Let's face it ... dogs will eat almost anything! You have all seen your dog eat some strange, and possibly disgusting, things at some point. No matter how much actual food they eat, some dogs still find other things to ingest. One of the less disgusting, but still very weird, items dogs chomp on are rocks. Yes, rocks! So, why exactly do dogs like rocks to chew on? And what could cause such bizarre behavior? You may be surprised to find out. Sometimes it is a "puppy thing" and they grow out of it. Sometimes it's not. A number of experts have weighed in on the topic, and while most agree on a few theories, the range of underlying issues may be startling.
The Root of the Behavior
So let's get down to the nitty-gritty and explore why it is that your pooch exhibits such peculiar behavior. At the forefront of all the information is a condition called pica. Pica is classified as a medical condition where dogs crave and eat non-food items such as sticks and rocks. This can be caused by variety of underlying issues, from malnutrition, parasites, or even behavioral problems. To determine if pica is the root cause you should consult your veterinarian to be sure. Other medical issues such as nutritional deficiencies, are also sometimes the answer as to why Rover is munching on gravel. If your pup has low levels of calcium, iron, or phosphorus, they may start chewing on rocks as a sort of supplement. Again, you should consult your vet to make sure everything is normal with your canine's health.
Less scary beliefs lean toward behavioral issues being behind this odd habit. Whether your dog is simply bored or looking for attention, this behavior is something to consider once good health has been established. Most dogs want attention from you, their pack leader, whether that attention is positive or negative. And even if you are reprimanding them for eating rocks, you are still showing them the attention they seek. Providing them with an alternative chew toy and praising as you do so could help in correcting the behavior. Another behavioral concern that has been noted to cause rock chewing in dogs is anxiety. Anxiety in dogs can stem from environmental changes, past trauma, or even the simple fact your fur baby is aging. Giving your dog something else to chew or snuggle, along with their own quiet area can help. There are various ways to help soothe anxious dogs and help them to break any destructive habits they may have formed, such as eating things they shouldn't eat.
Encouraging the Behavior
While letting your dog nibble on rocks may not seem like such a huge issue to some, you may want to reconsider. Chewing on and eating rocks can pose serious risks to your furry companion. Sharp edges can leave lacerations on their gums and tongues. Also, the extremely hard texture can cause damage to their teeth when they chomp down on the rocks. Even if they are able to swallow rocks or pebbles without damaging their mouths, dogs can still suffer damage from ingesting the stones. Choking and intestinal blockages are just a couple of the issues they face from these hard substances entering their bodies. There are many suggested ways to break your dog of this potentially deadly habit. Some experts suggest spraying the rocks around your home with a substance such as bitter apple to discourage ingestion. If you think the rock eating is behavior related, or from boredom, you may want to look at other options to help remedy the issue. Including more playtime or adding in extra walks are not only good for your canine's health, but may also give them the extra attention they are seeking. Also, make sure they have plenty of approved chew toys available so they do not go looking for alternatives to nibble on or eat.
Other Solutions and Considerations
As is true with children, supervision is one of the keys that is vital when you have a pup that is exhibiting such behavior as eating rocks. Try to take notice of when or where your dog seems to pick up rocks most often. If it is while you taking them on a walk you may want to change your route. Being careful to avoid areas with more gravel or rocks. If you notice that your dog is still eating rocks even after you have given him or her alternative chew toys you may want to mix it up a bit. Make sure to provide them with a variety of toys and chew treats so they don't get bored. Also, interacting with your pup and their approved chew is a great motivator to them choosing it over the less desired option of rocks.
Remember, having a dog is a lot like having a toddler. You are not only their pack leader, you are the adult. So make sure you take charge and head-off destructive behavior before any lasting harm is inflicted. Give Rover something interesting and tasty, accompanied by some 'pawsitive' attention, may just be the answer.