The Root of the Behavior
While eating rocks is a problem that can be quite grave and requires owner intervention, chewing rocks can also be troubling. Dogs who choose to chew on rocks not only do irreparable damage to their teeth, but they are also at a higher risk for tissue lesions in the lining of the mouth, gastrointestinal distress, blockages, and choking. Since dogs rarely know their limitations, it is possible for your dog to scoop up a rock just large enough to block his airway, and if not caught in time, can lead to suffocation and premature death. We understand that our dogs like to chew rocks, and there are even a few who like to eat them. What we don't understand yet is why. There are several different reasons why dogs choose to play with rocks. Determining the precise source for the action can be challenging. This seemingly peculiar activity could trace its roots to either behavioral issues or medical concerns. On the behavioral front, it has been suggested that some dogs play with rocks for attention. Attention is attention, be it positive or negative, so if chewing on a rock is what it takes, that just might be sufficient motivation for Fido to start nibbling.
Encouraging the Behavior
Other experts suggest that boredom can also be a factor in rock chewing. In the absence of other more engaging toys to play with, our dogs will find means to amuse themselves. Rocks are easily accessible, and they are an object they can use in a variety of different ways to have fun. Then there is the basic truth that dogs just like to chew! Chewing is good for our dogs both physically and emotionally. There are great health benefits for them in using their jaws in this fashion including critical stress relief. Consider it the canine equivalent of a hot bath, a cup of tea, and a good book. Still, this behavior can find its basis in medical issues. Doctors suggest that some dogs may choose to chew or eat rocks due to dietary or vitamin and mineral deficiencies in their systems. Running diagnostic bloodwork at your local veterinary clinic may help you to determine what Fido is missing in his diet so that you can supplement it for overall improved health, and hopefully, cessation of the behavior. Other conditions that also can be responsible for chewing or eating of rocks include diabetes mellitus or disturbances of the intestines. It is always wise to rule out any potential medical concerns before assuming your dog's activity is behavior-based.
If your dog likes to play with rocks, there are some strategies you can employ to help change this behavior. Redirection is a powerful tool owners can use to assist their dogs with shifting their focus to activities that would be more beneficial for them. Should you happen upon Fido having a good "chow down" on his favorite rock, divert his attention by interesting him with a different toy or his favorite treat. Once Fido is engaged with a different toy or activity, you can then remove the rock to prevent further chomping sessions. Make sure Fido has access to plenty of engaging toys. If your dog is bored, he can, and he will create his own fun. Ensuring that Fido has a steady supply of cool stuff to play with will go a long way in keeping him away from choosing to play with rocks instead. Consider Fido's activity. Is he active enough? A dog that isn't getting enough physical activity will often result to behaviors that can be destructive both to him and his environment. Taking Fido for daily walks will go a long way to prevent this from happening.