Why does my dog eat grass? If you’ve never asked yourself the question, you’d be in the minority of Dog Owners! Because as far as doggy habits go, most dogs will chow down on a tuft of grass at some point in their lives. And for many puppers, the behaviour goes well beyond the occasional nibble.
As common as grass eating is in dogs, it’s also quite misunderstood! As we mentioned in our article, 5 Things People Get Wrong About Dogs, the age-old explanation that dogs eat grass to soothe an upset tummy has been largely debunked. The good news is, the real reasons why your dog might eat grass are even more interesting. And, there are plenty of simple steps that you and your dedicated Dog Walker can take to keep your pooch from overdoing it on their grassy greens. Roll out a picnic blanket in your favourite grassy spot and let’s get started!
Why does my dog eat grass, really?
For many years, there was one prominent belief about this doggy behaviour: dogs eat grass when they’re feeling sick to induce vomiting. But, the truth is, dogs who like to nibble on foliage will do so when they’re not feeling sick. And the majority of dogs who eat grass do not vomit afterwards. So, the myth has been doubly debunked.
Why, then, does my dog eat grass?
As it turns out, there are a few different theories behind why a dog is likely to develop a grass-eating habit. Here are some of the most common.
- Grass is a natural source of fibre. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are natural omnivores, meaning that they benefit from a balance of meat and veggies in their diet. While your doggo undoubtedly gets enough fibre from their kibble or raw food, chowing down on grass might be an evolutionary trait to promote healthy digestion
- Chewing grass provides mental stimulation. If you were an outdoor-loving kiddo, you might remember making daisy chains and picking grass and flowers every chance you got. Ripping up and chewing on grass gives your dog the same joy and satisfaction. Put simply, many dogs eat grass because they like it!
- Some theories suggest that grass may be a natural defense against intestinal parasites. In studies of wolf foraging habits, researchers have found parasites such as roundworms attached to leaves and grass in the scat of the wild canines. This could suggest that wolves developed a grass-eating habit as a way to promote gut health
- Foraging and chewing can soothe anxiety. Just like you might nibble on your fingernails or pick up the knitting needles when you feel stressed, your dog has their own coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety. Chewing on grass, furniture, and a range of other items may be how your dog lowers their stress levels
- Some dogs eat grass as a symptom of pica. In less common cases, dogs may eat grass as a result of a health condition called pica. While there are a few different causes for pica, the condition is generally characterised by a tendency to eat inanimate objects like grass, rocks, soil, clothing, and sometimes even poop
Should I let my dog eat grass?
Given that many of the reasons for grass grazing are harmless, should you allow your doggo to dine on your lawn? Well, no. And here’s why.
- Unknown grass can contain pesticides and chemical fertilisers. You might know that your grass at home is safe, but that won’t be the case when you’re out and about with your pupper
- Grass can harbour internal parasites. Yes, we know, we just mentioned the theory about grass flushing the digestive system of internal parasites. But, the fact is, parasites like hookworm and tapeworm can also live in grass, so it’s a bit of a catch-22. Your best bet is to get your dog on a reliable parasite prevention medication and train them to leave their grass eating days behind
- Some dogs go overboard. Once your pupper has developed a taste for your lawn, it’s not uncommon for them to overindulge to the point of feeling sick. You might also find that your dog is such an enthusiastic grass eater that it becomes difficult to regain their attention when there’s a big, beautiful lawn in their view. You can see why this might be an issue for yourself and your dog’s friendly Dog Walker!
As you can see, there are a few compelling reasons to phase out grass eating from your dog’s list of favourite activities. So, how can you keep your pup from eating grass?
How to put an end to grass eating
No matter if your dog is a seasoned grass grazer or has recently picked up the habit, your training method will be essentially the same. Here’s how to train your dog to stop eating grass:
- Work on the “leave it” command. Before you step paw on a grassy field, you’ll want to work on a “leave it” command at home so that your dog knows not to eat things without your approval. Once your dog has mastered the command inside, you can work in the backyard and eventually in new, exciting areas
- Always supervise your dog in grassy areas. Until your dog is reliably uninterested in eating grass, they should never be left to sniff around in grassy areas without close supervision
- Offer enticing alternatives. The bulk of your work here will be teaching your dog that there are more interesting things to do on grass than eat it! Whether it’s a game of fetch, frisbee, or freeplay with furry friends, provide them with plenty of planned activities to keep your dog from focusing on the grass. When your dog does start to nibble at the grass, gently remind them to “leave it” and encourage them to engage in another activity instead. This will take repetition and some creativity on the part of the trainer, but it will be much more effective than harsh punishments, which can lead to resource guarding or sneaky grass eating behaviour
- Provide your dog with other opportunities for foraging. To you, grass eating is an annoying behaviour. To your doggo, it’s a fun hobby! Instead of trying to suppress the habit altogether, give your dog more appropriate opportunities to forage with puzzle toys, at-home scavenger hunts, and other mentally stimulating activities. With their desire to forage satisfied, you’ll have a much easier time keeping them away from the grass during your daily outings
- Add some fibrous treats to the rotation. Your dog might be eating grass as a way to supplement the fibre in their diet. As long as they’re on a nutritionist-approved diet, you don’t have to worry too much about whether they’re getting enough fibre. But, you can satisfy the natural drive by having some dog-friendly veggies, like broccoli and apples, on hand
- Address any underlying conditions such as anxiety or pica. If your dog is chewing grass for any reason other than they enjoy it, it’s a good idea to get some advice from your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. They’ll be able to put together the best plan for your dog’s unique needs
Have another answer to the question, “Why does my dog eat grass?” We’d love to hear about your grass-eating pooch!
As a Dog Owner, you know that whether they’re rolling around in it, sniffing it, or chomping on it, dogs love grass! What are some tactics that you’ve used to keep your furry lawn mower in check? Now that you know the answer to the question, “Why does my dog eat grass,” will you try out a new method?