Why do Dogs Eat Dirt? (The Science Behind an Odd Habit)
It's easy to see why people get a little freaked out when they see a dog eat dirt. After all, we as humans know better not to scoop up the soil and pop it in our mouth. However, our dogs don't, and there are several scientific-based reasons for this.
The Reasons Behind Dirt Eating
Seeing your dog eat dirt may fill you with disgust. However, it's important to realize that grossing you out is not your dog's endgame here. Rather, the roots of this behavior can often be instinctual.
For instance, eating dirt can be a sign that your dog is deficient in certain minerals that are essential for his overall health and well-being. This is especially the case with active or working dogs, as they will need a higher amount of mineral intake to continue to function at an optimal level. Sometimes, dogs may not be able to process the minerals that they receive from their daily diet efficiently, although this condition is admittedly a rare one.
Certain behavioral issues may also be at the root of dirt eating for some dogs. Dirt eating could be viewed as a coping mechanism that can help dogs deal with prior traumatic experiences. It can also be looked at as a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder or behavioral tics in that vein.
With that being said, there are times when their dirty dining habits are far less rational. Some dogs will munch on dirt because they enjoy its flavor. Other times, they will simply eat dirt because they are bored and feel that they have nothing better to do.
Why It’s Important to Stop Your Dog From Eating Lots of Dirt
Obviously, we tend to view dogs eating dirt as a gross, disturbing habit. But eating dirt in small doses will generally not be harmful to your dog. With that being said, if your dog ends up consistently eating dirt over an extended period, it could develop into a dangerous habit for a few reasons.
For one thing, dogs could inadvertently swallow small stones or indigestible dirt particles as they much along. If these things accumulate over time, it could potentially cause some serious problems in your dog’s intestines and stomach. In some cases, they could get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract and may have to be removed through surgery.
Your dog could also suffer significant tooth damage over time. Things like grinding through dirt and periodically biting down on stones could gradually wear his teeth down or even cause chips and cracks. This could eventually lead to your dog suffering severe mouth pain or infection.
Finally, dirt could sometimes be the source of poisons that could accumulate to dangerous levels inside your dog. Things like pesticides and other such chemicals may be present in the soil. And even though these elements may only be present in trace amounts, they could potentially cause damage if consumed on a routine basis.
How Do I Break My Dog’s Dirt Eating Habit?
The best way you can break your dog’s tendency to dine on dirt is to figure out when and why he started eating dirt in the first place. Once this has been determined, you can use this information to tailor a strategy to put the kibosh on dirt eating.
A lot of these practices that you can deploy all boil down to common sense. For example, if you determine that your dog has been gulping down dirt out of boredom, figure out different ways to keep him entertained. If you notice that your dog tends to eat dirt in a specific area, do what you can to avoid that area.
Sometimes, the best way to break your dog’s dirt dining habit is to seek professional help for your pooch. Consult with a veterinarian to make sure there isn’t something odd going on with your dog. If he gets a clean bill of health, consult with an animal behavioral specialist or a seasoned trainer to see if there is something psychological afoot.
Remember - He Doesn’t Think it’s a Bad Habit!
While you seek out ways to break your dog’s dirt eating issue, keep in mind that he may think dirt eating is perfectly normal. As such, you shouldn’t punish him for something that he may not think is a punishable offense. Rather, always be sure to treat your dog with love and respect as you try to help him stop this behavioral pattern.