My puppy eats everything outside - what can I do?

Puppy lying on the grass eating a flower
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“My puppy eats everything outside” is a pretty common phrase to hear when listening to pet parents talk about their pooches and it’s not surprising given that puppies explore the world using their mouths. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes the wrong thing can end up inside their curious little cavities - and it can be pretty stressful to you.

It’s important to remember that snuffling around and eating strange objects is perfectly natural and normal for the vast majority of puppies. Usually it won’t cause any harm, but you should always be vigilant about exactly what your puppy is eating. Eating hard objects can cause problems with your puppy’s teeth, or land you with a trip to the vet if it causes blockages somewhere in your puppy’s system. if you find that your dog is persistently chewing on hard objects such as rocks and pebbles, you might want to consider investing in a few of the best teething toys for puppies to provide them with a safer alternative.

On a less serious - but more whiffy - note, you might simply find that your dog is eating something which is not particularly pleasant to smell or have in their mouth when they start licking you. Therefore, teaching your puppy to kick this habit is certainly very beneficial in the long run.

There can also be other reasons why your puppy is eating non-food items. You should always consult with your vet if you’re at all concerned, as it could be a sign of other medical problems or deficiencies. Don’t feel you need to rush to the vet at the first sign of them eating something they probably shouldn’t, but rather, monitor them closely and if training and patience doesn’t necessarily work, consider seeking further advice.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of things you can do to try and stop it from happening. From choosing the best puppy toys to keep them distracted, to picking up the best puppy treats to use with training exercises, there’s lots of options. Let's take a closer look at why your puppy is eating everything and what you can do about it.

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?

Pug outside eating grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You’ll almost certainly never stop your dog from eating everything outside - food stuffs are likely to be fair game for their whole life, and mostly that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. 

However, other objects you’re likely to find while out and about can cause more serious problems. Sticks and rocks can break their teeth and cause intestinal blockages - both of which can be painful for them and land you with an expensive vet's bill.

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. 

While outside, you’ll likely find that you’ll need a higher-value treat to tempt them away from something particularly alluring on the street. In which case, take something better than an average treat out with you to have to hand should you need it. Some good examples of this are small cubes of cheese or chunks of hot dog - something other than their every day ordinary kibble or bag treats.

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. 

It’s very important not to panic if you notice that your dog has eaten a stone or two. In most cases, small pebbles and rocks will simply pass through your dog’s digestive system. Pay careful attention to their poop, and watch out for any sickness after they’ve eaten rocks and of course, if you’re at all worried, speak to your vet.

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. 

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.