Dogs generally exhibit strange behaviors individually. However, unless you are a first-time dog owner, eating grass should not be as strange. We have all witnessed our dogs’ craving to graze, even though we term them as carnivorous. Well, point of correction there, dogs are more omnivorous.
Besides, I am going to give you a few measures that you may use to make the habit stop.
Why do dogs eat grass and weeds and what are the dangers involved?
The answer to this question can be a little vague, depending on several factors. For instance, is is a habit that your dog has developed suddenly or he cannot seem to leave it alone? And when does he seem to crave grazing?
There are several reasons why a dog may want to eat grass and weeds. It could be that your dog is bored and wants your attention or he could be suffering a nutritional deficiency.
To curb this behavior, you must understand the reason behind it. Now, several studies focus on the reason why a dog may want to eat grass and weeds. For instance, in 2007 the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science published a study suggesting that dogs eat grass because of nutritional deficiencies.
In the study, when dog owners switched to a high fiber diet, the dogs stopped eating grass. Maybe your dog craves eating grass and weeds in efforts to find these nutrients.
It does not end there as in 2008, the journal of Applied Animal behavior Science goes with the idea that grass-eating does not indicate an illness. However, some dogs eat grass to relieve an upset stomach, and most of them will vomit.
However, some dogs will eat grass and weeds because they want to. In the study, dogs that presented signs of illness before consuming grass would vomit while the normal and healthy dogs did not. This theory is still inconclusive.
Other studies suggest a dog will eat grass only because he wants to and this behavior does not have anything to do with illnesses. In 2009 the journal of Veterinary Behavior suggested that it is completely normal and instinctive behavior. This thus means that dogs are omnivorous.
Are grass and weeds eating a behavioral disorder?
Well, this is an interesting question that I come across quite often. I do not think that grass eating is a behavior disorder, as per the scientific proof. However, your dog probably wants to get a reaction from you through eating grass.
He knows that you do not like it when he misbehaves. However, you probably have guests or have been working in your study all day and he misses you. Eating grass will catch your eye and there, he has what he wants.
In addition to this, your dog is probably bored and wants something to keep himself busy. How often do you play or provide physical and mental stimulation to your dog? Well, if he is bored, eating grass could be one way to cope.
I cannot forget to mention that grass-eating could be a stage in your puppy’s growth stage. He could stumble on grass and weeds and eat them when he is trying to learn how everything works.
Other puppies enjoy chewing on grass when they reach the teething stage. He is looking to itch his gums and grass presents a perfect solution.
Dangers involved in a dog eating grass and weeds
Eating grass is not as harmful unless we are talking about treated grass here. While it can be an innate habit, grass-eating could present a few dangers. For instance, if your grass is treated with weed control pesticides, it could be toxic for your dog.
Therefore, you must exercise caution, immediately you notice your pup eating grass. Before I go on, I must say that you need to be careful especially if you are taking a walk in the park. You may not know when the grass is treated or not.
Furthermore, eating grass presents the danger of both internal and external parasites to your dog. Even though eating grass is harmless, your dog could end up contracting both internal and external parasites.
Should I be concerned that my dog is eating grass and weeds?
Now that you know eating grass is not an abnormal thing to do, should you be concerned when you find your dog grazing? Well, if the grass is safe and free of chemicals, I suppose that there is no problem unless one or all of the following happens:
- Your dog won’t eat anything else but grass
- It has become a chronic behavior
- He vomits shortly after grazing
- He appears sickly
- He is looking for specific types of weeds to eat
As I mentioned above, there is nothing wrong with your dog eating grass. However, if he exhibits any other the above-listed symptoms, I suggest you call your vet. He could be experiencing another underlying illness and may need a check-up.
All this being said, we now understand the potential reasons why a dog may want to eat grass and weeds. While it might not be a problem, you may need to train your dog out of this habit, especially because you do not want him eating grass everywhere.
Below, I am going to highlight some of the most effective ways to stop a dog from eating grass.
How to stop a dog who wants to eat grass and weeds.
I understand that you might be worried that your dog has suddenly started eating weeds. However, there is no need to worry as you can stop him with a few adjustments to his lifestyle.
To stop this habit, then I suggest you look back and identify the motivation behind it. Why does your dog want to eat grass and weeds? Is he avoiding his food to eat grass? Well, like all behavioral problems in dogs, you start by addressing the causal agent.
Use these methods to stop your dog from eating grass and weeds:
Provide plenty of stimulation
Dogs require a lot of stimulation, both physical and mental stimulation. It is going to be good for him as it will alleviate boredom and stress that could be behind grass-eating tendencies. Well, make sure that you exercise your dog thoroughly and every day.
