Ever since your dog, Pebbles, was a puppy, she has loved rocks. She would chew on them, nudge them, and even deliver them to your house. Hence her name, Pebbles, a perfect fit. Pebbles has stopped eating rocks so much, which makes you happy because that was a bit concerning, but she continues to bring in rocks from outside and stack them in the corner of your house. It is as if she is hoarding those babies for later, and you have never really been too concerned with the behavior, except for the fact that she does sometimes scratch your floor with these stones and dirty up your rug. What is the root of Pebble’s obsession anyway? And why does she insist on bringing them into your clean house?
The Root of the Behavior
Coyotes and wolves are known for munching on stones. One reason canines do this is that it sharpens their teeth, but there are concerning reasons for this too. Another possible reason dogs eat rocks is due to an enzyme or iron deficiency or even worms-yuck! Other reasons include boredom and loneliness. Playing with rocks is quite common with puppies because they want to explore things, and similar to babies, they like to examine objects by putting them in their mouths. Dogs also like that they can roll rocks and Pebbles may bring them in your house because she views stones and toys as a way for her interact with her owner.
Pebbles also possesses natural hoarding instincts from her wolf ancestors since wolves would gather and hoard food for later. Although most domesticated dogs get fed regularly opposed to their distant relative's ancestors, the hoarding habit stuck, and this is another reason that your dearest Pebbles continues to stack stones in the living room. Gift giving is also a sign of endearment in domesticated dogs. They will bring you anything from dirty socks to pebbles at the door. Before domestication, canines used to bring their prey to their dens. Domesticated dogs have taken a variation of this but still retrieve objects and bring them to their alpha dog (their master). Yes, Pebbles might be trying to bring you gifts and even though you prefer jewelry over rocks, Pebbles rock hoarding may be another attempt to gain your affection and approval.
Unfortunately, there are more serious reasons why dogs might be eating rocks or bringing them to the house, and although rare, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Pica are other reasons. This can be identified if your dog is obsessively focused on stones to the extreme for OCD, and Pica is when your dog is continuously eating rocks, dirt, leaves, etc. Dr. Karen Overall, a veterinary behaviorist, noted that as much as 2-3 percent of dogs might be affected by OCD. She further explains that it is one of the most difficult disorders to treat. However, you feel that your Pebbles is not overly obsessive about stones, she just likes to make a few piles here and there.
Encouraging the Behavior
Some owners encourage dogs to bring objects to the house because we provide attention and think it’s cute. When Pebbles arrives at your door with another rock while panting and smiling mischievously, you may even bend down and give her an ear scratch, or at the very least, talk to her about it. Pebbles is a diva, and she will revel in any extra attention that she can get. The biggest concern for this behavior is that Pebbles is putting these rocks in her mouth to transport them. You love Pebbles and certainly do not want her to choke or break any teeth. You also sometimes get irritated with the trail of mud that leads from the doorway to the living room where she stashes her stones. It will take some effort to stop this behavior and some training. One training technique is to spray Pebbles with water every time she attempts to bring a rock into the house. She will eventually get the idea that you are not a fan of this anymore. You also could provide her positive attention when she is not bringing the dogs to the house. Maybe Pebbles is just bored, and your playfulness will distract her from her hoarding tendencies.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If Pebbles' stone gathering becomes a major concern, you could always remove rocks from your yard. This is extra work but worth the prevented vet bill. Another option is to divert Pebbles' attention with other chew-friendly dog toys because she might be using the rocks to clean her teeth. Show her there are other options for this, such as the toys and even charcoal for dogs that cleans teeth. Yes, this really is a thing.
Be aware that Pebbles may get possessive over guarding her rocks, and this could lead to some aggression. If this is becoming an issue, you do want to take quick steps to let Pebbles know that she is not the one in charge, and it would probably be a good time to utilize some of the tactics above. Also be aware that rocks can break teeth, cause choking, and get stuck in stomachs, etc. so it might be a good idea to introduce Pebbles to some other activities, but she can still keep her name.
So you have decided that although Pebbles' hoarding of stones can be cute sometimes, you do not really like the risks that are associated with her having rocks in her mouth, so you have taken some necessary actions to prevent this behavior. Your spray bottle is always within arm’s reach, and you even hired a neighborhood kid to scour your lawn for rocks. Because of these actions, Pebbles is not hoarding as many stones as usual and is now having difficulties finding them. Your floors are also free from dirt, and less cleaning always makes you happy. You love your Pebbles and still feel that her name suits her, but you are glad you took an effort to nip this behavior and feel that you have left no stone unturned.