Why Your Dog Eats Everything

Why your dog puts everything in her mouth

Puppy chewing slippers in dog bed
Andersen Ross/Photodisc/Getty Images

Puppies can be clueless when it comes to what they put in their mouths and often end up eating strange stuff. While owners learn what to feed puppies, and how often to fill the bowl, puppies insist on munching odd, disgusting or dangerous items.

Your puppy picks up objects and explores the world with their mouth. Chewing up, mouthing and sometimes swallowing stuff can get them into trouble, and even lead to blockages or poisoning. Other times, the strange stuff puppies eat doesn’t necessarily hurt them—it just puzzles their owners.

Eating “Stuff”

Eating non-edible stuff is called pica. Puppies often accidentally swallow pieces of toys, but pica refers to almost an obsessive urge to eat rocks or gulp mouthfuls of dirt, sticks, sand or other nondigestible objects.

Eating non-edible objects can become tempting with the object is flavored or scented and becomes irresistible. Common problem objects include grease-covered items from the kitchen, milky baby bottle nipples, and used tampons or soiled diapers. Most items tend to smell like you—such as worn socks—so keeping these items out of puppy mouth-reach is important.

Grass Grazing

Most dogs sometimes graze, which may provide vitamins the puppy craves. Pups might just like the taste. Besides, canines are by definition omnivores. That means they benefit from eating vegetables and fruit. It’s not unusual for them to beg for and relish munching carrots or broccoli, so grass grazing shouldn’t be such a big surprise.

Dogs also eat grass to stimulate vomiting when he feels bad. And empty tummy can prompt an upset stomach that encourages a pup to find a grassy hummock to eat and soothe the feeling. Occasional grazing isn't a cause for concern unless he gnaws poisonous houseplants.

Dirty Delights

Some puppies seem to be drawn to come kinds of dirt, or even want to chew rocks. Wild animals occasionally target soils such as clay that absorb toxins. Parrots in the wild, for instance, eat mineral-rich dirt to supplement their diet. We don’t know if that’s behind the puppy’s urge to target dirty delights.

Probably the smell plays a role in the attraction, especially if some other critter has urine-marked the area. Puppies may taste the dirt to better understand what the message says. I’ve known of dogs that prefer specific areas, too, such as mulch piles that maybe have a mushroom-like aroma or taste. Dirt munching can stop up the puppy innards, but an occasional taste probably won’t cause problems.

Poopy Puppies

This disgusting habit is very common in puppies because they typically follow Mom-dog’s lead. She cleans the next and wipes puppy bums (ew!). Most dogs grow out of it as they mature.

Pups may be particularly drawn to snack on cat box “tootsie rolls” or munch cow patties or horse leavings. These other animals don’t always completely digest their food so there are still nutrients left in their waste.

Getting That "Stuff' out of Your Dog

In most cases, small objects pass harmlessly through the body and end up on the lawn within 24 to 72 hours. Other times, making the puppy vomit may do the trick. Be sure you know what to do with specific swallowed foreign objects because some can be as dangerous coming up as they are going down.

Get a stick and wear gloves to poke through the doggy droppings to be sure he’s gotten rid of the object. Feeding your dog a meal can turn on digestive juices, cushion the item, and help move it along.

Most puppies outgrow indiscriminate munching. But if your dog vacuums up anything that hits the floor, pet proof doggy toys as well as your home. It could save you veterinary bills—and your pet’s life.