How to stop a puppy from eating grass is something many new puppy owners seek solutions for. After all, puppies, just like babies, can be very mouthy beings, chewing and tasting every thing that comes their way.
Grass is certainly attractive because it's available in copious amounts, tastes good and offers some "resistance, "so it can be fun to tug and un-earth. Puppies may be attracted to grass simply because they enjoy the texture and like how it tastes.
Stopping a puppy from eating grass can be easier said than done. Puppies act out of instinct, and they are too young to control their instincts in the same way an adult dog would.
It therefore takes some effort to stop the grass-eating behavior once and for all, but there are several strategies you can rely on that may work in your favor.
Grass From a Puppies' Perspective
Just like children, puppies perceive their surroundings as a big playground teeming with oodles of things to play with and interact with.
It should therefore come as no surprise why puppies are so drawn to grass. To better understand how entertaining grass can be, it sometimes helps to see the world from a puppy's perspective.
The Attraction of Movement
If there is a little breeze in your yard, your puppy may be attracted to the grass blades moving back and forth in a Hawaiian hula dance fashion. We can blame them though: dog eyes are built for detective quick movements.
Indeed, when dogs detect sudden movements, it's as if a switch is turned on and they go into hunting mode. With their predatory drive in full swing, a surge in adrenaline takes place, causing more oxygen-rich blood to reach the muscles of the dogs' legs so that they can quickly spring into action.
At the same time, the also pupils dilate to let in more light and allow better visual clarity. Intrigued? Discover why your dog's pupils get so big when playing.
Puppies will therefore pounce and mouth at the blades of grass because they simply stimulate their predatory drive.
The Puppy Oral Stage
Puppies, just like human children, go through an oral fixation stage during which they are very prone to mouthing objects. This is a normal part of a puppy's development as the puppy explores and investigates his surrounding environment with his mouth.
During this time, puppies are often attracted to mouthing, chewing and possibly eating just about anything, ranging from grass to sticks to stones.
The breed of the dog may also contribute to persistently mouthy behaviors. For instance, golden retrievers are very oral dogs by nature considering that they have a retrieving heritage.
"From pups to senior, most goldens love to have something in their mouths," observes Nona Kilgore Bauer in her book "The Golden Retriever.
Normal, Instinctive Behavior of Domestic Dogs
According to a survey targeting owners of plant-eating dogs, 68 percent of dogs were reported to eat plants on a daily or weekly basis, while the remainder were found to be eating plants once a month or less.
Grass was found to be the most frequently eaten plant, being consumed by 79 percent of dogs.
Such findings support the field of thought that grass-eating is a normal behavior of domestic dogs, especially dogs of younger age.
The behavior of grass-eating has also been reported in gray wolves. This raises the theory that grass-eating behaviors in dogs possibly reflect a behavioral predisposition possibly passed down by their wild canid ancestors and relatives.
Purging of Intestinal Parasites
There is belief that grass may have a scouring effect in removing intestinal worms in dogs and other animals
This theory was introduced by Adolph Murie, in the book: "The Wolves of Mount McKinley" upon observing how the scats of wolves contained grass blades wrapped around several roundworms.
What likely happens in this case is that, as the plant material passes through the dog's intestinal tract, it increases intestinal motility and wraps around worms purging the intestinal tract of nematodes.
Since younger dogs appear to eat plant material more frequently than the older ones, board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Benjamin L. Hart in an article for DVM360, hypothesizes that this is likely because young animals are less immune to intestinal parasites, and since they are actively growing, any nutritional stress could turn out being much more costly compared to adults.
Seeking More Fiber
And then you have puppies simply looking for more "greenery" on their menus.
This can happen when pups get fixated on eating grass because they are hoping to fulfill some unmet nutritional need such as the need for fiber.
Interestingly, one study involving an 11-year old miniature poodle who ate grass and vomited daily for seven years, stopped the grass-eating behavior and the subsequent vomiting after being placed on a high-fiber diet.
This clinical finding is therefore suggestive of a possible correlation between plant-eating behaviors in dogs and a potential fiber-deficient diet.
After all, dogs are natural omnivores, so they benefit from having some vegetable matter in their diets.
Soothing a Tummy Upset
If your puppy or dog eats grass frantically, chances are, he or she may be suffering from some digestive upset.
In a nutshell, when a dog’s stomach is upset, the dog eats grass. The grass blades tickle the throat and lining of the stomach. The ticklish sensation triggers the vomiting.
What is more, dogs gulp down the grass rather than chewing it thus increasing the intensity of the ticklish sensation. If the ticklish sensation is not enough, the fact that the dog’s stomach is not designed to process plants will do the trick.
While vomiting, the dog gets rid of the hard-to-digest grass and hopefully of the irritating agent that disturbed the stomach in the first place. Once the underlying cause has been thrown up, the dog will feel better, explains veterinarian Dr. Ivana in the article: Why is my dog eating grass and vomiting?
Is it OK for my Puppy to Eat Grass?
Eating grass occasionally may not be particularly dangerous, but most pesticides or herbicides used for grass treatments are toxic to dogs. If consumed, treated grass can have negative or even lethal consequences, points out veterinarian Dr. Ivana.
Additionally, consider that some plants in the yard can be toxic to dogs, which could lead to problems if your puppy munches on them along with the grass growing in the lawn.
Grass eating in excess can also turn problematic. If a puppy ends up eating a whole lot of long blades of grass, these can bunch up forming a ball that could cause an intestinal obstruction.
How to Stop Your Puppy From Eating Grass
As seen, just as it happens with dogs who chew sticks, puppies have their own good reasons for eating grass. You may therefore be wondering what your can do to stop your puppy from eating grass. Here are a few tips.
Train your puppy to leave it. Make sure to practice a lot in the home and using high-value treats to reward your dog. Once your get a fluent response, practice in the yard.
Provide interactive toys. When out in the yard, provide your dog interactive food dispensing toys that are sturdy and can be used to distract your dog from wanting to eat grass. Examples include regular Kongs, Buster Cubes or Kong Wobblers.
Play with your puppy. Keep your puppy busy with fun games with you such as fetch, hide and seek and round robin recalls.
Entertain with brain games. Puppies who eat grass are often bored. Providing them with more exercise, play and mental stimulation can help keep their minds off the grass. For example, reserve a portion of your puppy's daily ratio of kibble to hide it around the yard in a fun treasure hunt game.
Make the grass less appealing. This can be achieved through keeping the grass short and installing water sprinkles
Consult with your vet. Sometimes, eating grass can be a sign of a health problem such as digestive upset, presence of parasites or a nutritional deficiency. If your puppy is very determined in eating grass, it's a good idea to consult with the vet.
Sueda, Karen & Hart, Benjamin & Cliff, Kelly. (2008). Characterisation of plant eating in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science - APPL ANIM BEHAV SCI. 111. 120-132. 10.1016/j.applanim.2007.05.018.
Kang BT, Jung DI, Yoo JH, Park C, Woo EJ, Park HM. A high fiber diet responsive case in a poodle dog with long-term plant eating behavior. J Vet Med Sci. 2007 Jul;69(7):779-82. doi: 10.1292/jvms.69.779. PMID: 17675815