A dog eating stones might seem strange to you for the first time. Most dog owners will panic whenever they observe their puppies engaging in stone eating. This habit is known as pica, whereby a dog will consume non-food items.
However, it would help if you did not tolerate it as it could lead to health complications. Therefore, you will need to stop your dog from eating stones as soon as you find out.
This article will give you a complete guide to help you eliminate this behavior in both puppies and adult dogs.
10 Ways to stop your dog from eating stones
Now that we have looked at some of the causes of a dog eating stones, we need to learn how to stop the behavior. Not only can swallowing stones cause digestive issues, but it also leads to health complications. Some dogs will go for emergency surgery to remove the stones from the digestive tract. We are going to discuss how to stop a dog from eating rocks altogether;
1. Sweep the stones from your home
Occasionally, your dog will eat stones from your yard or homestead. He is doing so because the rocks are readily available for him. When you remove all the stones from your home, he will no longer have to do so.
Therefore, the first step you should take when correcting any unwanted habit in dogs is to remove the stimuli. Sweep the stones to remove them from your homestead. Sweep your homestead to remove all the non-food items that your dog might want to eat.
2. Get rid of boredom
As we mentioned in the first section of this article, boredom can cause your dog to eat rocks. Well, dogs are pretty prone to boredom, especially when they are at home. Ensure your dog is busy when you leave to work or run errands. To do so, you can get a few exciting toys you can leave him to play with.
However, it is not as easy as it sounds. Unlike the human mind, your dog probably has no idea what he is supposed to do with the toys. Therefore, it is up to you to train him on how to play with them successfully.
Chew toys are essential to dogs with the habit of eating stones. When leaving your home, leave different types of toys for your dog.
For instance, you can get a food puzzle toy that will dispense treats. Train your dog to play with it in that he will be sure of getting a reward every time he gets it right. This will keep him occupied throughout the day and stimulate him mentally. Dogs constantly need to be enabled else they get bored and lonely.
3. Address separation anxiety
As a result of being left alone, changing ownership, and even the absence of a family member, your dog can suffer from separation anxiety. This type of anxiety results from an unhealthy attachment with their owners. As a result, they experience extreme fear whenever their owner is about to leave.
This kind of fear leads to your dog seeking comfort in other behaviors, including eating stones. Therefore, you need to recognize and treat separation anxiety as soon as possible.
Your dog will be restless and may adopt compulsive barking whenever you leave the house. In most cases, your dog will have mastered your schedule. This means he knows your routine whenever you want to leave the house.
For instance, he might start pacing and barking when you pick up your keys or even preparing to leave the house. If your dog has separation anxiety, it is up to you to help him overcome his fear.
You may use different methods to help your dog with separation anxiety. Below are some of these methods:
4. Desensitization and counter-conditioning
When you are looking to treat separation anxiety in dogs, this is one of the most effective methods. The goal is to create a positive association every time you leave the house. You have to make your dog believe that it is not too bad to be left alone for a few hours. However, it would help to be careful when using the desensitization method.
You can offer him a treat every time you leave the house. This way, your dog will be conditioned that there is a reward that comes when you go. Alternatively, you can teach your dog how to be alone and comfortable.
For instance, leave him in the other room for a minute before you return. This will reassure him that you will always get back. However, use toys to keep him busy even when you exit the room.
This way, your dog might start looking forward to your departure, knowing he will be rewarded.
5. Plenty of exercises
A puppy with separation anxiety will start reacting at the first sign of departure. However, you can reduce this anxiety by exercising him before leaving the house. Adjust your routine, so you have time to walk him in the morning.
This will not only expose him to the new environments but will also reassure him of your presence. Furthermore, exercising is a great way to beat stress and also anxiety.
If you cannot walk him each morning, ensure that you play with him instead. The goal is to leave him stimulated as well as exhausted. This way, you will minimize the chances of your dog eating stones out of separation anxiety.
6. Use dog deterrents
You can also opt to use deterrents to make your dog stop eating stones. For instance, you may have rocks and pebbles in your home for decoration. This presents an opportunity for your dog to consume them. However, since you do not want to get rid of them, you can use dog deterrents to keep your dog away from them.
One of the most commonly used dog deterrents is vinegar. To use this method, add a relative amount of vinegar to water in a spray bottle. Then spray the mixture on the rocks so the smell will repel the dog from consuming the latter.
In addition, you can use a water gun which is motion-activated. Install the firearm in your flowerbed or yard, where your decorative stones are. This way, the weapon will blast the dog with water every time he steps close to the yard. Alternatively, you may use a motion-activated ultrasonic device.
This is especially true when a dog picks stones from your garden. Install the device in the garden to produce a high-pitched sound that only dogs and pets can hear. This will be so irritating to him that he will want to stay away.
7. Take him to a vet (As a last resort)
As mentioned earlier, the stone eating habit can result from medical issues. In most cases, it is a result of nutritional deficiencies. As much as dog foods are made to satisfy your dog’s dietary needs, they might not be enough. For instance, your dog might be looking for digestive enzymes and thus result in eating non-food items.
However, you cannot be able to tell this by simply observing his eating stones. Therefore, you need to get him to a vet for a check-up. This way, the vet will examine your dog and determine if you will need to adjust your pup’s diet. This will compensate for the missing nutrients and thus help you stop your dog from eating stones.
