A dog eating rocks is not something to take lightly. However, it is not unusual, especially in puppies under the age of 6 months. Eating rocks and other non-food items can be associated with pica, which has no exact known cause. You should 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 rock-eating harmful 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, which is a name for eating non-food items, could be as a result of 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 exactly 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? Well, 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 getting familiar with his surroundings. He is curious and wants to discover everything. In his exploration process, he might eat rocks which is not good for his health.
In most cases, this behavior will stop on its own when your dog grows bigger, and thus there is usually nothing much to worry about.
Like many other undesirable habits in dogs, eating rocks can also be as a result of 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 quite vulnerable to stress and anxiety. For instance, some dogs do not like to be left alone for long periods of time. They tend to develop some coping mechanisms that are not very healthy. Among these mechanisms is rock eating. This could end up in deadly results in case your dog actually swallows the rocks.
Now that we have identified the reasons 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 that is eating rocks as a way to seek attention is a little difficult to control.
My dog is eating rocks, how harmful is it?
You obviously care for your dog and would not want anything to happen to him. Rock-eating can actually be very harmful to your dog. In fact, it can result in an emergency surgery if he has swallowed the rocks. Therefore, it is important to stop him immediately you observe the behavior.
If your dog shows any signs of sickness after eating rocks, it is vital that you rush him to the vet’s office. This way, he will be examined and your vet will be able to rule out any complications from the behaviors. If your dog shows symptoms like vomiting, inability to eat, tender stomach as well as general sickness, rush him to the vet.
Rock-eating could lead to blockage of the intestines and 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 him;
Visit your vet
Before you can take any action, you should rush him to the vet care. Your vet is going to examine your dog to see if he has swallowed any rocks that could actually lead to complications. In the case your dog is experiencing some or all of the earlier mentioned symptoms, an x-ray will determine if it is as a result of swallowing rocks.
In addition to this, your vet is going to determine whether your dog is eating rocks out of nutritional deficiencies. If so, your vet is going to recommend the best form of treatment which might include change of 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 does not have any medical issues leading to the behavior, you will have to consider correcting behavioral issues.
Treat boredom in dogs
Boredom is a leading cause of a lot of undesirable habits in dogs. Once this happens, he is going to try and entertain himself, and most often it is through behaviors that are unacceptable. Understand that your dog might get bored because he does not have much to do. After all, once you leave the house to attend to your daily activities, he is left all alone. Therefore, it is important to ensure that he has something to do in order to curb boredom.
There are various this that you can do in order to ensure that your dog does not get bored when you are away. My favorite one is the toys. You should have as many toys for your dog as possible. This way, you can train him on how to use them and leave him to it as you go on your daily life activities. Get chew toys for him. They will help stop the habit in that you will have met his needs to chew.
In addition, chewing is entertaining, and also your dog’s favorite activities. 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, do not leave so many treats for him so that you do not overfeed him.
Remove rocks from your homestead
Your dog is engaging in rock-eating because they are readily available! In efforts to stop him, ensure that you get rid of 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 rocks, especially if you use them for aesthetic purposes in your home.
In addition to this, if you have a rock-eater, chances are that 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 to this, you should always make sure that your dog is supervised at all times. When you are out walking him, ensure that he does not consume any rocks. If you are unable to remove the rocks from your homestead, then you can go ahead to 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 not be able to completely remove rocks from your homestead. It could be because you are using them for decorative purposes or maybe they are too many to sweep. In such a case, you may consider repelling your dog from eating the latter.
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, he is not going to get near the rocks. However, this can be a tedious process since you will have to keep spraying the rocks over and over again.
In addition to this, if you have rocks or pebbles in your garden or yard, you will have to discourage your dog from accessing them. Clove oil acts as a very effective dog repellent. In order 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 completely. This is because he can always get somewhere new to get the rocks to chew. This is why you will need to consider the reasons why he is doing so and approach the problem from that angle.
Supervise your dog
This is a necessity for each and every dog, especially if he has developed some undesirable habits. This is especially important when you are dealing with a puppy who enjoys eating rocks. Keep an eye on him during walks or playtime when he has access to the rocks.
This way, you can always stop him before he swallows the rocks. You will, however, need to train him a few commands if you haven’t already. We are going to explore dog training in efforts to stop rock eating a little later in this article.
Spend time with your dog
Not only will this help alleviate boredom and loneliness, but it is also going to 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 you can be able to address these issues.
By spending time with your dog, you will be able to notice any change in behavior and overall health. A dog that is eating rocks could also be looking to get your attention, which actually works. This indicates that you probably have not been paying attention to him for some time.
You can spend time walking or playing. In fact, 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 be able to 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 be able to get rid of the aspects we do not want. For whatever reason your dog is eating rocks, it is important that he knows it is unacceptable and that you will not be entertaining the habit. Punishment is not exactly the way to go but training is. You can be able to train a dog to stop certain habits 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 it or drop it. Unfortunately, dogs do not understand English, which makes this kind of training a little complicated. 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, favorite toy, or simply praise him for his good 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 especially in the case where he is eating the rocks to get to you. However, you can create a negative association with his behavior to particularly annoy him every time he picks a rock in his mouth.
A good example is getting an ultrasonic device, or better yet 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 is going to take you both effort and time to train your dog completely. In severe cases of this habit, you may ensure 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 anxiety. In fact, 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 anxiety which breeds undesirable behaviors like rock eating.
That being said, it is up to you to ensure that your dog is healthy and free of stress. In order to do this, you have to give him enough attention, food, and also exercise. For instance, if you are traveling for work or even vacation, do not be surprised when your dog gets all stressed. It does not matter whether you left him with someone else, your absence will definitely lead to anxiety and stress.
In order to treat anxiety or stress, you must, first of all, identify the real 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 be as a result of fear. Maybe you have another dog who is bigger 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 in order to reinforce good behavior in your dog.
Get a basket muzzle
If your dog is a chronic rock eater, it is now time to prevent the habit completely. Even though it might sound quite unfair to mask your dog’s mouth, it is necessary especially when you are walking the dog in areas with small rocks and pebbles. This will keep him from eating the rocks completely.
In some cases, you might just have to have your dog wearing the latter at all times, especially when you are not around to supervise him. Get a basket muzzle that allows your dog to breathe.
In conclusion, trying to get your dog to stop eating rocks is not a one-day activity. You will have to be resilient and keep training him until he finally drops the habit. As mentioned earlier, consider taking him to the vet if you see any symptoms indicated 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 that you spend enough time playing and exercising your dog and also invest in good toys. Remember that it is your responsibility to make sure that your dog is healthy and happy at all times.