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How to Stop Your Puppy from Eating Stones Today!

Stones, rocks, and dirt are probably the last things you want your puppy to chew on. Why do dogs eat stones in the first place?

While curiosity plays a big role in eating stones, it’s definitely not desirable and might become dangerous when your pup actually swallows the rocks.

You will first have to determine whether it has a medical or behavioral cause. Your puppy can grow out of this behavior but appropriate training is the safest bet nonetheless.

How do you eliminate this unhealthy behavior?

To stop your puppy from eating stones you need to counter-condition and show your dog what to do instead.

If your dog has a nutrient deficiency, you need to switch to a high-quality diet and rule out other medical issues.

Pica in Dogs

Pica is a medical issue in which dogs crave nonfood or non-nutritive items.

The list of items is not limited to stones and dirt but also toys, jewelry, coins, pencils, and many other objects that have been found in a dog’s stomach.

Puppy sitting on stones.

This can quickly develop into a very serious problem when sharp items are swallowed, for example.

Possbile causes for Pica include:

  • Stress
  • Extreme nutritional deficiencies
  • Play solicitation
  • Attention-seeking
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Brain lesions

Early intervention is very important to prevent pica from becoming a chronic disease. There are several training approaches that I explain further below to prevent any bad habits.

Curiosity

Young puppies are extremely curious and want to explore their environment all day.

Chewing and mouthing things provide a puppy with plenty of information and increases the scent perception.

Supervision will be mandatory to quickly intervene in case your dog accidentally swallows something.

My dog used to be very mouth oriented as a puppy, so you had to be very alert during walks. After a few weeks, your puppy should grow out of that curiosity.

Because pica and curiosity are not easy to differentiate, an appointment with the vet should be able to rule out any underlying medical issues that would need to be treated.

Boredom

A dog that is bored will get into all kinds of behavior habits like digging, excessive vocalization, or chewing.

This mostly happens in dogs that are left outside in the yard alone for an extended period of time.

With nothing to do, your dog will quickly get into digging up the grass or chewing on stones.

To solve this problem, you can read my guide on 12 boredom busters that will keep your dog entertained in the yard.

Make sure that your dog has plenty of physical exercises as well as daily mental stimulation.

Puppies love to get engaged with a tug-of-war and a few short walks will do the trick.

Dietary Deficiencies

Puppies need lots of calories and proteins for optimal growth. An unbalanced diet may have serious consequences.

Your dog will try to get his nutrients from somewhere else, whatever that will be – stones or even feces.

Talk to your vet about your dog’s nutrition and which diet would be best suited for him.

Dog food specifically formulated for puppies should provide him with everything he needs.

Check out this raw diet article if you’re interested in transitioning your pup (best decision I ever made with my dog).

What Happens If a Dog Eats Stones

Eating stones can become pretty dangerous for a dog or puppy. The sharp edges of stones could break teeth and injure the digestive tract.

The results of this would be diarrhea, vomiting, pain, and even internal bleeding.

Your dog could suffocate if he chews on multiple stones at a time.

If any of the above symptoms happen after eating stones or your dog doesn’t feel well, take him to emergency care for surgical removal.

Will My Puppy Grow Out of It?

The older your puppy becomes, the less he will be mouth orientated, and the more he will explore his environment by simply smelling.

Typical chewing and eating behaviors may stop at around 6 months of age.

But some dogs will never grow out of it, especially if it was reinforced in the past through negative attention.

To keep your puppy safe until this age and to prevent the behavior from becoming chronic, training and prevention will be necessary.

My Rottweiler picked up all kinds of nasty stuff (as many puppies do) and that includes stones.

Fortunately, my dog never swallowed the rocks but carried them instead.

Nevertheless, I had to discourage her from picking up things for a couple of months until the behavior slowly faded.

It usually gets better as your dog ages but I wouldn’t count on it.

How to Stop a Dog from Eating Rocks

The first thing to help eliminate the problem would be to remove any stones from his environment including the house and yard.

If it’s not possible to remove all rocks (if you have a stone path, for example) then you will have to constantly supervise your dog around these objects.

Especially puppies will need to be supervised 24/7 and should never be left outside alone. During walks, pay close attention to your puppy.

Is he just smelling the roses or secretly picking up pebbles?

A young puppy can give you a hard time when you’re trying to remove the nonfood objects from his mouth.

You may want to look into a mesh muzzle like the Lepark Nylon Mesh Dog Muzzle that will prevent your dog from picking up any stones in the first play.

Follow the steps in my muzzle training guide for a proper introduction.

Teaching your dog the commands “leave it” and “drop it” is an amazing way to get control over the stone-eating situation.

“Leave it” is for situations where you can anticipate that your dog will take something into his mouth. “Drop it” is used when objects are already in his mouth.

“Drop it” can be incorporated into a fun game of tug where your puppy will learn how to take a toy and release it again.

This will not only help with eating stones but will also get some structure into everyday play sessions.

Establishing that you are the one deciding when something is supposed to be in your dog’s mouth and when not, will help a lot. The video below will show you how to teach it:

“Leave it” will get some impulse control into your daily training and I believe that it’s mandatory to learn for every puppy and dog.

Follow the steps in the infographic below and your puppy will learn it so quickly:

Do not engage with your dog in any play involving stones, rocks, or similar objects.

Pay close attention to your dog’s stress level which might directly be correlated to his eating disorder.

