Skip to content

How to stop my dog from eating everything?

How to stop my dog from eating everything

Often dog owners struggle with their dogs eating everything. We are not talking about just human foods but even indigestible objects.

A dog who eats everything is destroying things in your house and putting himself in danger. Even walking with your dog will cease to be pleasant when you are constantly worried about what your dog may put in his mouth next.

If you are frustrated and asking yourself, “how to stop my dog from eating everything,” we have solutions that will surely work. Read on to find out more!

Some of the inappropriate objects that a dog may eat indoors include metal or plastic objects, cloth, garbage, and dirt, among other things. Dogs can also eat dangerous objects while walking or playing outdoors.

Some of the inappropriate items that dogs eat outdoors include: 

1. Grass

Dogs often like to eat grass, or they may nibble on it. Eating grass is usually safe, provided it’s not covered with dangerous chemicals or pesticides.

Dogs may eat grass for many reasons. Sometimes a dog eats grass to satisfy the need for fiber, out of boredom, or simply because he enjoys nibbling on it. If your dog continues to eat grass regularly, you should speak to your vet to see what may be causing the problem.

2. Dirt

Dogs tend to eat dirt, and it’s commonly seen among puppies. 

Often dogs are attracted to the dirt by its scent. Dogs are drawn to the different smells of dirt in the field, dirt on the forest floor, or dirt in your garden. 

Eating dirt is one of the ways in which puppies explore the world around them. 

Eating a lot of dirt can be troublesome because it can block your dog’s digestive tract. If your dog is gobbling up a lot of dirt, you should speak to your vet to understand the cause of the problem. 

3. Rocks 

Dogs like to play with rocks and sometimes eat rocks. However, this behavior can be a health concern if not controlled. 

Chewing rocks can damage your dog’s teeth and gums and can pose a choking hazard.

If your puppy is in the teething stage, you should give him plenty of chew toys to prevent him from putting rocks in his mouth and chewing. 

If your adult dog is in the habit of eating rocks, it’s a good idea to see your vet.

Rock eating in an adult dog indicates that he is bored, anxious, or seeking attention. 

Your vet will be able to asses the reason for this rock eating behavior in your dog and suggest ways to handle this behavior.

4. Poop

Some dogs have the disgusting habit of eating poop.

The scientific name for this bad habit is coprophagia. The practice of eating poop is often due to genetic, physiological, or behavioral reasons. 

Eating their poop is considered harmless for dogs, but eating the poop of other animals or dogs is a reason for concern because of parasites, viruses, toxins, etc.

Physiological reasons for a dog eating poop include dietary deficiencies, diabetes, parasites, thyroid disease, anxiety, etc.

5. Roadkill

Jack Russell Terrier dog chewing on sheep bone outdoors

Dogs often eat or nibble roadkill and dead birds.

Usually, this may not cause any issues. Still, sometimes it can lead to vomiting or diarrhea, and if the roadkill is moldy, your dog can become sick. It’s a habit that you should discourage.

If your dog has vomiting, diarrhea, or tremors after eating roadkill, you must immediately contact your vet.

Let us look at some of the reasons for a dog eating everything

As you wonder “how to stop my dog from eating everything,” the first thing is to understand why your dog is scavenging so much and eating everything he sees. Here are a few reasons for this behavior: 

1. Pica

Pica is often the number one reason for dogs eating everything that comes across their way. Pica is a condition in which dogs long for and eat non-food items.  

Pica can be caused by nutritional deficiency or hormonal imbalances, diabetes, or thyroid problems. Dog breeds such as Labrador Retrievers are more likely to develop Pica.

With Pica, a dog can end up eating inedible objects such as toys, rocks, grass, and sticks. These items can cause blockage of the digestive tract by getting entangled in the intestine, or your dog may not be able to excrete it from his body. Emergency surgery or endoscopy will be required to treat a gastrointestinal blockage. 

Below are signs that your pet may be having an intestinal blockage: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Struggling to pass stool 
  • Lack of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy

Contact your vet immediately if you come across the above symptoms in your dog.

