You are out in the yard looking for your dog and are surprised to see him eating the dirt in the garden.
That will certainly leave you pondering why he would do such a thing. Would that cause him any harm or is it simply some sort of weird behavior on his part?
Your dog could be eating dirt for a couple of reasons, such as if he is feeling bored and chewing on the soil makes him feel good. He is suffering from a parasite infection or is underfed and that makes him hungry. It could be a learned behavior that he had picked up, or he liked the taste of the soil.
Whatever the case, this is something that needs to be addressed.
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He Is Feeling Bored
A dog that is feeling bored will do anything to keep him entertained. So it is NOT at all surprising if you see your dog eating his fur or dirt in your garden as a way to stay “active”.
The soil provides some form of “comfort” for him as he chews them.
This is because chewing releases a chemical called “serotonin” into his brain, which makes him feel good. This is his nature’s way of helping him deal with the stress and anxiety.
In fact, some dogs enjoy the act of chewing so much that they will pick up and eat dirt just for the fun of it!
This can pose a serious health issue as there are a lot of “garden-variety” plant chemicals such as fertilizers, weed killer, insecticides, poisonous fungi and slugs in the soil and when your dog eats them, it can cause him vomiting, diarrhea and other unpleasantness health issues.
To discourage your dog from performing this undesirable action, make sure he gets the proper amount of exercise and activity.
Dogs are natural hunters, and they need plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
A bored or sedentary dog can become lethargic and overweight.
You can plan for some physical games, such as throwing a Frisbee or tossing a ball for him to retrieve, taking him on a long walk or letting him run freely in an open area.
Do not forget to provide plenty of mental challenges for your dog, such as playing a game of hide-and-seek or finding the “treat”.
Your dog needs both mental and physical challenges every day, else he will become bored and destructive.
Make sure that you keep his needs in mind when planning these activities.
If he is very hungry or too tired, he will not have the energy or the motivation to participate in these games.
Remember: Boredom or stress could be the underlying cause of your dog munching on the soil.
A Learned Behavior That Is Picked Up
Your dog could have picked up this bad habit of eating dirt from another dog when he is in the shelter or when he is playing with them in the park.
He finds this behavior to be rather interesting and would probably do it again as long as you never correct him.
If you let your dog get away with this kind of behavior, then he will probably continue doing it even when he gets older.
And believe me, you do NOT want that to happen.
You see, if you do NOT take action to stop this unwanted behavior RIGHT NOW, it will become an addiction. An addiction that will be with your dog for life!
So take immediate action to correct this behavior by letting him know that you are not happy with this habit.
You can do this by saying something like, “No!”, “Don’t do that” or “Stop it!” in a FIRM and CALM voice and show him that you are not happy about it.
Give him a gentle but firm correction (don’t use any physical force) and then reward him when he stops the unwanted behavior.
Let him know that you appreciate it when he does not give in to this bad habit.
Make sure you follow up this “little talk” with a valuable treat (treats are very important) and your dog will quickly learn that he will get a much better reward for doing what you want, than for doing what he wants (positive reinforcement approach)
If you do this every time your dog exhibits this bad habit, it will soon become a thing of the past.
You see, positive reinforcement is an extremely effective way to teach your dog to do what you want and correct any undesirable behavior.
He Is Underfed
When your dog is underfed, he will do what he can to get as much food as he needs. This includes eating waste foods that he can find in the trash or eating soil in the backyard.
Your dog will likely find eating soil to be satisfying as he is getting the “nutrients” he needs. However, eating soil will cause a lot of intestinal problems for dogs.
So, always ensure that your dog gets a healthy and balanced diet.
By feeding him with a nutritionally complete diet, you will help him avoid many health problems, as well as other behavior problems (such as eating soil due to hunger) that can plague him.
All dogs need a balanced diet consisting of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. This will ensure their bodies have everything they need to run efficiently and keep them in top-shape.
So plan your dog’s diet regime to include meat, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products (such as milk, cheese, and yogurt). A varied, well-rounded diet is important for your dog’s health and energy level.
Underfeeding your dog will weaken his immune system and make him more vulnerable to infections and disease.
He is going to eat anything that can fill his stomach when he is hungry, including debris in the garbage, his own pool and even soil.
So act now to do a review on your dog’s diet if he is showing signs of underfed.
Undernourished dogs are often very thin, and their ribs are visible when their coats are brushed.
Suffering from Parasite Infection
You see, when your dog is suffering from a parasite infection, he will always be in a hunger state no matter how much food you give him.
He could become malnourished as he is missing all the nutrients that he needs to maintain his health and body condition.
That is why he tries to get the missing nutrients by eating soil and even his own poop.
You will often find that when your dog is having a parasite infection, he will probably exhibit symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, coughing, scooting and weight loss.
You should take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice any of these signs in him.
He will need to be treated for worm or parasite infestation and the sooner, the better.
Do not wait until his condition becomes serious. If left untreated, your dog could die from this condition.
The vet will first examine your dog to make sure that he does not have any physical problems that are causing his symptoms.
Then he will start to conduct an extensive series of tests to locate the source of your dog’s parasites.
These tests will include examining a fecal sample under a microscope to look for eggs, or parasite fragments, of various worms and roundworms that cause worm infestation.
Great Taste Of The Soil
Soil is full of rich organic matter and contains most of a plant’s nutrients.
This could be why your dog will find eating soil to be an enjoyable pastime, and it also provides him with needed minerals.
However, ingesting too much soil can have some rather unpleasant side effects as soil does contain some chemical and mineral compounds that are potentially harmful to your dog.
What you should do is to perform positive reinforcement by giving your dog tasty treats or a pet on his chest whenever he reacts to your “Stop!” command and avoiding the soil.
And don’t forget to praise him as well!
The goal is to make him associate that by staying away from eating the soil, GOOD things will happen.
The way to do this will be through shaping his behavior.
Make him feel that it is going to be much more rewarding to listen to you and do what you say instead of digging the garden and eating the dirt.
Punishment, by the way, does not work with dogs. It will only cause your dog to become aggressive and depressed and does not teach him anything!
In fact, using punishment on your dog will always backfire. The best way to train a dog is to use positive reinforcement and avoid punishment at all costs.
And of course, you should always ensure that your dog is well-fed so that he doesn’t go to the extent of eating the soil just to satisfy his hunger.