Puppies are curious creatures that are built to explore, and eating is a way for them to understand what they can or cannot eat.
Puppies will initially rely on their nose and mouth to explore. Generally speaking, they chew on objects that have flavor or scent to find out exactly what they are. An example would be cat treats.
The puppy could just be bored and want something to do to keep itself busy. They could also act this way to attract your attention.
Another explanation as to why your puppy is eating everything is that it may be teething. During this stage, it will have a strong desire to chew on anything it sees.
Another reason yet could involve a poor diet and not obtaining the necessary nutrients it requires as a growing puppy. The mother could have stopped feeding its pups early and as a result, they eat everything to try and replenish what their body needs. This condition is called pica and will be explored further below.
It is important that you remove any inappropriate objects in the puppy’s environment until they learn what they can and cannot eat. This prevents any potential problems that may occur such as the inability to poop.
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Some dangers and conditions associated with eating certain objects are explained below.
Coprophagia is a condition involving the consumption of feces.
Yes, you read that right.
It has been suggested that coprophagia is driven by a desire to balance the microbiome in their stomach, or to pick up nutrients the dog is otherwise lacking.
There could also be behavioral reasons behind your dog wanting to eat poop, such as boredom, fear, attention-seeking, and anxiety.
Although this behavior is common amongst dogs, it can cause them to ingest parasites and bacteria. This can then lead to bodily issues such as stomach aches and vomiting (not to mention very, very bad breath).
This occurs when the puppy’s diet is missing necessary nutrients. When you see any symptoms of this condition, it would be a good idea to ask your vet for more advice. In more obsessive cases, you may need to make an appointment with an animal behavior consultant.
Sticks and stones are among the most dangerous objects for your puppy to eat. They can cause injuries to your puppy’s mouth and block its digestive tract. This can easily become life-threatening and could require emergency surgery for removal.
Although having too much dirt can block their digestive system, having a little taste every now and then should be fine.
Generally, it is alright if your puppy eats grass as it could provide nutrients that your puppy wants. It may even just enjoy the taste!
What I’ve found is that puppies and dogs often eat grass and other foliage as a way to settle down their stomachs when they are not feeling well.
The only time that it would be a cause for concern is if they chew on poisonous or toxic plants, or plants treated with pesticides. This includes cocoa mulch, oak and acorns.
In general, smaller objects that puppies consume will pass through their digestive system and will be excreted in about 1-3 days.
It is important that you understand how to deal with foreign objects that enter their body. Consult your vet for specific advice on what to do in your particular situation.
The vet will conduct an examination and then may induce your puppy to vomit. If it is deemed suitable, he may advise to wait for the substance to be released in the puppy’s stool.
If the vet advises to let the puppy pass the material naturally, look through their feces using a stick and gloves over the next few days. Unpleasant as it may be, monitor closely to see if the substance has been excreted.
You can help the puppy pass the objects by feeding them foods such as plain pumpkin paste. This will aid their digestion and help to move the foreign bodies down their digestive tract.
When your puppy is teething, it will have an overwhelming desire to chew on anything it can get its sharp little teeth on. One of the best things that you can do is to provide a puppy with safe chew toys such as Kong Puppy toys.
If you think that the reason behind your puppy eating everything outside is diet-related, you could try putting it on different diets. The food they are eating currently could be not suitable or insufficient for their needs.
Feeding mistakes are common and it is important that you stay on top of their diet.
Remember, puppies have different nutritional needs to adult dogs and require higher calories in order to develop properly. When you choose a kibble for your puppy, choose one that is specifically formulated for the right age range.
It would be even better if you narrowed your puppy’s diet down to what is best for its breed. For example, Royal Canin specializes in making kibble for specific breeds.
It is important to feed them the right amount as too little can affect your puppy’s growth but too much can make your puppy overweight as they often do not know when to stop eating.
Generally speaking, puppies up to five months old should be eating three meals a day. From six months, meals can be reduced to two a day- breakfast and dinner.
Whenever the puppy begins to chew on something inappropriate, you can place healthy snacks, such as carrots, into their mouth as a replacement.
A puppy’s negative eating behavior could also be due to boredom or having too much energy.
You can try to tire out the puppy by exercising more, playing physical games like tug-of-war, or through mental games that teach skills like nosework. This will focus their energy and attention towards other things so that they are less likely to eat everything they see.
It is important that you watch your puppy closely and train it so that it does not eat anything inappropriate.
