Updated date:

What to Do About Dogs Eating Rocks and Sticks

James Livingood has been a dog sitter for several years. He has written numerous articles and a book about the topic because he loves dogs.

Dog chewing on stick

Dog chewing on stick

Why Do Dogs Eat Rocks, Sticks, and Poop?

Some dogs like to eat things they’re not supposed to—rocks, sticks, the corridor’s wall or the owner’s underwear. Every veterinarian has a story to tell about a patient who ate something incredible; in fact, dogs never cease to amaze us when it comes to the things they eat. Unfortunately, this behavior can pose a serious threat to the dog’s health, and in the worst-case scenario, he may even die as a result.

Sharp objects such as nails, forks or knives, can easily perforate the stomach walls or the intestinal mucosa and cause internal bleeding, peritoneal infections, or septic shock. Eating non-edible objects, otherwise termed pica, is an abnormal behavior. Some professionals believe it’s a form of obsessive-compulsive behavior. The causes may vary, but it can be related to anxiety, frustration or boredom, lack of mental and physical stimulation, and chronic/acute stress. Some physical pathologies may also contribute to its development such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, intestinal parasites, and anemia: These should be ruled out before attempting any behavioral approach.

If the final diagnosis turns out to be an obsessive-compulsive disorder, pica is generally a difficult issue to resolve. The first step is to seek professional help. A behavior specialist (usually a veterinarian or a certified behaviorist) will develop a treatment protocol, which usually includes:

  • Behavior modification techniques
  • Stress reduction strategies
  • Advice on how to adequately manage the dog’s environment
  • Medication (depending on the severity of the case)
Stressed dog

Stressed dog

Stress Reduction and Behavior Changing Techniques for Your Dog

Stress reduction strategies are an extremely important component of the treatment plan. Stress is one of the main contributors to the development and worsening of compulsive disorders and, thereof, it should be addressed in an efficient manner. This can be achieved by increasing the dog’s daily amount of exercise and mental stimulation.

How Does One Mentally Stimulate a Dog?

Start by throwing the food bowl away and replace it with a food dispensing toy. Also, you can start by teaching the dog some basic obedience tricks. Learn how to clicker train your dog and implement positive, reward-based training techniques to your daily routine. The use of synthetic, appeasing pheromones could also be a useful tool since they effectively reduce the dog’s stress levels; depending on the stressor type, you can choose between pills, a collar or a diffuser. There is also a spray with a valerian-based formula which can work very well with some animals.

Behavior Modification Techniques

Behavior modification techniques should also be implemented. Let’s imagine the pica behavior gets worse when the dog is left alone. You can use desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques to help create a positive association with the owner’s absence and, therefore, reduce the stress and anxiety levels. Basic obedience can also play a vital role in the recovery process, simply by teaching the dog not to touch an object on cue.

Note the Dangers of Pica

Please remember the health dangers associated with pica. Whilst implementing the treatment plan, the dog should be closely monitored and shouldn’t have access to the objects he’s attracted to.

How to Properly Manage Pica

  • Determine the cause (stress, boredom, malnutrition)
  • Try using more treat dispensing toys
  • Work on obedience tricks
  • Decrease stress on the dog
  • Consult a trainer on specific behavior modification techniques
Dogs sniffing ground

Dogs sniffing ground

Why Dogs Eat Poop

A lot of dogs tend to eat poop. When you notice this bad habit in your dog, it is important for you to take quick actions in order to stop it. That’s because the bad habit of eating poop can lead your dog to a large number of health conditions in the long run.

  • Isolation: As the first thing, you will have to figure out the exact reasons why your dog eats poop. Isolation can be considered as the number one reason that leads dogs to eat poop. If you keep your dog alone in the basement or kennel, there is a high possibility for it to eat poop.
  • Space: If your dog is closer to you, you will not be able to find this bad habit. On the other hand, dogs who spend most of their time in a small space also tend to eat poop. This is not something unusual.
  • Anxiety: Just like human beings, dogs will also be subjected to anxiety. When your dog is subjected to anxiety, you will be able to see it eating its own poop. For example, some of the dog owners tend to punish their dogs for accidents that happen. In such instances, the dogs tend to eat their own poop with the objective of removing all evidence. This will transform into a vicious cycle in the long run.
  • Attention Seeking: Some of the attention seeking dogs also tend to go ahead and eat their own poop. If you notice this in your dog, you should be careful not to overreact. You must also keep in mind that dogs who are living with other elderly or sick dogs also tend to eat their own poop.
Vitamins

