work well. The urinating in the house could be habit, could be due to odor (if you haven't cleaned with a cleaner specifically made for pet odors), or incomplete house training. For that issue, I'd go back to House Training How Tos.

As an aside, have you talked to your vet about this?

My older dog is wonderful - we can leave plate of food next to her and she doesn't even look at them. My puppy is the exact opposite - he is constantly checking the counters looking for something to eat or play with. They're different dogs, with different personalities, and need different approached. Katie is given more freedom; Tyson gets micro-managed.

It could be a medical issue causing her to be super hungry all the time.The obsessions sound like normal dog things. If they seem excessive, don't put off seeing a veterinary behaviorist. In the meantime, here's good information on dog reactivity that many have found helpful: Reactivity, On Leash Aggression, and Barrier Frustration



Information on finding a good behaviorist / trainer: Finding a Trainer, Behavior Consultant, or Behaviorist

You might try some additional impulse control games with your pup. It's a good life skill to have in general and can carry over into other aspects of daily life. Impulse Control and Calmness

I'd advise against setting her up for failure: it's unlikely to work and possible to have unintended fallout. If she's as motivated to get food as you say, any punishment would need to be severe, bordering on cruel. Additionally, she may not associate the punishment with her actions, but rather the room, whatever happens to be in her line of sight, etc. Or, she could be like some dogs who like the taste of bitter sprays. See this thread for more details: Suppression, Modification, Shutdown, and Fallout.

One more link for you: Calming Signals

Finally, if you're following training advice from Mr. "Red Zone," stop. My bottle of diet Coke knows more about dogs than he does. More reading material for you: Dominance in dogs and 4 quadrants of operant conditioning
 

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I'm sorry that anyone has ever written your dog off as stubborn or left them to barely scrape by in an obedience class. With 'disobedient' dogs, people, in their ignorance, often assign blame to innate traits and behaviours that their dog is not even capable of possessing: spite, stubbornness, 'dominance', etc. It's a cop-out, really. And yet, unfortunately, people accept money all the time to make these estimations.

I really recommend you read "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor and "Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson. Those two books alone will totally turn your beliefs about dogs upside down and help you make sense of your dog's behaviours. Sometimes we expect so much of our dogs due to our cultural upbringing that we almost view them as tiny, four-legged humans. We don't even hold children to such high standards! When is the last time you heard someone accuse their kid of having a potty-training accident out of spite? "He gave me that look, he knows just what he did! Needs more training? Oh, no, not the case-- he's wetting his pants just to show me who's boss, I think."

Same goes for fundamental skills like impulse control. Could you imagine if the extent of a child's impulse control was 'We make him wash up before he has his dinner, should be good!' Far from it! From a very early age, parents and teachers engage kids in activities that help develop crucial skills: games, music, sports and arts. We read with them. Ask them questions. Basically 6 hours of every kid's day from 5-18 is devoted to helping them form and strengthen personal skills that will make them successful adults. But for our dogs? Squat. And not only that, but we remove them from the environment amongst which they would normally learn such skills: a group of other dogs. Dogs have to learn these things somehow and if not from their environment, they can be taught through games like these:


(I think Its Yer Choice would be an awesome thing to work on, given your particular trouble area).


Please, give the books a read and check through the stickies. A year ago, I was you. I just felt like everything that I had seen on TV and heard from my friends had ceased to make sense with itself. How can a dog be trying to dominate me if it's jumping up in order to lick my face (an appeasing gesture)? How can an animal 'know it did wrong' when the wrong in question is a human moral construct? And so on, and so forth. I don't see anything abnormal or suggestive of anything sinister in your dog. Just a dog who has not gotten the memo that she's not a puppy anymore!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
We went in today to make sure her liver enzymes are okay. When I said 'borderline pica' the vet snickered and replied "this IS pica." So, yes...dogs can have pica. My dog has pica. Hopefully we can find a psychotropic medication that will assist with this...prozac did not help with her OCD, so after two years, she came off it last month. Then again...maybe it helped more than I realized.

In terms of "submissive" dog. HA! She is not submissive, and is constantly challenging her position in the pack.

As for her behavior towards other dogs being the result of a trauma or bad experience...again, no. She was fine until, literally, one day while we were out walking, she turned and snapped at a dog walking on leash in the opposite direction. Her obsession towards other dogs is most likely mixed up in the OCD that is driving the pica and the licking, which, in turn, is related to a clear chemical imbalance. And, I'm not going to take myself off the hook here. Trying to control three dogs who are setting one another off is not an easy task, and I have been failing. Hence, why as soon as it is feasible, a behaviorist will enter the picture. For now, I just need to make sure that I've got something around to induce vomiting, charcoal to adsorb toxins, and hope that she does't decide to eat something I would never suspect as being appealing to an animal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
BTW...I used the phrase 'pack' because they are a pack...my 'wolf pack' as a friend used to call them.

Also, I do not feel that she acts out of 'spite.' However, 'dominance' and 'submission' are not emotionally driven, and are behaviors that dogs are capable of exhibiting.

Also, I do not follow the guidelines of Cesar. However, 'red zone' is actually a good description of what happens with her. It's almost as if she becomes another dog for a few minutes, until the stimulus which triggers a sort of disassociation has stopped. I actually had to stop crating my three dogs together when I leave because of her anxiety, and the unleashed level of excitement my return brings. I had an incident where I let them out, and within seconds, the intensity of the moment escalated into a three-way dog fight...me, in the middle, trying to break it up. I ended up with at least 4 or 5 bites from my submissive older dog, who also happens to be the smallest, as he was trying to defend himself from her when my arms got in the way.

Anyhow, I will take a look at the videos and links provided, and I want to express appreciation to those who included these in their messages
 

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Just to correct something, here, it has been proven multiple times by modern science and research in the field of animal behaviour that dominance and submission do not exist as static traits in dogs, and that social ranking of the animals has no effect on undesired behaviours such as aggression, destructivity, or general obedience. Unfortunately, pop culture and our own romantic notions of our dogs have led us to believe that our dogs are little more than wolves (which, by the way, have been shown to respond better to purely positive clicker-training than do they to dominance-based training.

Some awesome links:

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/your-dog-dominant

https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/dominance/

The Dominance Controversy | Philosophy | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

There are many trainers out there who yet continue to rely on dominance-based training and due okay in their ventures. But the fact is that as of recent years, all the major authorities on animal behaviour-- the ASPCA, APDT, the RSPCA, and a wallop of national veterinary associations no longer feel that this model of dog behaviour is supported by science.
 
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