A dog eating rocks can be dangerous. Eating rocks or stones can damage your dog’s teeth, gums and digestive system. Eating just one rock could cause choking or an intestinal blockage. An intestinal blockage could happen without you even knowing about it until it’s too late. I’m glad you’re checking into why your dog eats rocks, and I’m happy to offer information about how you can stop your dog from eating rocks. Let’s discuss some common reasons why dogs eat rocks and how to stop it.
Why Does My Dog Eat Rocks?
When a dog eats dirt, rocks, grass, paper, or other non-food items, it’s called pica. Some of the most common reasons dogs would eat something besides food (such as rocks) are:
The first thing you should do if you realize your dog is eating rocks is call the vet. Your dog could be having a serious medical issue and you need your vet to be involved right away. Some common issues are:
PIC Mineral deficiency. Your dog may not be getting enough nutrients. I had a Dachshund named Maggie several years ago. I realized she was sitting in the driveway eating rocks. Attempts to stop her weren’t working, and the poor dog would actually yelp when she pooped the rocks out. I called the vet and took her in. He said she might have a nutritional deficiency and suggested I start giving her a daily multivitamin. I did that, and it worked. You can see a variety of multivitamins for dogs here. You should also check the quality/nutritional value of the food you’re feeding your dog. You can read my article about this here. Also realize that your dog may be having a medical issue that causes a problem absorbing nutrients, despite having a decent diet. Again, take your dog to the vet right away if you see your dog eating rocks.
Neurological conditions. This could lead to things like compulsive behaviors or confusion. Your dog might not be able to stop himself from eating rocks, or he may be confused, thinking it’s food.
Certain medications can cause dogs to eat rocks and dirt. The most common is prednisone. Phenobarbital and other anti-seizure drugs have also been known to cause pica.
Liver disease has also been linked to pica.
I can’t stress it enough – call your vet if your dog is eating rocks. For more information about the medical reasons why your dog might be eating rocks, refer to this article.
Dogs who are bored or often left unsupervised may eat rocks just to entertain themselves or to release some energy. Dogs and puppies might think a rock is fun to play with. They might just be digging around, start pushing rocks around, tossing them, pushing them with their noses…which may lead to their actually eating the rocks.
To prevent this, make sure your dog is getting enough exercise with daily walks and play. You might try providing the dog with some interactive toys – you can see a variety of these here. If your dog must be left alone, you might provide a safe chew toy. You can see a variety of these here.
Some dogs will eat rocks because of stress or anxiety. I once had a co-worker whose (very large) dog got so anxious while she was at work, he literally ATE the entire kitchen mat/rug! Eating non-food items is definitely a warning sign that your dog is experiencing stress or anxiety. First make sure your dog is getting enough love and attention. Then to get more help with this issue, read this article, How to Calm Dogs With Anxiety – Why They’re Anxious and How to Solve It. It talks at length about this issue plus suggests a dog training program called, The Dog Calming Code, which helps dogs who are experiencing stress or anxiety.
After your vet has ruled out medical reasons, once you’re sure his nutritional needs are being met, and after you’ve addressed any stress or anxiety issues, you might try these techniques to teach your dog to stop eating rocks.
First, understand that basic obedience training is crucial, not only to prevent your dog from eating rocks, but to prevent their engaging in any dangerous behavior during their lives (like not coming when they’re called and running into traffic, for example). Also, you must teach your dog commands such as, “drop it,” or “leave it.” This can be life saving, not only if they’re eating rocks, but if they try to eat something they shouldn’t in the yard, at the park, etc.
When your dog starts eating rocks, tell them to “leave it” in a firm, but calm voice. You should say this as soon as you see them sniffing around or playing with rocks. Don’t yell – this will only startle them and result in their quickly swallowing a rock or a mouthful of rocks. Once you say, “leave it,” redirect them to a toy or a treat, or simply encourage them to keep walking if you’re in the park or on a walk. Give them praise and petting when they obey. Do this repeatedly – they show interest in the rocks – you say, “leave it,” – then when they do, reward them with praise, petting, and/or treats. Dogs generally want to please their owners – praise and affection from you goes a long way to reinforce good behavior. Once your dog understands these commands, he’ll start getting better at ignoring rocks.
If you know your dog may eat rocks, try to keep them away from any areas such as driveways or paths where there may be rocks, and don’t leave him unsupervised in the yard or at the park.
For more help with basic dog obedience training, I suggest Doggy Dan’s “The Easy Way to an Obedient Dog.” It’s a free video series you can sign up for here.
You can read my full review of Doggy Dan’s dog training here.
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