As a dog owner, you may have noticed your furry friend’s insatiable appetite for everything in sight, from leftover food scraps, dead animals, to random objects lying around the house. While this behavior might seem amusing or even endearing at times, it can actually be a cause for concern at other times.
Dogs that eat everything can face potential health risks and may be trying to communicate an underlying issue.
By understanding the motivations behind your puppy or adult dog’s eating habits, you can help create a healthier and happier environment for your beloved pet. So, let’s embark on this journey to discover why dogs eat everything and how you can address this issue effectively.
Most Common Substances That Dogs Eat
Dog owners have reported that the most common things their dogs eat, are:
- Poop of other dogs (or any poop)
- Food (usually unattended)
- Children’s toys
- Mulch pile
Dogs do have innate scavenging tendencies, it’s just a survival tool, but that gets confusing when you see your dog earing large amounts of dirt, right? Well, there’s a variety of reasons why your dog might be eating foreign objects.
Reasons Why Your Dog Eat Everything
Strange eating habit can be a real health concern! And whilst it’s not always going to be a worst case scenario, it’ also good to know what the problem might be so you can fine the cause of your dog and their strange eating habits. There are some physical reasons that dogs eat things they shouldn’t and some medical reasons, that said, if you want an accurate diagnosis of your pet and their problems, it might be best to double check with a good trainer or a vet.
If you have a teething puppy, this can be a really big reason that your pup is eating everything or trying to chew thing. It’ a really good idea to redirect your pup elsewhere to lots of fun chew toys, and show them that this appropriate
A common reason for your dog eating fibrous things, like grass, or shed fur, or similar can be because your dog is feeling unwell, and can be one of the signs of illness, so, if you see this one, and it’s an alarming amount of grass, or they don’t end up vomiting or showing other symptoms, make sure to seek medical advice!
I find Indie (my german shepherd) gets this when he gets the gulps as part of GERD? And when he’s struggling with this, he’ll try and eat a lot of his own floor that’s shed on the floor in order to either vomit or settle it. After discussion with a Vet, we did decide that it was best for me to treat the occasional symptoms of this medical condition with Pepto bisomol. But I say this for informational purposes only, and would strongly suggest chatting with a vet.
Dogs aren’t dissimilar to babies in this way, they put things in their mouth to explore it, to chew it, to see if it’s alive, and to see if it’s edible… because dogs are inquisitive! They may put non-edible items or non-digestible items in their mouth, but most of them time they realise that it’s notgoing to be good for them, and spit it out – however – sometimes it’s a very serious hazard. In those instances it’s a better idea to redirect or to teach your dog to be comfortable in a muzzle.
This can be leftover genetics from parents, from time as a street dog, or dozens of other reasons, but in essence, dogs are opportunistic eaters, if a meal presents itself – they tend to take it, whether that comes in the trash, or in the form of a hamburger found in the neighbours hedge. All are edible, and all are a gift! Why not?
Not Feeding Enough
You might be surprised, but sometimes if we’re not feeding our dogs sufficiently, they will be hungrier than they should be. Remember that guidelines on a package or similar are only so useful, and I’d thoroughly recommend adjusting your feeding up and down from those suggestions per your dog’s body shape! Guidelines are great for meeting the average dog’s caloric requirements, but we do have to tailor the advice given per our dog, so we make sure we satiate out dog’s appetite (healthily!).
So if your dog is trying to eat everything in sight, this may be why!
Eating can be a symptom of boredom. Dogs absolutely do chew what we’d call inedible objects if they’re bored too, it’s a stress relief, it’s fun, and particularly if they’re not consuming the item in question, you may find that your dog’s bored.
Tap into their predatory motor pattern, and what they’re bred for, and pick a suitable enrichment activity for them!
Resource guarding is where your dog feels the need to protect or gobble a thing, in this instance we’d be talking about food (though it can extend to locations, water, or toys!). If this is why your dog is eating everything? This is a more severe behavioral issue that you might want to involve a trainer or behaviorist to help you resolve.
Particularly if this is when you’re out of the house, and you find that your dog is eating odd things, or just shredding them when you’re out of the house, this may be an anxious response – something often referred to as “Seperation Anxiety”. Generally though, chewing is a soothing thing for your dog, so if they’re anxious for whatever reason, they may start excessively chewing on things – or themselves!
Habits Left Over From Puppyhood
If your pup never quite learned that not everything is edible. If that’s the case, you may be struggling with your pup eating everything, it might be that as a pup they never really got that guidance on “Eat this, not that”.
Or, they may also still be a puppy who needs your guidance! Remember, if they pick something inappropriate? Replace the thing they’re chewing with a safe puppy chew or toy!
Pica is an obsessive eating disorder that’s pretty scary. It’s a condition where dogs eat things that are not food, but rather inedible, non-food items like rocks or plastic. It’s thought that this is an attempt to self-soothe or cope with stress, and it can be hard to break the habit once it’s formed. The biggest issue with Pica is that non food items in your dog’s digestive tract do tend to mean you’re going to be heading to the vet.
Again, I’d seek a vet or a behaviorist to help you resolve this if you think their consumption pattern is a sign of pica.
It’s been found recently, that some Labradors are missing genes! Which means they can eat, and eat, and eat and not feel full, it’s also almost certainly the reason a huge number of labradors are massively overweight.
But this could be the reason that your dog’s over eating (particularly if they’re a labrador!)
