|

Why Does My Puppy Eat Rocks? [Dog Eating Rocks Behavior Explained]

If you hear a puppy crunching on stones and rocks it is alarming. CRUNCH! Why does my puppy eat rocks? Are they sick? How can we stop this behavior?

why does my puppy eat rocks
Why does my puppy eat rocks? Can it be stopped?

Puppies have a tendency to get up to mischievous acts, which is why it’s so important to keep an extra-close eye on them at all times. 

Sometimes they know better and simply don’t care, however most of the time they don’t know better, and are acting out of fear, a lack of attention, or an underlying health issue. 

Puppies (much like children) can get bored very easily, and they also rely heavily on (adult) humans to do just about everything. 

This means that if they are left alone, or not given the proper attention, they may act out and get into stuff they probably shouldn’t (like rocks).  

Why does my puppy eat rocks?

There are a multitude of reasons why your puppy would be interested in eating rocks, but it is most likely due to a lack of attention/boredom, a lack of nutrition/care, or a more serious health condition.

why dog eat stones
A dog that eats dirt, rocks, or stones is an issue.

Attention/Boredom

Believe it or not but boredom, and a lack of attention could actually be the primary culprits for why your puppy is eating rocks. In fact, there’s even a name for the condition that dogs get from eating rocks called “PICA”. 

In relation to boredom, sometimes if the dog is left alone all day because everyone’s at work, or school, they do not get enough exercise and/or interaction to keep them satisfied.  So, they then look for things that help to keep them entertained (like rocks). 

Much like children, puppies will misbehave for attention, even if that attention is negative. Outside of boredom, and attention, a puppy may be more likely to eat rocks or non food items due to other behavioral problems. 

Not the least of which include anxiety, frustration, or compulsive disorders. Part of the reason these issues tend to flare up is because the dog has become bored and frustrated from the same routine, the same toys, and the same environment. 

A simple change of scenery, giving them more attention, and keeping them stimulated by adding new toys into their life can make a dramatic difference. 

Starvation/Abuse 

This one is probably the least likely of the three, but should still not be ignored. The reason for this is because generally when you see a dog eating rocks because they are starving or have been abused, they were probably homeless or living in pretty rough conditions (assuming he’s adopted). 

This can cause the pup to develop a habit of eating rocks as a means of survival, and once they develop this habit, it can be very hard to break. 

Be sure to always approach the situation with love, compassion, and empathy, leading with positive reinforcement, and rewards. Also (and this probably sounds obvious) make sure they always have an adequate amount of food, and water available for them throughout the day. 

Most of the time dogs have a good way of letting us know when something is off, but not always (especially if they’ve been abused), so be sure to keep an eye out for these things as well.

Medical Conditions 

The final reason for your puppy eating rocks could be linked to a more serious health condition. 

Once the vet rules out that your dog is not in any immediate danger from any rocks, a detailed history of your dog’s diet, behavior and blood samples would be completed. There is a good chance that if your puppy has made this into a regular habit, they may be receiving a lack of nutrients, or have a chemical imbalance in their bodies telling them to eat the rock. 

puppy at the vet with owners one adult one child
A cute puppy enjoying a Vet visit

At which point, your vet would most likely be looking for one of the following medical conditions:

  • Anemia
  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal tract disorders
  • Neurological Disease
  • Nutritional/Vitamin deficiency
  • Parasites
  • Thyroid Disease 

Most of these illnesses can cause unusual behavior that can lead to puppies digesting rocks, and other hard substances or foreign object. They can vary from a discrepancy in hormone levels, to a lack of nutrients, nerve damage, excess sugar, or a limited amount of red blood cells.

The good news is that the majority of the above concerns can be diagnosed by conducting blood work, ultrasounds, CT scans and/or X-rays. 

Once your vet rules out the above concerns, we can look at any behavioral issues that may contribute to “PICA”. Puppies tend to be more prone to this behavior because of their curiosity and need to explore with their mouths. If they accidentally ingest a small rock and enjoy it, they may continue this behavior, which could lead to potential health concerns and problems in the dog’s stomach or digestive tract.

How to Stop Puppies From Eating Rocks

Now that you are aware of the potential factors causing this behavior, it’s time to figure out what you can do about it. 

why does my dog eat rocks

Proper training

The first step when it comes to stopping your puppy from eating rocks is through basic training. Though it sounds simple and obvious, it should not be overlooked (and yet it is). 

