A dog eating rocks is not something to take lightly. However, it is not unusual, especially in puppies under six months. Eating rocks and other non-food items can be associated with pica, which has no known cause. It would help if you did not let your dog eat or swallow rocks, as it will put his health in danger. Therefore, you will need to stop your dog from eating rocks immediately.
What could be the cause of this harmful rock-eating behavior in dogs? Even though a dog eating rocks has no real known cause, it has been associated with the following theories;
stress and Anxiety
Why is my dog eating rocks?
As we have mentioned above, there is no exact cause for your dog eating rocks. However, pica, a name for eating non-food items, could be due to the above-listed reasons. Now let us look at each of them closely.
Sometimes our dogs can develop nutritional deficiencies. This is not to say that we are not feeding them properly as per se. Even though dog foods are completely safe and nutritious for our dogs, it is not precise enough. This is because it fails to provide some nutrients your dog would get from hunting and feeding on prey.
So what does this mean? And what can we do to help our dogs? Read on and discover some of the most effective ways to stop your dog from eating rocks.
Normal development stage
It is not unusual to observe your puppy eating rocks. This is because it can be a normal behavior when your puppy is familiar with his surroundings. He is curious and wants to discover everything. In his exploration process, he might eat rocks unsuitable for his health.
In most cases, this behavior will stop on its own when your dog grows bigger; thus, there is usually nothing much to worry about.
Like many other undesirable habits in dogs, eating rocks can also result from boredom. Your dog is probably bored and looking for something to do to entertain himself. Unfortunately, dogs will engage in any behavior just to be occupied. Even though many dogs will not swallow the rocks, you should be vigilant when you observe your dog engaging in rock-eating.
Stress and anxiety
Rock-eating can also be a way for your dog to cope with stress. Unfortunately, our canine friends are pretty vulnerable to stress and anxiety. For instance, some dogs do not like being alone for long periods. They tend to develop some coping mechanisms that are not very healthy. Among these mechanisms is rock eating. This could result in deadly results if your dog swallows the rocks.
Now that we have identified why dogs eat rocks, we need to discuss how to stop the behavior. Before we can go ahead and look at some tips to do so, let us look at how harmful rock-eating can be.
Your dog might also be using a pica to get your attention. And unfortunately, this will often work because you will give it to him, trying to stop him. A dog eating rocks to seek attention is a little challenging to control.
My dog is eating rocks; how harmful is it?
You care for your dog and would not want anything to happen to him. Rock-eating can be very harmful to your dog. It can result in emergency surgery if he has swallowed the rocks. Therefore, stopping him immediately after you observe the behavior is essential.
If your dog shows any sickness after eating rocks, you must rush him to the vet’s office. This way, he will be examined, and your vet can rule out any complications from the behaviors. If your dog shows symptoms like vomiting, inability to eat, tender stomach, and general sickness, rush him to the vet.
Rock-eating could block the intestines, thus putting his life at risk.
How to stop a dog from eating rocks
Once you discover your dog eating rocks, you should take the following steps to stop them;
Visit your vet
Before taking action, you should rush him to the vet care. Your vet will examine your dog to see if he has swallowed any rocks that could lead to complications. If your dog is experiencing some or all of the earlier mentioned symptoms, an x-ray will determine if it results from swallowing rocks.
In addition, your vet will determine whether your dog is eating rocks out of nutritional deficiencies. If so, your vet will recommend the best treatment, including changing your dog’s diet. In other cases, your dog can eat rock because of gastrointestinal issues.
Therefore, you cannot ignore your dog when he starts to eat rocks. If your dog has no medical issues leading to the behavior, you must consider correcting behavioral problems.
Treat boredom in dogs.
Boredom is a leading cause of a lot of undesirable habits in dogs. Once this happens, he will try and entertain himself, which is often through unacceptable behaviors. Understand that your dog might get bored because he does not have much to do. After all, he is left all alone once you leave the house to attend to your daily activities; he is left all alone. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that he has something to do to curb boredom.
You can do this to ensure your dog does not get bored when you are away. My favorite one is the toys. It would help if you had as many toys for your dog as possible. You can train him how to use them and leave him to it as you do your daily activities. Get chew toys for him. They will help stop the habit because you will have met his needs to chew.
In addition, chewing is entertaining and your dog’s favorite activity. You can also invest in toys that dispense treats or even food puzzles. This will keep your dog busy and entertained in that he is rewarded every time he plays with the toy.
Remember that the goal here is to alleviate boredom by keeping him busy. However, please do not leave so many treats for him, so you do not overfeed him.
Remove rocks from your homestead.
Your dog is engaging in rock-eating because they are readily available! To stop him, ensure you eliminate all the rocks in your backyard or lawn. This is not exactly as simple as it sounds, as you cannot be able to get rid of all the stones, mainly if you use them for aesthetic purposes in your home.
In addition, if you have a rock-eater, he will look for the latter even during walks. This can make it very difficult for you to stop your dog from eating rocks. However, you may consider changing the area you walk him if it is rocky. Consider taking him to the park where there are fewer rocks.
In addition, you should always ensure that your dog is supervised at all times. When you walk out, ensure he does not consume any rocks. If you cannot remove the stones from your homestead, you can use dog repellents to discourage your dog from eating rocks and other non-food items.
