Why Does My Dog Eat Rocks?

And how to get her to stop ASAP 🚫

You’ve probably seen your dog eat the weirdest things, but have you ever seen her chomping away at rocks?

While seeing your dog eating rocks might be a surprise, it’s also a dangerous habit that you’ll want to break as soon as possible.

The Dodo reached out to Dace Lace, animal behavior specialist and co-founder of Pet Food Site, and Sunny Gurule, head trainer at Bark & Birch in Miami, Florida, for more about dogs eating rocks.

Why is my dog eating rocks?

“Dogs, especially puppies, are just big babies after all. They play and get in mischief just like us,” Lace told The Dodo.

Like any dog parent knows, dogs can be experts when it comes to eating strange and bizarre things. “Whether it is their toys, socks or rocks, dogs find even the most mundane things fascinating,” Gurule told The Dodo.

If your dog is eating rocks, it could be for a variety of reasons, like:

She’s exploring her environment

Dogs (and especially puppies) love exploring their surroundings. It could be that she’s just finding out what that shiny, hard object is on the ground and trying to understand it.

She’s bored

Another reason your dog could be eating rocks is plain, simple boredom. “Is your dog mentally and physically enriched?” Gurule asked. “Lots of dogs have displayed strange behavior during the COVID pandemic and need enrichment and stimulation more than ever.”

You can try a doggy day care facility if you work, or organize some fun doggy play dates with other dogs your pup’s excited to play with!Dogs who aren’t finding mental enrichment can become destructive, frustrated, anxious and are always on the lookout for ways to alleviate their boredom — including eating rocks!

“Try new toys or food puzzles, or engage your dog by teaching them new tricks
and behavior,” Gurule said. “This will also increase your bond, leading to a happier and a more fulfilled environment for you both!”

She’s teething

A teething puppy loves chewing on all kinds of things to help relieve the pain. Rocks might give her that satisfaction, but you should replace them immediately with a chew toy.

She’s stressed

If you think it could be more than boredom, Gurule suggests speaking to a certified trainer or behaviorist, who can rule out a behavioral concern. “If your dog is stressed or in conflict, eating rocks or things they shouldn’t can act as a ‘displacement behavior,’” Gurule said.

A displacement behavior simply means your dog is doing a seemingly normal behavior out of context as a sign of anxiety.Other common displacement behaviors can be:

  • Panting
  • Licking lips
  • Self-grooming constantly
  • Pacing
  • Crying or whining
  • Eating strange things

Remember that displacement behaviors mean your dog is trying to communicate with you and tell you that she’s stressed and not comfortable in the situation she’s in.

“As soon as you notice these behaviors, give your dog some time to decompress,” Gurule said. “Leave wherever you are with your dog, remove any triggers and let your dog take some rest, which may help the situation.”

Some time to chill will help your dog feel calm and more in control.

She has underlying health issues

You may have noticed your dog eating grass in the past when she’s had an upset tummy, and this also goes for rocks if she’s having issues digesting her food. “Keep an eye on your dog’s diet,” Gurule said. “Are they craving things they are lacking in their own diet?”

According to Gurule, if your dog isn’t getting the nutrients she craves in her regular dog food, she may be looking elsewhere.

“Do speak to a qualified vet if you are worried, as rock eating can also be a sign of pica (when dogs crave non-food items),” Gurule said.

Risks of your dog eating rocks

In general, knocking around a rock, playing with it or licking it isn’t usually an issue for dogs, but if swallowed, rocks can cause:

  • An obstruction in your dog's intestines
  • Damage to your dog's digestive system

How to stop your dog from eating rocks

If you know your pup loves munching on rocks, the best thing you can do is make sure she also knows the right commands to stop her from causing herself harm.

“If your dog is just investigating and tends to put everything in their mouth, then you need to look at training your pup out of this behavior,” Gurule said.

To stop your dog from eating rocks there are two commands that’ll be super important for her to know: “leave it” and “drop it.”

Training the “leave it” command

“Leave it” is a command that you use if you see your dog going for the rock (or anything else you don’t want her to pick up) to stop her from even picking it up in the first place.

“Teaching ‘leave it’ as a cue and then rewarding your dog for this behavior will be a super useful tool,” Gurule said. “Never just grab something, as your dog may then start to resource guard the item in question.”

When teaching your dog to “leave it,” you need to make a trade for something more high value, like a great treat or your dog’s favorite toy, rather than just grabbing the rock. According to Gurule, if you just say “leave it” and grab the rock without offering her anything of value, you run the risk of reinforcing her behavior.

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“Use positive reinforcement instead — ALWAYS be ready to offer a trade for a high-value item, like a tasty treat or their favorite soft toy,” Gurule said.

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Training the “drop it” command

“Drop it” is a command you’d use if you see your dog with the rock already in her mouth and you want her to let it go.

“Say the command, [and when] the dog drops the rock, offer the high-value trade,” Gurule said.

When you’re training your pup with new commands, make sure you use a calm but firm tone so that you don’t startle her. “Otherwise, you run the risk of your dog swallowing whatever she has got in the mouth,” Lace said.

What to do if your dog swallowed a rock

If you watched your dog swallow a rock right in front of you, then get her to the emergency vet right away. “It is always better to be safe than sorry, and a larger rock can cause internal issues,” Gurule said.

“If the rock is small enough and [has] no sharp edges, the best option will be for it to pass through the digestive system and out with your dog’s poop, but [your professional vet] should make this decision,” Lace said.

If you didn’t see her swallow it but suspect she might have, keep your eye out for these signs of distress:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite

If you notice any of these signs and suspect she may have swallowed a rock, get her to the vet ASAP.

While dogs always seem to do the strangest things, eating rocks isn’t one that should be reinforced. Make sure you train your pup not to eat rocks, and if you ever suspect she’s swallowed one, get her to the vet ASAP.

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