8. Treat stress in dogs
We have already identified stress as a possible reason a dog eats stones. Therefore, once you examine your pup and find he is stressed, you must address the issues. The first step to doing this is to ensure that he is comfortable in your home.
For instance, if you have a giant dog causing stress and fear in your pup, consider separating them for a while. Note that your puppy will only be able to socialize when he wants to.
The most effective way to eliminate stress in dogs is to find the cause and eliminate the stimuli. In addition to this, you should also invest in various toys. These will keep your dog busy throughout the day without stressing about when you will come home.
You must also avoid living in a noisy neighborhood or playing loud music in the house. This will cause stress in your dog, which could lead to the behavior of eating rocks.
You may leave soft and soothing music to calm your dog. You may go with soft and gentle music before leaving the house. In addition, leave the TV on nature or sports channels. It will be interesting enough to keep him occupied for the better part of the day.
9. Train your dog to stop eating stones
This should be the priority once your pup notices eating stones. It would help if you taught him that it is not acceptable that he is eating rocks. To do this, you can create a negative association with the behavior.
For instance, get a shaker toy with beads inside. Whenever your dog reaches for the stones, shake the toy to produce an annoying sound. This will discourage your dog from the habit but also distract your dog’s attention.
Alternatively, you can also train him in the ‘no’ command. This is quite effective in puppies eating stones during the development stages. Whenever he is about to eat a rock, look at him and sternly say ‘no.’ Once he obliges, offer him a reward, a treat, or even praises to reinforce good behavior.
10. Buy a muzzle
This should be your last option when your dog doesn’t stop eating stones altogether. Sometimes, your dog will not quit the habit despite the above-discussed methods. At this point, consider getting a basket muzzle for your dog. This is mainly for a dog that eats stones during walks. As much as this method is not appealing, you may not have a choice.
Ensure you get a muzzle that allows your dog to breathe, yawn, or even chew. However, ensure that he cannot be able to pick stones from the ground.
Reasons why your dog might be eating stones
There is no known reason for pica behavior in dogs or even humans. The good news is that you can examine your dog and determine why he loves eating stones. Stone eating can be a result of a behavioral or medical issue. You will need to pay attention to him to explain why. Some of the reasons for this behavior may include:
This is not an uncommon occurrence. I will remind you that your dog is a scavenger in nature, despite all the years we have domesticated them. This particular character does not go away, and thus, you might observe your dog exhibiting his true nature.
That’s not the point here, though. Dogs are supposed to hunt and feed on raw prey in their natural environment. However, we have changed this, and there are plenty of dog foods in the stores. These foods are completely safe for consumption by your dog.
Unfortunately, your dog’s system may require other nutrients not found in dog food. As a result, your dog will start looking for those nutrients by himself. Often, he does not know where to get them. We domesticate them; thus, they do not know how to hunt for prey.
Instead, he will not only eat rocks but also other non-food items like grass and soil. Therefore, we cannot refute the possibility of nutritional deficiency being the cause of your dog’s eating stones.
Boredom and Loneliness
Dogs get bored quickly, and they will start engaging in undesirable habits like eating rocks. Unfortunately, most dog owners forget that their canine friends are vulnerable to boredom and loneliness. This is especially when they have been left alone. We cannot afford to spend every single day with our dogs nevertheless.
When your dog starts eating rocks, it could result from boredom and loneliness. When you leave the house, you most probably leave him alone until you get back. If he has nothing keeping him busy when you are away from home, he will get something to do definitely.
He will not choose a very productive way to beat boredom. Instead, eating stones will be an activity to get you to react and keep yourself busy.
Stress in dogs
Like boredom, dogs are also prone to stress. As a result, our dogs find coping mechanisms for anxiety, and stone eating can be one of the mechanisms. You should, therefore, keep an eye on your dog to detect any signs of stress.
Our canine friends may get stressed due to simple and everyday occurrences in our lives. For instance, if you change your residence, he might find it a little stressful to adjust to new environs. In addition to this, exposing your dog to strangers or new dogs can also be stressful.
Other situations that can lead to stress in a dog may include traveling in a car and leaving your dog alone for long periods. Loud music or noisy streets could also cause stress leading to your dog eating stones.
Most dogs will develop separation anxiety at some point in their lives. Once again, we cannot be able to spend each day with our dogs. As a result, they develop anxiety whenever we leave them alone at home. Unfortunately, our canine friend becomes attached to us, such that they feel bad every time we are about to leave the house.
If you recently adopted a puppy, he might also suffer from separation anxiety because he has been separated from his ‘family.’ This includes those dogs that have left the shelter to move to a new home. The bottom line is that such a substantial massive could be why your dog won’t stop eating stones.
Separation anxiety is an actual dog problem that will need your attend ion immediately. Not only will he eat rocks, but he might also engage in other behaviors to cope. We will discuss how to curb separation anxiety later in this article.
Normal development stage
This is a common reason for a puppy to eat stones. During development, your puppy wants to discover how everything works. To do so, he has to explore the things around him, and he will do so by use of his mouth.
Therefore, you might observe your puppy eating stones at home or during walks. However, this will stop as soon as your puppy learns it is unacceptable. The following section will examine how to train a puppy to stop eating stones.
You should be able to notice whenever your dog picks up new habits. It is usually an indication that everything is not right at that moment. Please get to the bottom and ensure your dog is comfortable and healthy. However, do not punish or yell at your dog even when he does not seem to quit eating stones.