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Friday, 4 May 2012

Eats shoots and all sorts


One of our six dogs has the habit of eating the ground. I know it sounds strange when put like that, but that's the best way I can describe it. He lies down, then starts to chew at the ground between his paws. He chews through the grass, chews through the grass roots, then eats the mud, gravel, stones and anything else underneath. And it's not just on grass - dirt, sand, stone chippings, he treats them all the same. What's more, once he's got a good spot going (nice and soggy) he'll come back to it time and again until I cover it with a rock. Then he'll start another elsewhere. And also our other dogs also like the soggy chewed patches and start chewing them as well!

Does anyone know why this could be? Our vet seems to think this is nothing to worry about and doesn't think it's anything like a dietary deficiency. They have a good diet - the chewer is on Arden Grange sensitive and the others are on Burns. I wonder if it's just because some spots are particularly well "flavoured" by everyone taking turns to pee there, but he does it in the woods, on the beach, anywhere!  Surely this can't be any good for him? Could he be lacking in anything?

And while on the subject, one of the others, an elderly Japanese Spitz with no teeth, tries to eat stones. Okay, not big ones, but he picks them up and chews (gums) them to death and would probably try to swallow them if we didn't stop him. We've had to resort to a Buster (cone) collar when he's outside unsupervised to stop him choking himself. Any ideas why he does this, or more importantly how to stop him?  He does like to eat grass by the mouthful as well.


Bill, by email

Richard Allport, vet, advises...

Well, it’s a moot point as to how ‘good’ a complete diet is compared with the all singing, all dancing , tip top, raw meaty bone diet (and fewer dogs on such a diet appear to need to eat earth and vegetation) but however good a diet, some dogs love to scavenge and eat rubbish of various kinds. Or swallow stones (in this case a behavioural expert could be of assistance, I think it’s just an obsessive habit, like chewing fingernails or sucking the thumb in humans).

I guess the earth chewing member of your tribe has a similar obsessive habit. I doubt it’s due to a lack of any minerals or vitamins, although I have had a few dogs with the same kind of soil eating penchant who did respond to a mineral supplement called Volcanic elements, which is rich in trace elements amongst the more common minerals. It might well be worth trying this for your dog – but if he does continue to excavate your garden you might be lucky enough to find he strikes oil and makes you a fortune!

1 comment:

  1. I once read a blog that said the reason why dogs eat grass, is probably about the same reason why we chew chewing gum - it tastes nice, it feels nice, it's something to do. Perhaps your dog just enjoys the different textures the varying parts of the ground provides? If it's a bit problem for you, perhaps ensuring he's never outdoors unsupervised, and always has a playmate or a toy to concentrate on. A strong 'leave it' cue would also help.

    As for your Spitz, why is he outside unsupervised when you know he does this (potentially life-threatening) behaviour? Again, I wouldn't leave him outdoors unsupervised, and would also look to teach him the 'leave it' cue.

    Here's a link to a "how to" teach a leave it cue without using intimidating methods: