Almost 70% of people surveyed have said that their dogs eat plants at least once per week (Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2008). This can be a significant issue for both the owner and the animal.
We want our dogs to be healthy – and we also don’t want our favorite plants shredded!
Dogs likely do not want to get sick from eating plants, mainly if they are eating poisonous ones. When you tend to plants, there are few things worse than seeing the beautiful flowers or vegetable garden you have slaved over for hours destroyed in minutes.
Thankfully, there are natural and safe ways to keep your dogs from eating your plants. We want to share some tips with you that will, hopefully, stop your dogs feasting upon your petunias once and for all.
So how do we keep dogs from eating plants?
Reasons Why Dogs Eat Plants
The truth is we do not know why dogs eat plants. We can guess why they might eat plants but do we know the real reasons why they chow on some grass?
It is tricky because we can’t exactly ask the little troublemakers why they are doing it.
It seems as if dogs may eat plants for a variety of different reasons. So, to work out exactly why your furry friend is tucking into your favorite flowers, you are probably going to need to look at how they are behaving in other aspects of their life. This is the only way you can establish the root cause.
People often believe that dogs eat plants due to stomach issues. However, it seems that a lot of this belief comes from the fact that a good proportion of dogs vomit soon after they eat plants. Studies tend to indicate that most animals are not showing signs of sickness before plant consumption.
One study revealed that as few as 8% of dogs eat plants due to stomach issues (2008 Study).
“Plant consumption is not usually associated with gastrointestinal illness but instead may be a trait inher-ited from their wild ancestors.” (Why do dogs and cats eat grass study)
Sadly, it is pretty tough to determine whether your pet has stomach issues unless you notice changes in their toilet habits or how they eat. This is because dogs, like most other animals, have an instinct to try and hide any illnesses that they may be suffering from.
Dogs need stimulation. If they are not entertained and mentally appropriately engaged, then they try and make their entertainment. In some cases, this may mean that they resort to eating plants. It seems to be the highly energetic dogs that chew on plants out of boredom more often than not.
If your dog does not have any particular stimulating toys or is not being walked enough, then there is a strong chance that they are eating plants out of boredom. This may also occur if you or other people are not interacting with the pet enough.
If you need to leave your dog alone for an extended period, consider leaving them with distractions or frozen treats (e.g., a frozen Kong). This kind of simple activity can distract your dog for hours and also tire them out.
A tired dog is less likely to engage in destructive (plant chomping) behavior!
They Enjoy the Taste
Surprisingly, some dogs enjoy the taste of plants. These dogs are not vegetarians – they just like the taste and perhaps the crunchy challenge of tearing your tomato plants to pieces.
You may notice that there are certain species of plants that your pet makes a beeline for.
My Labradoodle is oddly obsessed with a particular type of flowering shrub in our backyard. Conversely, he couldn’t care at all about the citrus trees nearby and leaves them alone.
If your dog is only touching some plants and not others, or perhaps they have sampled individual plants and never went back to them, then there is a strong chance they are eating their favorite plants for the specific flavor.
Pica – When a dog eats EVERYTHING
Pica is when your dog eats non-food items ALL the time. It is a serious condition!
Pica is often the symptom of an underlying health condition, although some dogs may suffer from pica for seemingly no reason at all.
You can often tell your dog is suffering from pica if they tend to be eating a lot of non-food substances. These consumed substances can include feces, dog toys, and even small sticks or rocks.
If your dog is eating a quality dog food, this is exceedingly rare.
If your dog doesn’t seem to be eating as much lately, or perhaps you have changed the dog food that they are eating, there is a chance that they are eating plants due to a vitamin deficiency.
You must ensure that your dog is eating the right amount of food for their size. You should also ensure that you purchase dog food that is made for their age (puppies have different nutritional requirements to adult dogs)
If your dog tends to be eating plants when nobody else is around, particularly if nobody has been around them for hours, then there is a strong chance that they may be suffering from separation anxiety.
Dogs are naturally social creatures, so they need a contact at least once every few hours, or they will get lonely. Certain breeds are more prone to this than others.
Should you get a dog if you work fulltime? This is a tough decision that many struggle with. Se more in our detailed working fulltime with a puppy article to help make the right decision.
The Age of the Dog
There have been several studies trying to determine the reasons as to why dogs eat plants. Many of these studies determined that age may play a factor.
Older dogs tended not to consume plants as much as younger ones. This likely means that plant consumption was the dog’s way of exploring the world a little bit, or perhaps trying to push boundaries.
While there are several reasons dogs may eat plants, the issue is likely to boil down to either boredom or separation anxiety. This is particularly true if the problem is more long-term.
It is exceedingly rare that your dog will be consuming them due to a severe illness. Although, as we stated before, you will likely want to look into your pet’s behavior to get an indication as to why they may be eating them.
No matter what the reasons behind the plant-eating are, you will need to deal with the issue. The rest of this page will be dedicated to how to keep a dog from eating plants.
What WON’T Work to Stop a Dog Eating Plants
Before we talk about the solutions that will work, we want to run you through some solutions that 100% will not work. We know that there are a lot of people out there that will still use these solutions, but we promise you that neither of them will help protect your plants ‘long term’.
Ultrasonic devices – do they work?
- ✔ Ultrasonic Animal Chase – the intensive flash light and the high sound pressure with the dynamic high-frequency speaker ensure effective displacement of uninvited guests. Scare cats or other animals such as dogs, foxes, martens, raccoons, rats, mice, badgers, skunks, wild boars, bats, birds, pigeons, rodents etc.