What Are The Risks?
When your dog tends to eat everything there are a few risks that come with that.
- Intestinal blockage
- Damage to the gastrointestinal tract
- Induced vomiting
- Ingesting harmful substances
- Dental issues
This is also a really good reason to learn what to do if your dog does start choking as sometimes there’s not enough time to get a vet! This is essential know-how for all pet parents.
And get yourself familiar with what’s actually toxic for dogs.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Everything
1 – Muzzle Training
One of the best things you can do if your dog tends to eat everything particularly non-edible objects that might result in surgery, is to train them to wear a muzzle. It’s important that they don’t get this confused with punishment, so be sure that they’re always excited to put it on. Use treats and praise when putting it on and taking it off for their safety!
And whilst there’ a lot of stigma around muzzling, it’ actually an incredibly responsible exercise we can do for our canine companions.
2 – Provide Mental Stimulation & Exercise
It’s important that you provide your dog with lots of mental stimulation and exercise. Your pup’s exercise is an important part of the recipe of a good dog. This can be done through interactive play, puzzle toys and training. If your dog gets plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation they’ll be less inclined to eat everything!
This is great for interacting with puppy who wants to play and wants to bite! It allows pup to really engage with you and is perfect for redirecting and even better? The bungee takes your pup’s yank out of it for your shoulders.
Edsel is a little pricey – but Edsel is the only toy that’s lasted 5 years in my home with 3 large dogs. I don’t let them sit and chomp on him like he’s a bone, but we do play tug and fetch all the time.
He’s the perfect intermediary for a puppy who’s learning what to bite if that puppy likes human skin.
This toy also doesn’t have an obnoxious squeaker! It’s got a squeaker with a much better tone.
3 – Ensure They Have A Balanced Diet
It’s important that you provide your dog with a balanced diet. This means that they should have the appropriate amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in their diet. If there’s too much or too little of one of these nutrients it can cause them to overeat or inappropriately eat.
4 – Give Appropriate Chews & Toys
If you give your dog an appropriate chew or toy they’ll be less inclined to eat inappropriate things. This is because their chewing instinct will be satisfied, meaning that they won’t feel the need to eat something else.
These chews are really interesting, they last for ages, and dogs tend to love them.
We love these as a special treat, we don’t give them often, but they really do help relax dogs and bring them to a stage I call “Chew drunk”, because chewing releases endorphins for dogs and soothes them. So these are a wonderful choice.
(Warning, watch your pup the first few times, strong chewers or greedy guts can be tempted to chomp it into a few pieces and just swallow it down)
These are another single ingredient chew that’s bound to keep puppy focused and entertained. Whilst chews are never a replacement for a play session, this one comes close because of just how darn tasty they are!
These are root chunks from some heavy duty trees, and they crumble as opposed to splinter, so totally safe to ingest – which is awesome if you have a little pup who just can’t leave the wooden furniture alone.
Redirect puppy to this, and you’ll see puppy focus on the permitted chew, as opposed to the illegal chew, and it’ll give pup the texture they’re craving!
5 – Training & Behavior Modification
Depending on what the issue is, such as separation anxiety, resource guarding, Puppyhood habits or similar will all need professional behavior help, really. Because they’re not easy issues to unwind complex issues like these. It’s good to note that if your dog is still a puppy, these are big labels, and I’d encourage you to not panic before getting a true professional’s insight.
6 – Veterinary Check
Because of diet and the impact of health on stress and anxiety, getting a very check can be a very prudent thing to rule out or in, because health is so often a significant part of behavior. This is especially important if you are suspicious of Pica or resource guarding or even separation anxiety.
7 – Puppy Proofing
We need to make sure that whilst your dog or puppy is learning what to eat and what not to eat, proper puppy proofing is absolutely essential. Make sure that pup only get’s access to puppy-appropriate chews and toys and not your expensive shoes.
8 – Teach Leave, Drop Or How To Handle Distractions
Teaching your pup how to drop, leave or to work around distractions can be one of the best ways to avoid your dog eating random things! Set up a distraction, like a squeaky toy or some treats, and then teach your pup how to leave it alone by using a cue such as “leave it”.
Note: Poop Eating
A particularly gross thing is poop eating. This is known as coprophagia, and they may eat their own poop or another dog’ poop, or even cat poop etc.
When Should I Talk To A Vet, Behaviorist or Trainer?
If your dog is chewing his or her own tail, it’s time to get help. If your puppy is chewing on you (or people) and not appropriate toys, it’s time to get help. If your dog is having trouble learning basic commands such as sit and stay, it’s time to get help.
Eating The Wrong Things Can Be Dangerous.
In conclusion, dogs eating everything in sight is a behavior that should not be ignored, as it can indicate underlying issues and pose potential health risks.
By understanding the possible reasons behind this behavior, such as boredom, anxiety, or nutritional deficiencies, you can take the necessary steps to address the root cause and create a healthier, happier environment for your dog. Implementing solutions like providing mental stimulation, ensuring a balanced diet, and seeking professional help when needed can make a significant difference in your dog’s well-being.
Remember, a well-cared-for dog is not only a happier companion but also a more content member of your family. So, take the time to understand and address your dog’s eating habits, and you’ll be rewarded with a stronger bond and a healthier, more satisfied furry friend.
Want to know the top things that dogs eat that they shouldn’t? Go see the full list!
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!