Following these tips will eventually stop the behavior with the right prevention, supervision, and training. And always keep in mind to take your dog to the vet first.

Pet Deterrent Spray for Stones

Aversive conditioning can be very successful if the eating is targeted to a specific object.

Rather than punishing the behavior, it will reduce the likelihood that the dog will perform it in the first place.

If your puppy usually chews on stones, spraying something unpleasant on top of it is a form of prevention. It is important to choose a non-toxic and effective spray like this Bitter Lemon Spray for Dogs.

You may have to try a variety of different sprays as some dogs weirdly like the taste. You can also make your own pet deterrent spray with:

1 1/2 Cups of  Water
2 Tablespoons of Distilled White Vinegar
20 Drops of Orange Essential Oil

Source: mom4real

I would love to hear about your experiences with a puppy or dog that eats stones and how you solved that problem!

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutrionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

FrustratedOnMaui

Tuesday 7th of December 2021

My 1 1/2 year old lab has now needed surgery for the 2nd time after getting an intestinal blockage from eating rocks. Each time $4000. We live in a very rural area, have a big yard, and are very active outdoors. Getting rid of all the rocks is not an option. Spraying the rocks with a deterant spray is not an option. He likes to fetch a ball and play with toys outside but how can we do that if he is wearing the basket muzzle? He is eating the food recommended by the vet, so according to them he is not nutrient deficient. If he is eating the rocks out of frustration, and we eliminate his favorite chews and toys because he cannot be outside without the muzzle, won't that just make him more frustrated? He is getting better with the "drop it" and "leave it" with our socks but how do you teach that with the rocks but not let him have access to them? Has anyone had success with a training collar?

Michelle

Thursday 1st of April 2021

This is great information Danielle ! Thank you. I have a 5 month old Cavapoo and she picks up stones outside and seems to play with them - it scares me when she has them in her mouth. She does drop them mostly - but sometimes she runs around and I chase her and it makes it worse. It sounds like I should not do this ! She is fine on walks but not in the yard - and I play ball with her and always supervise. I don't think it is boredom as she does it post walk, and in the first 5 mins of being out in the yard. She used to eat leaves too but that has stopped now. It is just the stones and she loves socks but those are easier to avoid and pull out of her mouth.

Danielle

Thursday 1st of April 2021

Hi Michelle, that's completely normal behavior for a 5-month-old pup. Just use the steps above and make sure to supervise so your dog won't swallow them or not pick them up in the first place.

Chasing her definitely encourages the habit. I mean, she's picking something up and you're running after her, that's literally the definition of play for many dogs who love chasing and being chased :). Introduce a command (not the easiest with puppies, I know) and try to get her to come to you, whatever you do as long as you're not making it a fun chase you should be fine. Reward her for dropping the stones. Then the real play can start.

Cheers, Danielle

Pamela

Friday 12th of March 2021

At the end of my tether! Sprocker poo 6month old pup wants to eat, sticks, stones, leaves, GLASS!, tissues, masks, toilet roll, towels, shoes, slippers, socks, anything with strings on them e.g pyjamas, rugs. List is endless and have tried everything. Currently using a basket type muzzle but still manages to pick up a few things when out walking. Can't take much more of this behaviour. Help.....please

BigScoots

Friday 12th of March 2021

Hi Pamela, if you say you've tried everything, what does that include? If she can still pick up stuff through the muzzle, it's not the right fit unless she's extremely skilled at fetching stuff with her tongue :).

My pup also took everything in her mouth but this curiosity fades away with time in many cases. Granted, my pup didn't eat glass and you're probably searching for a quicker fix.

The only helpful thing in these cases is giving a verbal correction and making sure your dog has a drop command. If she drops it, reward. Simple system but your dog will soon connect not picking stuff up (reward her when she's trying hard not to pick it up too!) or dropping something equals a treat. That's what we want.

Cheers, Danielle

Carolyn Howard-Johnston

Wednesday 30th of December 2020

My Cocker eats stones while running freely on walks. I have never seen her eat stones and she shows no particular interest in the garden stones. Usually they are stones in fresh earth that has been recently disturbed. I think she likes the smell of the earth. I need a muzzle which allows her to run and at the same time prevents her from eating. She is 10 and does this intermittently. Months or even years can pass before another episode. It is very dangerous but the Vet says it is a vice and that her diet is not in question. Any suggestions

Danielle

Wednesday 30th of December 2020

Hey Carolyn, great that there doesn't seem to be any medical/dietary issue. If she's eating stones, what do you mean that you've never seen her eat stones? Seems to be an issue for some time now if it starts intermittently.

Catching the behavior and telling her "no" might be your only option besides the muzzle (a simple and secure "net" will do the trick). Have you established a reliable "out" command? That way, you'll still have to keep an eye on her but at least you can get her to spit out any objects if you catch her picking something up.

Cheers, Danielle

Michele Altizer

Sunday 8th of November 2020

Thanks for the leave it and drop it commands we are post op surgery from my 16 week baby eating rocks. I’m definitely going to be working on the 2 commands !!

Danielle

Monday 9th of November 2020

Hey Michele,

hope your pup gets well soon! Chances are high that your pup stops mouth-checking everything soon, my Rottie did too once she got out of the puppy phase. Our furry friends are just too curious sometimes :).

Cheers, Danielle