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Why Do Dogs Eat Rocks and Stones? Causes and Prevention Tips

Among the most common behaviours we can observe in dogs is the tendency to gnaw on objects of various kinds. It can even happen to catch the dog eating stones, a behaviour called racism. But why does he do it? What motivates him to do it, and how can we avoid it?

Why does the dog eat stones?

Why do dogs eat rocks? Among the most common behaviours we can observe in dogs while living together is the tendency to gnaw on objects of various kinds. It can happen with rubber toys, tennis balls, shoes, or pieces of wood: very often, it is a game, in other cases, a way of familiarising him with the world around him, but it can also happen that the dog is caught eating stones, even swallowing them. But why does he do it? And how can we avoid this potentially dangerous behaviour?

Generally speaking, the behaviour of swallowing stones or other inedible materials such as wood, children’s dummies, and plastic or stones is called ‘pica’. It is an ethological behaviour typical of the puppy, which explores the world through its tongue and mouth as most dogs do. It is normal and not worrying, in short, that the puppy munches on different objects: in this way, it feels the textures and understands what can be eaten and what cannot. Pica can also occur in adulthood for two main reasons, both of which involve human interaction.

An educational problem

The first reason for this is the wrong educational approach on the part of the human. Usually, the human, upon seeing the puppy pick up something in its mouth – a stone, for example – becomes frightened, fearing it might swallow and hurt itself. He often reacts impulsively and impetuously, ordering the puppy in a dry, harsh voice to spit it out, opening his mouth and forcing him to let go, perhaps repeating the “no” and raising his voice. For puppies still learning, the object in the mouth thus acquires an additional value; it becomes something precious to keep, and the temptation is to close the mouth and swallow it to keep it and prevent it from being taken away. Behaviour that the dog may also maintain as an adult.

Demand for attention

The second reason why the natural pica mechanism emerges is always linked to the behaviour of the human of reference, specifically the attention they give the dog. Seeing the reaction that the person has when the dog picks up a stone in his mouth (for example), and therefore realising the immediate attention that is being paid to him, the dog may begin to go in search of stones or other objects to stimulate precisely the interest of his human companion: the stone thus becomes a tool and is used as such.

Anxiety and stress

In addition to these two motivations of a purely educational/training nature, there is also pathological compulsive behaviour, which is closely linked to emotions: the dog eats stones. After all, it is bored, frustrated or in an intense state of stress, perhaps in depression because it cannot vent its energy and the need to explore.

What to do if your dog eats stones?

The first thing to do is to make a diagnosis, to find out what is causing him to do this and whether it is pathological or behavioural. In the case of the puppy that eats stones because it considers them ‘precious‘ – but also in the case of the adult dog that developed this habit as a puppy – it is first necessary to change how it is taught what is good to eat and what is: no shouting, scolding or forced opening of the mouth. It is better to initiate cooperation by offering the dog a more suitable alternative object. The idea is to stimulate the dog’s interest by drawing its attention to the alternative thing (many on the market do not cause damage if swallowed) and offer to prompt it to leave the stone without perceiving it as a force. The same attitude can be adopted when the dog eats stones to attract attention.

What to do if your dog eats stones?

If, on the other hand, the ingestion of stones depends on stress, anxiety or depression and is a compulsive behaviour, the approach is different because it is a symptom of an inadequate quality of life, which must necessarily be changed. It is, therefore, necessary to begin by indulging the dog’s exploratory desire to a greater extent, for example, by increasing walks and socialising opportunities, strengthening the exchange and bonding by accompanying him during exploration, observing him and intervening if he picks up a stone in his mouth or comes close to it. In such cases, the ideal is to speak to the dog calmly and accompany it at a safe distance, rewarding it afterwards with a snack and a comforting pat.

Final thoughts

There are a few reasons why a dog might eat stones. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Pica: Pica is a condition in which a dog eats non-food items. This can include rocks, dirt, sticks, and other objects. Various factors, including nutritional deficiencies, boredom, and anxiety, can cause pica.
  • Nutritional deficiency: Dogs not getting enough nutrients in their diet may be more likely to eat rocks. This is because rocks can contain minerals essential for good health, such as calcium and phosphorus.
  • Boredom: Dogs that are bored or don’t have enough to do may be more likely to engage in destructive behaviours, such as eating rocks. This is because they are looking for something to occupy their time.
  • Anxiety: Anxious or stressed dogs may also be more likely to eat rocks. This is because they seek something to chew on that will help them relax.

If your dog eats stones, taking them to the vet is essential to rule out any medical problems. Once any underlying medical issues have been addressed, you can work with your vet to develop a plan to stop your dog from eating rocks. This may involve providing your dog with plenty of exercises and mental stimulation and using positive reinforcement training to discourage the behaviour.

Here are some tips to help stop your dog from eating stones:

  • Supervise your dog closely: When your dog is outside, make sure to supervise them closely so that you can prevent them from eating rocks.
  • Remove rocks from your yard: If there are rocks, remove them to make it more difficult for your dog to eat them.
  • Provide your dog with plenty of chew toys: Give your dog plenty of chew toys to keep them occupied and prevent them from chewing on rocks.
  • Use positive reinforcement training: Reward your dog with treats and praise when they chew on their toys instead of rocks.

If you are having trouble stopping your dog from eating rocks, you may want to consult with a behaviourist or trainer. They can help you to develop a personalised plan to address the issue.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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