It’s a known fact that dogs love to chew on anything and everything! These include their most-loved toys, your favorite shoes, their bedding, and your sofa! But what could explain their gnawing on stranger things, such as pebbles or rocks? Rocks are neither easy to eat nor tasty, so what on earth could be their appeal?
Why does my dog chew on rocks? There are two main reasons to explain why dogs chew on rocks. It comes down to a medical condition like Pica or an emotional or physical reason.
In this article, we will dig into why dogs seem obsessed with rocks, and if it’s okay for dogs to chew on rocks. We’ll also discuss what Pica is and how to treat it. And we’ll explore how to get your dog to stop chewing on rocks.
Why Is My Dog Obsessed with Rocks?
Why does my dog play with rocks? The medical reasons may include:
Other reasons stemming from an emotional or physical (rather than psychological or mental) condition include:
Puppies experience teething twice. Once developing their super sharp baby teeth up to 8 weeks old. Twice when their baby teeth fall out to be replaced by their adult teeth at 5-6 months.
If you have a teething puppy experiencing discomfort, it’s best to provide them with soft chew toys.
For teenage or adult dogs, chew toys provide great enjoyment and stimulation when they are alone. We have an article on 19 recommended toys, which include 5 chew toys that they can play with, either indoors or outdoors. You can view that article by clicking here.
Here at Outdoor Dog Fun, we address boredom by heading outdoors. There are lots of outdoor activities and sports: flyball, frisbee, treibball, running, skijoring, swimming, hiking and camping. In fact, here’s a list of over 40 activities you can enjoy with your dog outside.
But you don’t have to venture far from home to relieve a dog’s boredom. You could play fetch or catch as a routine in your local park or backyard.
In addition, outdoor toys are a great way to keep your dog engaged and occupied for hours.
What is Pica in Dogs?
Pica is a medical condition in dogs. The animal is obsessed with ingesting non-food items. These include dirt, garbage, pieces of human clothing (e.g., socks, underwear), glass, metal, paper, plastic, rocks, wood and yes, even feces.
What causes Pica? It’s considered to be a psychological or mental issue and a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Pica can be caused by malnutrition or an unbalanced diet as well. In this case, your dog mistakenly identifies these non-food items as a source of whatever nutrient(s) its body is currently lacking.
Or, Pica could be the result of something as serious as emotional and/or physical trauma.
Pica would answer a couple of questions about your dog’s behavior being odd:
- Why does my dog hold rocks in her mouth?
- Why does my dog carry stones?
- Why does my dog like to retrieve rocks when we play
- Why does my dog lick rocks?
- Why does my dog eat rocks and dirt?
You can try to train a dog out of their habit of chewing rocks. However, if the underlying reason for their behavior is something more serious, then more serious steps are required to heal your dog.
The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has stated that Pica is a condition that will not ‘work itself out‘. They recommend this condition must be handled professionally by a veterinarian and/or dog behaviorist. Therapy and treatment are the only ways to ‘cure’ this behavior.
What are the Symptoms of Pica in Dogs?
The main symptom of Pica in dogs is eating non-food items, such as rocks. However, there are other symptoms to watch out for as well. These include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bad breath
- Dental problems
- Difficulty defecating
- Fainting or collapsing
- Gastrointestinal blockage
If you notice any of these symptoms along with your dog’s obsession with rock chewing, seek immediate medical attention. A veterinarian will be able to diagnose and treat this medical condition if it is indeed Pica.
If the behavior is the result of a psychological disorder, then the help of a trained behavioral therapist may also be required.
How Do You Treat Pica in Dogs?
Treating Pica starts with addressing the cause.
Is your dog’s behavior the result of a psychological/mental condition?
Or, does your dog chew rocks because of an emotional and/or physical ailment?
If the cause is psychological, mental and physical stimulation will help your dog. Consider regular exercise and recreational play to curb boredom as well as stress.
Herbal remedies to treat anxiety are also used.
What can you do to address socialization or depression stemming from loneliness? Send your pet to ‘doggy daycare‘ or arrange playdates with other dog owners.
Providing your pet with a variety of durable chew toys to divert their attention away from rocks is also beneficial.
What if the cause of the Pica is physical? If Pica is the result of an infection or thyroid condition, medication can be prescribed by your veterinarian.
It’s important to note that the best treatment is positive reinforcement. You need to direct your dog away from rocks (if chewing is the result of Pica) in a firm yet kind manner. Do not yell or scold your pet as this form of punishment will only increase anxiety and/or frustration. Seeking the advice of a behaviorist will help you and your dog.
Is It Okay For Dogs To Chew On Rocks?
Simply gnawing on rocks isn’t often dangerous or life-threatening for dogs.
But it can be if the pebbles are ingested.
Ingesting rocks should be discouraged, firmly (yet kindly) by you. Chewing and eating rocks, stones and pebbles can cause serious issues for your dog.
It can damage their teeth.
It can harm their bodies: a dysfunctional digestive system, an intestinal blockage, or a perforated stomach or bowel. All of these issues require immediate medical attention by a veterinarian.
How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Chewing on Rocks?
To get your dog to stop chewing on rocks, try the following:
- When you see your dog smelling or licking a rock, gently direct him/her away – this lets your pet know that the behavior is not allowed.
- Redirect your dog to something else to chew on – a safe chew toy or even a chewy treat!
- When walking your dog, keep the leash tight and close to you – this will prevent your pet from getting too close to rocks along the way.
- Observe when the behavior of chewing rocks is most common. Does it happen when you leave your dog alone for too long? Perhaps your dog feels anxious or frustrated in your absence and is using this action to relieve tension or stress? Avoid leaving your dog alone for long periods.
- Spend more time with your dog. Play with them. This helps solidify a bond with your dog. It also encourages healthy behaviors, rather than those designed to seek attention.
- Arrange doggy play dates for your pet. This will keep him/her actively engaged and encourage socialization rather than rock chewing.
- Try to remove as many rocks from your yard and surroundings as possible.
- Spray the remaining rocks in your yard with vinegar or pet repellent. This should prevent your dog from wanting to chew them once he/she gets a whiff of it!
- Buy new chew toys occasionally in case the behavior is a result of boredom. Also, keep a bucket of safe chew toys ‘at the ready’ with different toys for him/her to choose from.
- If all other measures fail, seek the help of a professional – take your pet to a veterinarian for diagnosis and/or treatment.
To conclude, there are different reasons why dogs will chew on rocks. The most common cause is Pica, a type of medical condition stemming from a psychological issue. Another reason could be to satisfy a nutrient deficiency. Or, an intestinal disorder (such as diabetes or worms) could also be the culprit.
Hopefully, this article has been of help to you. Thanks for reading, and good luck with the ongoing care of your pet!