Though most dog-owners get used to their pooch’s quirks and habits after a while, some behavior can surprise even the most knowledgeable pet parent. While all dogs have individual personalities and love doing different things, there is no denying that in most cases, a dog’s favorite pastime involves two things - eating and being outdoors. When combined together, this can result in a very peculiar behavior, such as dogs eating mud, causing many dog-owners to fret about their furry friend’s health. Despite seeming strange, the behavior is quite common and can be concerning depending on the level of severity of it and other circumstances or symptoms.
The Root of the Behavior
As it turns out, there are a number of reasons dogs eat mud and fortunately they are not all serious. However, the behavior should not be ignored or disregarded either as it can still indicate that something is not right. One of the most commonly suspected theories for why dogs eat mud or dirt is because of a nutrient deficiency. Soil contains probiotic bacteria and essential minerals such as sodium, iron, and calcium. This leads a lot of pet-owners to believe that their pooch digs and occasionally eats the pawed-out mud as a way to compensate for missing minerals in his diet. Though this can be true in some circumstances, according to many veterinarians undernourishment is usually not the case. Check if you’re feeding your dog the right type of diet by matching his food to his breed and age. For example, a German Shepherd will have different nutritional requirements than a tiny Yorkshire Terrier. A puppy will need a more calorie dense diet to promote growth, while a senior dog might gain weight by eating the same food and instead requires a low-calorie kibble that improves digestion and overall gastrointestinal health.
Most pet stores sell breed specific dog food and will be able to suggest kibble based on your dog’s breed. However, if you still aren’t sure if you’re feeding your four-legged family member the right type of diet consult your veterinarian for a more accurate and specialized recommendation. In case of any concerns, a veterinarian can also run blood tests to check whether your pooch is actually nutrient deficient and will be able to help you pick the most suitable dog food for your furball’s specific needs. Another suspected reason for the slightly odd mud munching behavior is boredom, especially if it occurs at a young age. Some dogs eat dirt and mud simply because they can. Though humans view mud as something dirty or unpleasant, our canine companions have a completely different perspective. Just like kids, dogs find mud interesting and exciting and thus love to play with it. If the mud fascination is not regular or obsessive and you can easily distract your dog away from it, this is probably the case.
Encouraging the Behavior
Try to distract your dog away from the mud by interacting with him more or initiating playtime. A bored dog usually has too much pent-up energy which can often lead to misbehavior. Putting a bit more effort into quality time with your pooch should reduce the mud eating behavior. Another way to discourage your furry friend from nibbling on mud is by creating negative associations related to the behavior. This can be done with a spray bottle and some water. Most dogs don’t like getting sprayed in their face, so each time your dog goes for the mud, spray him lightly with the water to create a negative association with the behavior.
Most importantly, don’t allow for the mud eating to happen as in large quantities it can be very harmful to your canine’s health and may even be fatal. Make sure to supervise your dog when he roams freely in the backyard and pull him away by his leash if the behavior occurs while on a walk. The latter is especially important as streets contain all kinds of dirt, mud and spilled oil that can also negatively impact your pooch’s health. However, if none of the above suggestions help and the behavior persists, consult a veterinarian or a dog trainer for professional support.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Pica is a psychological disorder that might be behind your dog’s mud cravings. It is characterized by an appetite for and consumption of non-edible items such as mud, stones, clothes or paper. Similarly to a dietary deficiency, consult a veterinarian to make sure your dog is getting the nutrition he needs to reduce the behavior. In some cases, dogs dig and use their mouths to speed up the process in hopes of finding treasure, such as an old buried bone or a dog treat they stored for later. It is important to observe the behavior and make sure your dog is not ingesting anything that can harm him.