If you suspect Pica, a vet visit will help to rule out any underlying medical issues. Your vet will run tests to identify problems that may be causing poor digestion or absorption of nutrients. The tests will also help to determine if parasites are the cause of Pica. 

Pica can also be caused by separation anxiety, stress, boredom, or fear of punishment (dog eats his stool to remove evidence of accident in the house). 

2. Instinct to scavenge 

Another reason why dogs eat strange things is because of their scavenging instincts.

The dogs that we have today in our homes have evolved from wild dogs who probably ate everything that they could find or digest. 

Since dogs tend to explore the world around with their mouth, they may put many things in their mouth to see if it is digestible. 

3. Hunger 

Hunger motivated dogs often eat a lot of strange things.

Dogs with medical conditions like thyroid imbalance or digestive problems may tend to feel very hungry.

Medication can also increase a dog’s appetite and cause him to eat whatever he finds. 

A dog on a low-calorie diet to address obesity or weight-related problems can get hungry between meals.

4. Boredom 

Bored dog tearing up tissue paper on sofa

Boredom also can be a reason for dogs to eat a lot of non-food objects.

If your dog has nothing to do and is bored, he may end up eating stuff or putting things in his mouth and chewing.

Eating or chewing on things around the house will keep the dog occupied and entertained.

Dogs also put things in their mouth and chew to calm themselves when stressed or anxious. 

5. Teething pain 

Sometimes dogs chew on strange objects to ease teething pain. For example, puppies chew on things to reduce the pain caused by new teeth coming out.

In any case, puppies explore the world with their mouths, so they may end up putting a lot of things into their mouths.

How to stop a dog from eating the wrong things

The first step is to make sure that your dog doesn’t have a medical issue, causing her to put strange objects into her mouth.

1. Consult your vet 

Contact your vet and have your dog thoroughly checked out. Your vet may check for nutritional issues or imbalances that may be causing your dog to crave some weird non-food items.

Anxiety or stress can cause dogs to eat everything. Your vet will be able to diagnose the problem and prescribe medication to relieve the tension and calm your dog down. 

Once your vet has ruled out medical issues, you can explore options like prevention or training to address the behavioral issue. 

2. Focus on prevention and training 

In prevention, the focus is on preventing your dog from accessing non-edible items that he likes to put in his mouth. 

Training techniques aim to teach your dog the correct behavior. Often training is preferred, but you may also want to use prevention and training to limit the damage that your dog causes.

Prevention – 4 tips  

Prevention is all about adjusting or rearranging the dog’s world so that he cannot repeat the behavior that you don’t approve.

1. Use a leash

If you have a dog who eats strange things while out walking, you will have to be more cautious and keep him on a leash, for instance. 

Walk your dog on a leash and use treats and praises to distract him from eating tempting items, including poop or dead animals.

2. Don’t leave unsupervised

As part of the prevention approach, you should not leave your dog unsupervised to prevent her from getting into mischief or unusual eating habits. 

3. Avoid high-risk areas

You should avoid walking your dog in areas that may not be clean or strewn with litter that your dog may find interesting.

4. Use a repellent spray

Use a repellent spray on foreign objects that your dog is likely to put in his mouth; a bitter apple spray or cayenne pepper can be effective.

Training

1. Train your dog to come when you call (recall)

Training to stop a dog from eating everything

An effective way to prevent scavenging is to train your dog to come when you call. You will still need to be with your dog and keep an eye on him to use this command effectively. 

Giving heed to your call and returning to you is an essential skill that your dog should learn for his safety. 

Teaching a recall requires a bit of effort as dogs find many exciting things around them when out walking.

Whenever you ask your dog to come to you, he has to leave behind whatever he was doing. This means leaving behind exciting scents.

To make recall effective, we must show our dogs that coming to us is more rewarding and pleasurable than the attractive scent they have to sacrifice.

1.1 Recall training steps 

  • Conduct the training in a quiet and distraction-free area inside your house. 
  • You can start by showing your dog a toy or tasty treats.
  • Shower praises on your dog as he comes to you. 
  • Once they come to you, give the reward.
  • Keep repeating these steps, and afterward, when your dog looks at you and moves towards you, start using your preferred word such as “come” or “here.” 

1.2 Understand your dog’s behavior 

You should be aware of your dog’s behavior patterns when out walking. 

Your dog will behave in a certain way when he comes across scents that he likes. 

For example, when he gets the scent of food buried, he may start moving faster towards the area. When he gets very close to the site, he will move in circles around a smaller space until he finds the object of interest. 

If you keep an eye on your dog, you will know that he will gobble up the prohibited food after the tracking. Therefore you should call him back to you as soon as you notice the behavior pattern. This is where recall training becomes helpful.

1.3 Practice recall

If you prefer to walk your dog without a leash, controlling the scavenging behavior can be tricky unless you have perfected the recall training. 

As soon as you see your dog investigating something that is not good for him, call him back using your preferred word such as “come,” for instance.

However, this will happen only if you have perfected the recall through repeated training. See this article for more information on recall training.

2. Teach your dog the ‘leave it’ command

Train your dog to leave it

Like “come,” “leave it” is a command that can save your dog from injury and even protect his life. 

The “leave it” command should be taught to all dogs and practiced often.

Whenever you notice your dog heading for something potentially dangerous for him, such as sharp bones, shattered glass, or harmful litter, use the “leave it” cue. 

2.1 How to teach a dog the ‘leave it’ command 

It is not difficult to teach your dog the “leave it” command. It would help if you started the lessons in your home or an area without distractions. 

Follow the below steps: 

  • Get two types of treats: one that your dog finds less exciting and the other, a treat your dog considers delicious. Break up the treats into small pieces to allow your dog to gobble up the treats quickly. 
  • Put the less attractive treat in one hand and the yummy treat in the other and hold your hands behind you. 
  • Form a fist with the hand holding the boring treat and allow your dog to sniff your fist.
  • Give the “leave it” command and wait for your dog to finish sniffing your fist. 
  • Once your dog is through with sniffing your fist, you can say “yes” and give him the delicious treat in your other hand. 
  • Keep repeating this till your dog stops sniffing the hand with the boring treat when you say, “leave it.” 
  • Once your dog has learned to stop sniffing the hand with the boring treat when you say “leave it,” put a leash on your dog and throw the boring treat further than he can reach. 
  • You should then wait for him to stop sniffing and pulling towards where the treat is on the floor. Once he stops, say “yes” and give him the delicious treat in your other hand. Continue repeating these steps several times to ensure a consistent response from your dog to the “leave it” cue. 

With consistent practice, your dog will stop pulling as soon you say the cue words. However, make sure that the treat you give as a reward is valuable and very tasty. Your dog should learn that he can expect a more delicious reward when asked to leave something. 

Once your dog responds well to the cue words, you can use the “leave it” command for other things besides food. Repeat the training steps with stuff that your dog finds boring before moving to high-value items. You will know what your dog considers valuable based on your dog’s behavior when you are out walking together. 

You can also change the reward for the correct response. You can offer your dog a favorite toy when he responds positively to the “leave it” cue. You can give him praise or a quick play with his favorite toy when he leaves it and comes back to you. 

3. Organize controlled scavenging sessions 

Some dog breeds tend to scavenge more than others, such as terriers initially bred to hunt rats and badgers. 

To satisfy your dog’s instinct to scavenge, you can organize a controlled scavenging session. You can place treats around the house and get your dog to find them.

These sessions will be enriching to your dog as they will allow him to track scents and find a treat at the end of it. 

Providing a controlled scavenging session will help to calm down your dog’s instinctual need to scavenge. As a result, your dog may not feel the need to go looking for the wrong things to gobble down. 

Take accidents seriously 

If your dog swallows something he is not supposed to, make sure to give your vet a visit. 

Most items may not harm your dog. However, if your dog suddenly stops eating, starts vomiting or whining, you need to see your veterinarian immediately. 

Patience  

With consistent effort, our tips can help prevent your dog from eating everything he finds. There may be occasions when your dog does not respond, but the key is to be patient. Continue the training without being discouraged.