Vitamins

How to Stop a Dog From Eating Poop

Vitamin Deficiencies

Now that you are aware of the reasons dogs eat poop, you will have to figure out how to keep your dog away from eating poop. If your dog notices that it is missing something from food, it will be tempted to go ahead and eat its own poop. If you can give a vitamin supplement to your dog, you will be able to keep it away from pooping. Vitamin D deficiency has been identified as one of the most common reasons that lead dogs to go ahead and eat their own poop. In order to overcome this situation, you can simply give a Vitamin D supplement to your dog.

Clean Up After Your Dog

You can also think about keeping the surroundings of your dog clean as much as possible. Then there will be no poop for your dog to go ahead and pick up. As a result, your dog will not be tempted to eat its own poop. You must also keep an eye on your dog and supervise him throughout the day. If you notice that your dog is about to eat poop, you will have to pick him up immediately. Then you will be able to make sure that your dog doesn’t eat poop.

In Summary:

  • Prevent stress and anxiety
  • Give the dog space to live
  • Provide nutritious food
  • Keep the yard or fecal area clean
  • Watch your dog and don't let them be alone with poop

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: What would cause a dog to chew on a wooden door jam?

Answer: Dogs often chew to help clean their teeth. Plus, they might be bored and the act of chewing on the door jam might be fun to them.

© 2018 James Livingood

Comments

James Livingood (author) from Seattle, WA on April 24, 2018:

"So tell me, what do you think as this dog's problem?"

Sounds to me like an anxiety problem. I know they make dog anxiety vests (for thunder/fireworks), but I am not sure that would work in your extreme example. Crashing through glass is beyond normal and requires professional coaching.

The Logician from now on on April 23, 2018:

Great information! I've had a lot of dogs of different breeds in my life but here is a case study maybe you could shed some light on.

I found a gorgeous Airedale one summer over a 4th of July weekend. She was such a specimen I thought her owner must be looking for her but after a month of putting ads in the local papers no one claimed her so she had a new home with me on a lake. Not only was this dog gorgeous, it understood anything you'd command it to do...except swim. I could not get this dog to go in the lake but she would sit with us while we had barbecues by the lake and chew on a rock. She'd grab our corncobs when we threw them away and swallow them whole! (And they came out whole too!)

Anyway I took her in our canoe and put her on an island in the lake thinking she'd swim back to follow me. She stood in the shallow water for an hour barking so I swam out to her and dragged her into the water to where she couldn't touch bottom - for 5 minutes she splashed her front paws on the water totally upright in the water meaning she was treading water like a person and sinking every minute or so. I tried holding her butt up but when I let go she went right back to drowning like a person. After a couple more attempts at this she finally learned to swim like a dog and then we couldn't get her out of the water. We'd go out in the canoe all day and she would swim non stop next to us wherever we went. If she saw a stick floating on the water she would fetch it and bring it to us in the canoe and we'd play swim and fetch with her in the deep water for hours.

So, great dog right? I mean a Little Rock chewing, I can live with that even though her teeth were all worn to nubs? What I eventually discovered was that I couldn't live with a dog who freaked out in thunderstorms. If she was indoors she destroyed whatever she had to to get out. If she was outside she destroyed whatever she could to get inside the house, windows, doors she'd eat her way right through them and if she got outside or couldn't get inside she was gone with the wind for a couple days! This is how I figured out why she went missing on the 4th of July when we found her and why nobody claimed her. She loved to fetch anything and I couldn't help to imagine at some time in her life, maybe her first 4th of July, someone through a firecracker, she fetched it and it blew up in her mouth and maybe that's why she eats rocks. I moved into a condo and while at work a thunderstorm sprang up on a sunny day. I rushed home as the clouds started to burst with lightning. I arrived at my condo just after the storm had subsided and there were neighbors standing in the street staring at my condo. I pulled up and asked what was going on as I noticed they were looking at smoke rising from my roof.

They said well lightning struck the top of your condo and we looked out to see your dog crash through the kitchen window hitting the ground running and she was gone down the street never even looking back. Btw she came back 3 days later, I have no idea where she went.

So tell me, what do you think as this dog's problem?