Spray rocks with dog repellent
In some cases, you might be unable to remove rocks from your homestead altogether. It could be because you are using them for decorative purposes, or maybe they are too many to sweep. You may consider repelling your dog from eating the latter in such a case.
For instance, you can use vinegar as a dog repellent. Mix this with water and spray the rocks. Since dogs detest the smell of vinegar, they will not get near the stones. However, this can be a tedious process since you will have to keep spraying the rocks over and over again.
In addition, if you have rocks or pebbles in your garden or yard, you must discourage your dog from accessing them. Clove oil acts as a very effective dog repellent. To use it to stop your dog from eating rocks, dip a few cotton balls in the oil and place them in the garden or on the rocks. Your dog will not access the area, and thus you will have dealt with eating rocks.
However, this might keep your dog from eating the rocks in your homestead but not curb the behavior altogether. This is because he can always get somewhere new to get the gems to chew. You must consider why he is doing so and approach the problem from that angle.
Supervise your dog
This is necessary for every dog, especially if he has developed undesirable habits. This is especially important when dealing with a puppy who enjoys eating rocks. Keep an eye on him during walks or playtime when he has access to the stones.
This way, you can always stop him before he swallows the rocks. You will, however, need to train him in a few commands if you haven’t already. We will explore dog training to stop rock-eating later in this article.
Spend time with your dog
Not only will this help alleviate boredom and loneliness, but it will also help you understand your dog better. Now, dogs will eat rocks for different reasons, as we had mentioned earlier. However, it is up to you to determine why before addressing these issues.
By spending time with your dog, you will be able to notice any change in behavior and overall health. A dog eating rocks could also be looking to get your attention, which works. This indicates that you probably have not been paying attention to him for some time.
You can spend time walking or playing. Playtime is the best time to recognize such behaviors as eating rocks. During this time, engage him in various activities that will take his mind off the idea of eating rocks. In addition, you can train him to stop even as you play.
Train your dog out of the habit
The best thing about our canine friends is that we can eliminate the aspects we do not want. Whatever reason your dog eats rocks, he must know it is unacceptable and that you will not be entertaining the habit. Punishment is not precisely the way to go, but training is. You can train a dog to stop certain practices on your own. However, you will need to be very patient and, at the same time, vigilant.
Training your dog to stop eating rocks should not be as complicated. Here are a few tips that can help you dissociate him from the habit completely;
Teach the ‘drop it/leave it’ command
Whenever you notice your dog eating rocks, tell him to leave them or drop them. Unfortunately, dogs do not understand English, which complicates this training. However, upon using the commands a few times, your dog will learn that it is unacceptable to eat rocks. To reinforce this training, reward him every time he obeys and drops the rock. You can offer him a treat, a favorite toy, or praise him for his excellent behavior.
Discourage the behavior by creating a negative outcome
Even though the ‘leave it’ command is among the first few pieces of training you should invest in; sometimes your dog will not stop. This is mainly in the case where he is eating the rocks to get to you. However, you can create a negative association with his behavior to mostly annoy him whenever he picks a stone in his mouth.
A good example is getting an ultrasonic device or beads or pebbles in a bottle. Every time he goes to pick a rock, shake the bottle or switch the device on. The sound they produce should be enough to distract him. Eventually, he is going to stop the habit.
Understand that it will take both effort and time to train your dog thoroughly. In severe cases of this habit, you may ensure to go ahead and consult a dog behaviorist.
Treat stress and anxiety.
As we mentioned in the first section of this article, stress and anxiety can lead to rock-eating in dogs. Unfortunately, our canine friends are prone to developing pressure. They are easily triggered to stress. For instance, your absence can lead to anxiety. Under-exercised dogs also seem to have issues with stress and tension, which breeds undesirable behaviors like rock eating.
That being said, it is up to you to ensure your dog is healthy and stressed-free. You must give him enough attention, food, and exercise to do this. For instance, if you are traveling for work or vacation, do not be surprised when your dog gets stressed. It does not matter whether you left him with someone else; your absence will lead to anxiety and stress.
To treat anxiety or stress, you must, first of all, identify the actual cause. For instance, if you are dealing with separation anxiety, make sure you spend time with him when you get back. In other scenarios, stress and anxiety might result from fear. Maybe you have another dog who is more extensive and probably more hostile than the smaller dog, who might develop anxiety and fear issues. Separate the two for a while until they are both comfortable with socializing with each other.
Address stress and anxiety to reinforce good behavior in your dog.
Get a basket muzzle
If your dog is a chronic rock eater, it is time to prevent the habit altogether. Even though it might sound quite unfair to mask your dog’s mouth, it is necessary, especially when walking the dog in areas with small rocks and pebbles. This will keep him from eating the stones altogether.
Sometimes, you might have to have your dog wearing the latter, especially when you are not around to supervise him. Get a basket muzzle that allows your dog to breathe.
In conclusion, getting your dog to stop eating rocks is not a one-day activity. You must be resilient and train him until he finally drops the habit. As mentioned earlier, consider taking him to the vet if you see any symptoms in the article.
This is because rock-eating can put your dog in danger. Your vet should be able to help you with that particular problem. Ensure you spend enough time playing and exercising your dog and also invest in good toys. Remember that it is your responsibility to ensure your dog is always healthy and happy.