If you’re anything like most pet parents, ‘my puppy eats everything outside’ is no doubt a problem you’re wanting to find a solution to. And we don’t blame you. Having your little one wanting to consume things like rocks and sticks is always a concern, but thankfully it’s very normal puppy behavior.
“Puppies, like human children, tend to explore with their mouths,” explains Dr. Joanna Woodnutt. “This is even more the case with dogs than humans as they don’t have hands – picking things up in their mouths is the only way a dog can tell if something is hard or soft, whether it would be a good item to chew, and whether something tastes good.”
Bringing home a puppy for the first time can be an incredibly exciting experience, but while our dogs can bring us lots of laughter and joy, they can also cause us a fair amount of worry - especially in their first year of life when they’re still learning the ropes of what’s expected of them.
Thankfully, while your puppy wanting to sniff, lick and eat strange objects is all part and parcel of being a dog, just like when it comes to how to stop a puppy biting, there are some things you can do to deter them and help minimize the risk of them doing themselves harm. Let’s take a look…
After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Joanna Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands, UK. Dr Woodnutt is specifically interested in consulting and helping her clients understand their pets better, whether it’s around medical problems such as dermatology, behavior, and nutrition.
What age do puppies stop trying to eat everything?
Different puppies develop and mature at different rates. Depending on the breed, temperament, or even the behavior of other dogs in your puppy’s life, you might find that they reduce the amount of street eating quickly, or you might find that they never do.
Although every dog is different, you will usually find that most puppies stop picking up and eating everything in sight as they get older. And you’ll also find that most puppies can be trained fairly easily when to drop something which is particularly dangerous or problematic. It just requires patience, training and perseverance to get the results that you want.
How do I stop my puppy eating rocks and sticks?
"Stopping your dog from eating things they shouldn’t outside can be really difficult," explains Dr. Woodnutt. "The first step is to keep a close eye on them so that you can intervene where necessary. The second is to train a reliable ‘leave’ command indoors. Don’t use it unless you really have to, or it will lose its power and your dog will get bored of listening to it."
Mastering the “leave” or “drop” command is helpful for a number of reasons, but particularly if they have something potentially dangerous in their mouth. This command is one of the earliest you might want to teach your puppy for the benefits it brings.
You can practice the “leave” command at home, with consistency and persistence being the key to achieving success. Try giving your dog one of their toys, then commanding “leave”. If they drop the toy - reward them with a treat. Keep doing this repeatedly and most dogs will soon understand the “game”. Practice this every day to improve the speed and ease with which they will drop the toy.
"Distraction with a treat or a game also works most of the time," says Dr. Woodnutt. You may also want to show them what they can chew, by taking good toys into the garden (don’t forget to bring them back inside though!) In severe cases, you may need to muzzle your dog when outside until you’ve trained them not to eat things they shouldn’t!"
Eating rocks can be a sign of dietary deficiency - such as calcium - so, it can be a wise idea to check that you’re feeding your canine pal the best puppy food to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.
Will eating stones harm my puppy?
Most puppies won’t actually eat stones on purpose, but instead are likely just chewing them to discover what it is, or if it’s something particularly interesting to them. However, there’s always a chance - particularly with smaller stones - that they end up swallowing something that they shouldn’t and doing themselves some damage.
"Chewing on stones can damage a dog’s teeth – a vet can tell if your dog is an habitual stone chewer when they look in your dog’s mouth because the teeth are so worn," explains Dr. Woodnutt. "Of course, swallowing stones is even worse – they can get lodged in the gastrointestinal tract and cause a blockage, usually called a foreign body.
Some people think it’s ok for their dog to eat gravel because the pieces are small, but I’ve seen more than one dog needing an operation to remove gravel, and it’s a lot harder to remove than a single stone. When it comes to can dogs eat sticks, chewing sticks is slightly safer, but they can still cause blockages or damage the delicate soft tissues of the mouth and throat."
If you notice that your dog has a hard, tight stomach, don’t delay in getting them some medical attention as this can be a sign of a more serious problem - especially if they have eaten multiple stones.
The best way to avoid dealing with your puppy eating rocks is to train them not to do it in the first place - using the tips above will usually see them grow out of it by adulthood.
Does your puppy chew? Most puppies do. But if you’re wondering how to stop a puppy chewing, head this way.
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Amy Davies is a freelance writer and photographer with over 15 years experience. She has a degree in journalism from Cardiff University and has written about a huge variety of topics over the years. These days she mostly specialises in technology and pets, writing across a number of different titles including TechRadar, Stuff, Expert Reviews, T3, Digital Camera World, and of course PetsRadar. She lives in Cardiff with her dog, Lola, a rescue miniature dachshund.