If you’re wondering why my puppy is chewing on rocks or why does my puppy eat rocks and even swallows them, you would be relieved to know your dog has not turned into an ostrich. Puppies tend to chew on anything from your socks and grass to rocks and dirt.
A puppy may specifically eat rocks when they have a dietary deficiency, suffer from indigestion, are hungry, or are teething and have itchy gums. While the occasional stone gobble may not be harmful, a dog that eats too many rocks may end up with a blocked digestive tract and need surgery.
Reasons Why Does My Puppy Eat Rocks and Other Foreign Objects
There are a number of reasons why your puppy and even your adult dog may eat rocks, dirt, rocks, bugs, wood, sand, and any number of other things, including poop. This phenomenon of eating strange non-food items is known as pica and it is not only a problem among dogs. Other animals such as horses suffer from pica too.
The main reasons for pica include:
A puppy may eat rocks if they need more minerals in their diet or if they crave the salty taste that rocks may have. Be sure to feed your puppy balanced dry food that caters to all of their nutritional needs. Check their poop, and if it is a funny color or runny, you may need to discuss this with your vet.
Teething and Itchy Gums
When puppies teeth, they will chew on anything to relieve the itchiness and inflamed swelling of their gums. During teething, a puppy may also suffer indigestion and they may chew rocks to try and alleviate an upset stomach. If you suspect teething to be the cause, get your puppy some appropriate chew toys instead.
Indigestion is a Cause for Pica
A puppy may engage in eating rocks and chewing grass to induce vomiting if its stomach is upset. They may also instinctively be chewing rocks as some minerals can help digestion. If the rock chewing is accompanied by frequent vomiting, you need to take your puppy to the vet to check for bacterial infection of the gut.
Boredom and Loneliness
Your puppy may be chewing rocks and other foreign non-edible objects out of boredom. It is not unusual to see a dog pick up stones and throw them to themselves to relieve boredom. Sometimes, a dog may chew stones to draw your attention, especially if you have a reaction when they do.
If your dog seems bored and playful when chewing on rocks, it is a good idea to get them a different toy such as a ball or pull-toy and spend some time each day playing with them. This will not necessarily stop the chewing, but a chew toy is safer to chew on than a rock.
Anxiety and Stress
Dogs and other animals may repetitively chew on objects to relieve their anxiety if they are feeling stressed. If your puppy is being kept in a small apartment all day or they only have minimal contact with you, they may be feeling stressed and anxious.
A natural release for anxiety is to take your puppy on daily walks. Find a local dog park where they can have a daily run and see other dogs if you can’t afford to have two dogs. Dogs are pack animals, and living in isolation is not natural to them, so it can cause stress and anxiety.
What to Do About Rock Chewing Behavior in Puppies
With a better understanding of why a puppy may chew rocks and other objects, it becomes possible for you to help your puppy learn not to chew on things that are bad for them. Should the chewing be a result of indigestion, hunger, or deficiency, you will need to address these first.
To rule out dietary concerns, gradually change your puppy over to better quality food. If after a few weeks the rock chewing still continues, then consider whether they have other signs of ill-health such as a dull coat, dry nose, or lack of energy.
Deal with any health issues that may prompt pica such as digestive concerns. Gut inflammation and upset stomachs can trigger pica, so have your vet do a full analysis and consider a precautionary course of antibiotics. Also, rule out teething as a cause by checking the puppy’s gums.
Finally, consider how you can help your puppy learn not to chew rocks (and other objectionable objects) if there is no valid reason for doing so.
How to Stop Rock Chewing Behavior in Puppies
There are several ways to help your puppy change their pica behavior and keep them safe.
Method One: Replacement Behavior
Classical conditioning can help your puppy stop chewing on rocks. However, you need to be careful with what you choose to replace the pica behavior with. If your puppy is chewing stones, you can help them learn to chew something else instead.
When you notice your puppy chewing a rock, quickly remove the rock and give them an appropriate chew toy instead. Make as little fuss about the rock as possible, but you can encourage them and praise your puppy when they chew on the safe chew toy.
Don’t remove the rock and give your puppy a treat or you will be teaching them that rock equals food, and your puppy may go looking for more rocks.
Method Two: Remove Excess Energy
Should your puppy be chewing rocks out of boredom or anxiety, you can take them for daily walks to help them let off steam and release excess energy. This will help your puppy to be generally more restful.
Try to notice when your puppy tries to chew on rocks. If they tend to do it before lunchtime, then take them for a quick walk before preparing their food.
If your puppy chews rocks when you are out on a walk with them, then take a chew toy or throw toy with you to the dog park. Encourage your puppy to focus on the safe toy and bring it back. Again, don’t make a big fuss about the rock that your puppy isn’t allowed to chew on. Instead, pretend there is no rock.
Method Three: Train for “No” and “Don’t”
Another great method is to train your puppy to drop things on command. This is useful for any object your puppy may pick up that you don’t approve of. To train your puppy to drop something, tell them to put it down, then wait a second until they do, praise, and give them something better to do.
Of course, your young puppy may not know they should drop the thing in their mouth, so you may have to initially wrestle it from them. Then place it on the ground before them, wait for a second, then reward and distract them with a better toy.
Your puppy will soon learn not to chew on things that you don’t approve of. Also, their chew toys will begin to take on their scent, and your puppy will know this is a safe thing to chew on.
Method Four: Negative Reward or Punishment
Breeding associations agree that smacking a dog is not a great idea. This is not how dog-society works. Instead, you can take on the role of a mother dog. If her puppy were to chew on something she didn’t approve of, she would press the puppy down, then take away the offensive item.
Try using a loud noise to indicate your displeasure, then press your puppy down, without hurting them. Remove the object, and walk away from a step or two. Let your puppy come to you or call them over and pet them gently as if nothing had happened.
The Last Rock
Finally, if your puppy is so fixated on chewing every rock they can find that their health is in danger, then you should consider muzzling them when you take them where there are stones. This is not ideal, but you should always place your puppy’s health first.