Owning a dog is a wonderfully rewarding experience, but it sometimes involves trying to teach our canine friends right from wrong, and one of those habits which sometimes needs addressing is when your dog eats things off the ground. Not only can it mean the loss of something valuable, but it can also prove to be dangerous for the dog. Here are a few ideas which might help to stop that from happening!
There are two types of ‘problem’ eating, one is the normal scavenging type of eating habit that most dogs do, which can involve sniffing around for scraps of food, that food sometimes being some pretty awful stuff such as rotten meat or even horses poo! Strangely, some dogs will still see these items as food and we all know how hard it is for our hounds to ignore food!
The other kind of ‘problem’ eating is the kind that makes absolutely no sense at all and can include, rocks, hair bands and pieces of metal – in other words dogs may sometimes eat objects which they don’t necessarily see as food at all.
There are many basic training methods that can help to stop this, such as implementing the “leave!” command, usually by keeping the dog on a lead while you place tempting items around it. The dog will obviously be straining and pulling to get to the item, but if you wait for him to calm down and stop attempting to get at it, while repeating the “leave” command, and then reward him with a treat, you will teach him that he will be rewarded for obeying that order. Like most training, it is a case of lots of repetition, lots of rewards and lots of patience!
The other type of ‘problem’ eating can happen for a variety of reasons, and discovering what these reasons are is vital. Eating objects which are not food is sometimes due to a condition called pica, which can be caused through anxiety or can even be signs of a mental disorder. In some cases it can also be due to a mineral deficiency so it is worth checking with your vet to see if this is the case.
If these reasons are ruled out then it could literally just be down to boredom or loneliness, so make sure that your dog is socialising enough and getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
If you are unable to stop these eating problems, then the last resort could be a muzzle!