It would be ideal to puppy proof by removing everything that could be tempting in your yard and not allowing it to go to areas that have desirable objects. If you cannot supervise your puppy all the time, placing them in a crate or playpen is a great option.
You can also try to distract the puppy with a chew toy or teach them commands.
Constantly keep it engaged and try not give it the chance to run off and eat everything. Puppies generally have short attention spans and are likely to forget about the inappropriate object if they are distracted by a toy or command.
If you are training your puppy, here are a few routines that you can implement to train them to stop eating inappropriate objects:
- Have one hand hold onto a toy and another hand hold onto a treat behind your back.
- Let the dog bite onto the toy whilst you are still holding onto it. Let the dog smell the treat in your hands, and when they let go of the toy to get the treat, give them a command like “drop it” or “leave it”. Quickly hand over the treat to them.
- Swapping Games: Train your dog so that they learn to switch their objects for a treat.
Teach them to stop and wait for further commands from you. The puppy will slow down and think more rather than focus solely on eating.
- Hold treats in your hands and make a fist. Let the dog interact with your hand but don’t open your fist until it settles back down.
- Open your hands but close it when they dive towards the treats. Wait until they settle back down again and then place a treat on the ground for them to eat.
- You can develop their impulse control by increasing the time interval between showing and giving the treat in your hand.
- You can start off by giving a puppy a treat as a reward when they look at you.
- Over time, the puppy will realize that looking at you and being next to you is beneficial to them.
- You may gradually incorporate “Come” or other commands so that they know it is good to go to you.
Whenever you click, give your puppy a treat whenever they look at you.
If they do not pay attention to you when you are interacting with them, you could try:
- Giving them better treats
- Reinforcing a specific behavior more often. This could involve giving them treats more often by doing the specific action.
Train your puppy early so that it knows it is doing something wrong when it eats inappropriate objects.
It will take time for your puppy to learn so be as patient as possible with it. Alternatively, you could enlist a professional trainer for help by going to puppy school.
Reward your puppy whenever it follows your command by saying positive things or awarding treats. Your tone of voice will help it to learn what it can or cannot do.
If your puppy only holds the object in their mouth and does not eat it, it could be a sign that they want your attention. Otherwise, it could mean that they are now trained to swap the object in its mouth for treats or a toy. Well done!
- Try not to physically interact with the puppy to stop what it is doing by doing things like forcefully opening its mouth.
- Refrain from using punishments as they are less effective than praise when it comes to dog training.
- Punishments can lead to further problems, like your puppy hiding or running away. Then they continue eating the object when you cannot see them, or when you are too far away to stop them.
The abnormal eating behavior could be a symptom of a more severe problem involving the puppy’s mental or physical health- or both.
To solve this issue completely, it could be a process of trial and error by the owner and could also involve working with a dog trainer or puppy specialist.
Generally, you should only use the prevention methods shown below when you or your puppy cannot control its eating behavior.
- Use a basket muzzle. Although the puppy will find it annoying and will try to take it off, it will eventually realize that wearing a muzzle can be beneficial. Wearing the muzzle could indicate to them that they are about to get a treat or go for a walk.
- Use an Outfox Field Guard. This tool will stop your puppy from eating harmful objects. However, it still allows the freedom to sniff, drink and play as usual.
- Use an E-Collar/Cone. The ‘Cone of Shame’ could be the most comfortable option to prevent your puppy from eating anything on the ground. However, it will impede movement and cause the puppy to bump into its surroundings frequently.
It is possible that as your puppy gets older, they naturally stop eating everything.
The eating behavior is more likely to stop if you monitor their actions and use the methods previously explained in this article, like altering diets or teaching your dog commands.
If a dog owner is able to stay patient and grounded with their puppy, eventually it will grow out of its bad habits and develop new, positive traits.
There could be many possible reasons behind your puppy wanting to eat everything that it sees. In order to stop your puppy from eating everything outside, you must firstly find out exactly what is driving that desire.
Potential reasons range from pica and coprophagia to teething phases and simple boredom.
Once you establish the basis for the behavior, you can then create an action plan to combat the issue. This can include changes in diet, added training or even consultations with an animal behavioral expert.
Though the problem may take a while to correct, it is a worthy process to undergo if only to be able to eventually allow your puppy as much freedom as possible. It is very probable that with your help, your puppy will grow out of this behavior sooner rather than later.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.