Dogs do many funny things that make us either laugh or shake our heads in disbelief. One strange habit we observe in our pets is eating non-food items, such as garbage, feces, or dirt. Why do dogs eat dirt and muck? The most common dirt-eating reasons are described here.

Boredom

One of the top reasons that dogs eat dirt is because they are bored. This is especially true if your pet is left in the yard or garden all day by itself. Commonly, bored dogs develop repetitive habits as a way to entertain themselves. These activities include licking, chewing, and eating strange items.

To discourage this habit, first provide your dog with more mental stimulation. Take your dog for an extra-long walk in an area of town that is new to your pet. You should also provide your dog with plenty of chew toys that are appropriate for his or her needs. Interactive toys are also essential if your pet is left home alone all day.

Nutrient Deficiency

When dogs are not receiving all the necessary nutrients from their food they seek out vitamins and minerals from alternative sources. These can include feces, grass, and soil. Typically, these dogs are highly active and are used for field work or hunting.

If you believe your pet may be experiencing a nutrient deficiency, first check the quality of your dog’s food. A good resource is dog food advisor, which compiles information about all standard dog food brands and assigns a rating. If your pet’s food is not well-ranked, consider switching to a higher quality diet.

Additionally, certain breeds struggle with nutrient absorption. For instance, Siberian Huskies have difficulties absorbing zinc. If you believe your dog has a nutrient deficiency and food quality is not the issue, consult your veterinarian.

Taste

One reason your dog may eat soil and muck is because he or she simply likes the way it tastes. Although this may seem strange to humans, dogs have a vastly different palate and appreciate less refined flavors. If your soil contains fertilizer or compost, your dog may be particularly interested in these odors and tastes.

Attention-Seeking

Some dogs engage in undesirable behaviors because they elicit a response from the owner. Even if you become angry at your pet when he or she munches on the garden soil, your dog may prefer negative attention than no attention at all. If your pet is eating dirt to create a response, simply bring him or her inside without acknowledging the behavior.

Underlying Medical Condition

Finally, your dog may engage in dirt eating because of an underlying medical condition. If your dog has obsessive compulsive disorder he or she may display other behaviors such as excessive licking as well. A dog that is experiencing anxiety may try to self-soothe, and one way in which to achieve relaxation is to complete mindless tasks. These include chewing, licking, and eating inanimate objects. Finally, pica could be a cause for dirt eating, which is the medical term for eating non-food items. Commonly, dogs with pica ingest dirt, mulch, or stones. If you believe your dog has a medical condition, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian ASAP.

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