I suggest you establish a schedule and include exercise and playtime in there. Depending on the energy levels of your dog, you will need about 60-90minutes of play and long walks in the morning and evening.
When you leave him as exhausted as possible, he will not get bored. He will not have the urge to use the pent up energy. Do not forget to purchase multiple toys for your dog.
Go for the interesting toys such as the food dispensing toys. If your puppy eats grass to itch his gums during teething, you can get a few chew toys to entertain him.
Spend quality time with your dog
While exercising and playing with your dog are all healthy, it does not mean that he will settle up. Some dogs simply crave our attention and may start grass-eating when ignored.
Well, it is extremely difficult to resist giving him attention when he is misbehaving. Unfortunately, this will work against you in that you are rewarding the same behavior you are trying to get rid of.
Now, I get that you cannot afford to spend every second with your dog. However, set aside some time where you exclusively pay attention and pet him. Not only will this help in curbing grass eating to seek attention but you will form a stronger bond with your dog.
When I speak of spending quality time, it could be chilling with him on the sofa, or watching TV. watch him play with his toys and discover how he likes to spend his time. Play his favorite games as well. The goal is to ensure that your dog is as happy as he could be.
Restrict him from going to the lawn/yard
This is especially if you have just treated your lawn for weeds and pests. These chemicals are mostly going to be toxic for your dog and could poison him. I am sure this is not what you are looking forward to.
He can eat grass but not from everywhere. Make sure that the dog flap is closed when you are treating your grass.
Train your dog to stop eating grass and weeds
Now, if you are not comfortable with your dog eating grass, you can train him to quit. Luckily for you, dogs are quite receptive. I mean, it is not going to take much to get his attention. However, you must be careful and consistent to deliver correct training.
You can train your dog using the heel method, spray bottle or even the ‘stop’ command. The one thing that I need you to understand that it is not an easy peasy kind of thing, especially if you want to completely get rid of grass eating habit.
The heel command
Teaching your dog the heel command is a great way to get rid of all the unnecessary distractions. It is especially helpful when you are talking to your dog for a walk. Once your dog has mastered walking on the owner’s heels, he is hardly going to be concerned with the grass on the sidewalks.
How to train the heel command
You are going to need a couple of treats and a clicker. If you are training this command as you take walks with your dog, you need to have your dog on a leash. However, I suggest you begin training in your yard.
The goal of the heel command is to make sure that your dog can walk right past grass and weeds without wanting to eat it. It is one of the best methods to curb this behavior.
Command your dog to sit beside you before you start walking. Then slowly start walking and say the command ‘heel’ immediately. Only reward him when he is walking beside you without getting distracted.
You will need to start small and you can progress as you move along. The clicker is also essential to let your dog know that you are pleased as he follows through the training.
The ‘stop’ command
Alternatively, you can train your dog the simple ‘stop’ command. You will need to put your dog on a leash for successful training. Now, use this command every time your dog tries to approach the grass.
The trick is to avoid pulling him towards you. Instead, look at him and command him to ‘stop’ you are going to try a few times before he gets it. Reinforce this training by rewarding him with a treat.
Now, when we are talking about dog training, I always insist on being consistent. Train every day, in fact, I urge dog owners to include training time in the daily routine.
However, grass-eating should not stress you out even though you should not take it lightly. If your dog has developed a chronic habit and cannot seem to stop, speak to your vet. If there is nothing wrong with him, medically, you can probably provide an alternative. For instance, you can get him lettuce or fresh carrots. It will help make up for the nutritional deficiency driving him to eat grass and weeds.
Understanding the motive behind a dog eating grass is key to stopping the behavior. However, there is limited research surrounding this topic. Some animal behaviorists agree that dogs eat grass because they can and want to.
However, others suggest that it could be a result of nutritional deficiencies. I tend to agree that grass eating is not a strange habit in dogs. It could help with relieving stomach upset through vomiting.
At the same time, I do not advocate for dogs to graze. I think it is important to recognize the dangers that could come with a dog grazing on grass. They could range from consuming toxic products as well as internal or external parasites.
In the case your dog is suffering from nutritional deficiency, do not change his diet without consulting your vet. The vet will be able to recommend the best type of food to include in the puppy’s diet.
For this reason, I have outlined some of the most effective methods to curb grazing in dogs. But always find your why your dog may want to eat grass and weeds before you can think of a solution.
How long has your dog been eating grass for? I would like to hear about your experience with a grass-eating dog.