  • Teaching dogs and puppies alike two basic commands such as; “leave it” or “drop it”. Can go a long way in improving the situation. Even simple commands such as these are highly effective according to most doctors, and could even be life-saving. 
  • An important note is that this sort of training should (ideally) start early on in the pup’s life, and you should approach them with a soft tone. If you notice your dog sniffing at a rock, tell them to “leave it” but say it in a tone that’s not going to startle, stress, or force the dog to hide (swallow) the rock. 
  • You want to approach the situation with a calm and soothing voice, so that you can easily remove any potentially harmful items from the dog’s environment. 
  • As with all forms of training, positive reinforcement, and rewards go a long way in improving the process (treats, affection). 

Increase daily exercise/playtime

Dogs (especially puppies) can also become more prone to eating rocks if they are bored, or want attention. All dogs need a good amount of mental, and physical stimulation, especially with breeds that are known as hunters, or water dogs. 

  • However, puppies can also need a surprising amount of exercise, and there are multiple ways to increase their daily exercise time, or play time. 
  • You can accomplish this by changing up the routine, always keeping their mind fresh, and excited to learn something new. 
  • Provide mind-challenging activities to help keep them occupied for the time you are away (hidden snacks/treats). Also introduce them to fun games like fetch, or throwing a frisbee around, this way they’ll think to play with these items rather than rocks. 
  • Finally, you should always try to have a variety of toys around for the pup to play with, and constantly change them out as you notice them growing bored.  When it comes to exercise time, try to give them at least 15 minutes a day for a smaller puppy, and closer to an hour for larger dogs. 
  • The trick with the play time is to make the dog think of the new toys, and activities as fun, rather than chewing on rocks. 

Spend quality time with them 

dog eating rocks and stones

The final point worth mentioning for removing rocks from your dog’s diet, is to simply spend more time with them. If you begin to notice this as a habit, and no new toys, or exercise routines seem to work. 

It could just be that the dog feels agitated, or anxious because of the lack of quality time they spend with you. 

All dogs are extremely reliant on human interaction both on a mental, and emotional level, however puppies need it even more. They are far more vulnerable, and are learning new things every day, if they don’t feel like they are being noticed, or loved they can easily become depressed, anxious, and may get into a habit of eating things they shouldn’t. 

Especially because they are so new to the world and everything in it, that much of the process involves them exploring things they probably shouldn’t. 

Which is why it’s important to keep them more focused on grassy areas, and spending quality time with you until they grow out of this “puppy stage”. 

Simply put, puppies don’t know any better… but you do!

dog eating rocks

Puppy Eating Rocks FAQs

My puppy ate a rock what do I do?

In general, if your puppy eats a rock there is a good chance they will be fine, but you never know as it’s impossible to tell how many they’ve eaten, or how it will affect the dog internally.

In general, if your puppy eats a rock there is a good chance they will be fine, but you never know as it’s impossible to tell how many they’ve eaten, or how it will affect the dog internally.

So, if your dog ever eats a rock, you should always take them to the vet. Your vet will be able to perform a physical examination, run x rays, CT scans, blood work, and figure out if there are any underlying health concerns, or nutritional deficiencies present. 

Regardless of the results, you should have peace of mind knowing you’re having a professional take a look at your pup, as opposed to simply trying to figure it out on your own. 

Worst case, if it is a behavioral issue, the vet can refer you over to a good trainer who can help relinquish these behaviors. 

Why does my dog hold rocks in their mouth?

Sometimes dogs may not be drawn to eatingrocks, but they may feel the need to carry a stone in their mouth. Is this cause for concern? 

When it comes to puppies then yes, because pups are naturally curious, and won’t know not to eat that very same stone. 

However, if it’s an adult dog, then it’s not as much of a concern since a lot of adult dogs enjoy keeping something in their mouth and carrying it around as it helps sooth them (raw bones, sticks etc.)

With that being said, dogs are so reliant on positive and negative reinforcement, that many of these “carrying” tendencies or twitches that dogs have, are likely because of us. It probably has something to do with a dog’s constant need for attention, and approval. 

They know that by carrying around a stone in their mouth, they are likely to garner attention from us, and so it could also just be a reaction to us. So long as you keep a close eye on them, it’s not unusual to see dogs hold rocks in their mouth (though there are better alternatives).