Staci
Staci is a writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. When not writing, she spends most of her time trying to keep up with her four rescue cats and Australian shepherd puppy.
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Health Learn About Dogs

Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?

Staci
Sep 7 ·

Why do dogs eat dirt? It’s a question most dog owners will find themselves asking at some point.

Dogs have a variety of strange habits that owners may not know about. They might never have owned a dog before, or it’s been so long that they forgot the weird things they do. One habit dogs have is putting things in their mouth that they shouldn’t, which can be particularly frustrating when taking them on walks or playing in the backyard.

After all, the last thing you want is your dog getting sick because you couldn’t stop them eating something!

This is why dogs eat dirt, and everything you need to know about curbing the habit.

Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?

dog dirt

There are many possible reasons your dog might be eating dirt. It’s a common habit with a lot of causes.

Boredom

The simplest answer could be boredom. Dogs need a ton of physical and mental stimulation, and if your dog isn’t getting enough of it, they might turn to other things.

This could manifest in destructive behavior, such as destroying items in the house. It could also be that they tend to eat things they shouldn’t, particularly if your dog is kept outside a lot of the time with nothing to do.

Many people assume it’s fine to leave their dog in the backyard all day, but with no human interaction, they’re very likely to get bored and find something to get into that they shouldn’t.

Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt? A Health Condition

There’s always the more serious possibility that a health condition is causing your dog to eat dirt. Anemia and nutritional imbalances are common things that might cause a dog to eat dirt.

If you feel like your dog gets plenty of stimulation but still turns to eating dirt often, you should take them to your veterinarian to check that there are no underlying causes.

why do dogs eat dirt

Their Food

There’s always a chance that they just aren’t getting what they need from their food.

Not all dog food is created equal. Some kibbles have more filler and fewer nutrients, which makes it bad for dogs. When choosing a diet for your dog, you should do research into the food rather than grabbing the cheapest bag off the shelf. Some food is also better for certain breeds or sizes of dog, so your veterinarian can likely provide some recommendations.

Is It Dangerous To Eat Dirt?

If you catch your dog eating dirt, don’t panic. Most times, it will simply pass through their system, especially if it wasn’t a lot.

However, it isn’t exactly good to let your dog eat dirt. There can be toxins in the dirt, or things that can cause blockages such as rocks. If your dog has been eating dirt and displays any symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite, take them to a vet as soon as possible. It could be that they have a blockage in their intestine or have been poisoned by something in the dirt.

How To Prevent Dirt-Eating

why do dogs eat dirt

The first thing you should do is rule out medical causes by taking them to the vet. Once you’ve done that and confirmed nothing physical is causing this, you need to figure out how to stop them from eating dirt.

Firstly, make sure they have enough stimulation in their life and are kept busy. If they have plenty of enrichment, they won’t turn to eating dirt. Puzzle toys and KONGs are great for this, as they take a while to get through and really engage the dog’s brain. 

You should also be prepared to manage your dog. Don’t leave them unattended outside, and keep an eye on them on walks until you’re sure you have the problem under control.

Teaching “leave it” is one of the best possible verbal cues for this situation too.

How To Teach “Leave It”

Start by putting a low-value treat in front of your dog. Cover it with your hand when they try to take it until they voluntarily move away, then give them a different, higher-value treat. As they start to get the idea, slowly stop covering the treat, and then move to higher-value things while introducing the verbal cue “leave it”. Eventually, your dog will understand this training cue applies to all things in life, not just treats.

Remember, it can take a long time for cues like this to become reliable. Be prepared to be patient, but having a reliable “leave it” will be very helpful in your dog’s life. That way while you’re keeping an eye on them, if they move towards the dirt or start to munch on it, you can pull them away with just two words.

You should never punish your dog for eating dirt. This can create a fearful, aggressive dog, and doesn’t solve the root of the problem. Positive reinforcement is always the way to go, so reward them generously when they choose to leave the dirt alone. 

WRITTEN BY
Staci
Staci is a writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. When not writing, she spends most of her time trying to keep up with her four rescue cats and Australian shepherd puppy.
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