- ✔ Solar powered animal chase – The device is charged by a polysilicon solar panel to store energy for operation in the dark as at night. A 4-hour solar charge will last for 5 days. If it's cloudy or rainy for a few days, the device can be charged via a USB cable.
- ✔ Set Up: Just place the chase pointed towards the area that you want to protect and place it in a place with plenty of sunshine.
- ✔ Adjustable sensitivity and frequency – The motion sensor covers a 110 degree angle left and right, as well as a 55 degree bend up and down, up to a distance of up to 9 m (29.5 ft), which makes the entire range of action approx. 90 m2. There are 5 adjustable ultrasonic strengths that allow the expulsion of different animals depending on the frequency setting.
- ✔ Waterproof and weatherproof – The ultrasonic animal chase with IP64 is waterproof and can be used on rainy days. The unique seal and design allows you to install the device anywhere. Ideal for outdoor use such as gardens, patios, garages, yards, driveways, farms, ponds but also attic floors etc.
As you may know, there are certain products on the market that are designed to emit an ultrasonic sound if anything comes close to the sensor. They are mostly intended to keep pests away from plants.
The problem is that there isn’t any evidence that they are effective. Sure, the sound can be a little bit uncomfortable to listen to, but if your dog is determined to eat plants, they will put up with the sound.
Of course, it won’t be very pleasant for you if you have an ultrasonic device. You will also have to deal with the uncomfortable sound any time you come close to your plants. Probably not ideal if you are planning to relax in your garden.
Reprimanding Your Dog
We have to point this out because it seems to be the solution most people go for. However, in most cases, it isn’t going to work.
Imagine this situation. You come home from work. Your favorite plants seem to have missing leaves and bite marks in the other. You have a guilty dog sitting in the corner. What do you do?
Well, for most people, they will head up to the dog, start yelling and pointing towards the plant. The problem? The dog doesn’t understand what you are reprimanding them. They think you are yelling at them for seemingly no reason.
The only time reprimanding your dog will ever work if you reprimand them as they are eating the plants. If you miss them in the act, then it is pointless to yell. Just deal with the clean-up.
How To Keep Dog From Eating Plants 6 Ideas
Thankfully, when it comes to keeping a dog from eating plants, plenty of solutions are proven to work. However, you may have to try a few of them to work out your dog’s best solution.
Limit access to plants
This is probably the simplest solution to put into practice. Make sure your dog doesn’t come into contact with your plants, at least unattended.
Do not provide them with access to the garden unless you are there to keep a watchful eye on them. If there is a room that your dog spends most of their time in, mainly when home alone, then make sure there are no plants in the room.
If your dog doesn’t have access to the plants, it can’t eat them.
Use the STOP command
When you do see your dog eating plants, then use the STOP command. When they stop eating the plants, you can praise them. You are just reinforcing good behavior here and teaching them what they shouldn’t be doing.
This is a method that tends to work best with younger dogs, particularly puppies, trying to discover the world around them. Using the STOP command helps prevent them from pushing boundaries.
Change the layout of your garden
If you have poisonous plants, then make sure that they are kept out of the dog’s reach. While you can’t move every single plant around, you should make a conscious effort to move your most-prized ones and the most dangerous ones away from the dog. You can do this until you get to the root of why they are eating plants in the first place.
Spray with diluted lemon juice
Add a touch of lemon juice to some water and spray it directly onto the plants. It won’t hurt them, but your dogs will not be a fan of the taste. This may encourage them to stop eating the plants.
It isn’t something that is always going to work, but if your dog is (mostly) eating plants because it enjoys the taste, then this may be a viable solution.
Grannicks Bitter Apple Spray
- Stop pets from licking, gnawing, and chewing fur, wounds, and bandages
- Non-toxic and safe
- Simply spray problem areas to discourage chewing
- Ingredients include water, isopropanol 20%, bitter principles, and extracts
- Please read all label information on delivery
If the lemon juice spray doesn’t seem to be working, you may want to try Grannicks Bitter Apple Spray. This should be more than enough to keep even the most adventurous dogs at bay.
It is worth pointing out that this is unlikely to harm your plants, although some have said that the Grannicks Bitter Apple Spray has impacted. Try to use a small amount. You don’t need much. Just a touch of flavor added to the plants. If you notice changes in your plant, stop using it immediately.
Alternatively, you can try adding a small amount of vinegar to your plants. However, this is more likely to have an impact on their growth. Use white vinegar for this and only use the smallest of amounts. Once again, you need enough to coat the plant, so your dog gets an odd taste in their mouth.
Add items around the plants.
There are some items that your dog probably won’t enjoy walking on. They tend not to be fans of things that make loud noises, so a few loud pebbles should be suitable here. Some people will also add a small amount of chicken wire. However, you may want to experiment to discover what your dog doesn’t like.
Surround the plants with chicken wire
This should be a last-ditch solution. If nothing else seems to be working, then put some chicken wire around the plants. Your dog will not be able to reach them. Yes, this means that you are going to need to fence in your plants (this is better than putting your dog behind a fence!), but at least it will help your garden stay looking beautiful!
There are plenty of solutions for stopping a dog from eating plants. However, you will still want to keep tabs on their general behavior. If they are eating plants due to a nutritional deficiency or sick, you should take them to the Vet.
Thankfully, these problems are relatively rare, and the methods we talk about here should help you deal with plant-eating issues most of the time.