Why does my Cocker Spaniel Eat Everything (Grass, Poop, Stones, Dirt)

Have you ever been playing at the dog park with your precious Cocker Spaniel only to realize that yet again he’s found something questionable lying on the ground and he’s put it in his mount with full-on intentions of eating it?

Wrestling a slobbery piece of stick or a slimy rock out of your dog’s mouth while you are surrounded by other dog owners can have you feeling quite red in the face.

Not only is there the embarrassment to contend with, but what if you are unable to get it out of their mouth and they actually swallow it? Is it harmful to them to eat grass, poop, dirt, and other things, and why do they do it?

I wanted to help all my friends who own Cocker Spaniels find answers, so I did the research, talked to vets and other owners, and here is what I found out.

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Your Cocker Spaniel eats things like poop, stones, grass, and dirt because it is a natural tendency for dogs to forage and explore through their environment with their mouths. There can also be other contributing factors like boredom, stress, anxiety, or nutritional deficiencies.

Keep reading as we discuss some of the most popular inedible dinner delights that your Cocker Spaniel might turn to. You will learn if they are dangerous to your dog, and tips and tricks on what you can do to encourage them to stop.

Why Does My Cocker Spaniel Eat Things it Shouldn’t?

For the most part, your dog’s tendency to pick random items up and put them in his mouth is a natural way for them to explore and learn about their environment.

Chess Dog 300 x 600

You most likely have experienced the excitement of a new puppy who wants to chew and mouth everything in sight! Just like human toddlers puppies are very curious and haven’t developed the good sense to know when something isn’t supposed to go in the mouth.

Usually, with a bit of patience and training on your part, this behavior will start to get significantly better as they grow into adulthood. If you have a Cocker Spaniel puppy, the chewing and mouthing stage will usually peak around 4-5 months old as they are losing their baby teeth and getting their adult teeth.

If your dog is still having issues with eating things that are inedible into adulthood (around 12-24 months of age) they may have a condition known as Pica which is defined as craving and eating substances with no nutritional value.

At this point, you will need to consider what are the things that they are eating that are most dangerous and work to focus on getting help for fixing those behaviors first.

Why Does My Cocker Spaniel Eat Sticks, Stones, and Dirt?

Here are the main reasons why your dog may gravitate toward eating bits and pieces of mother earth.

  • They are curious – As we discussed above this is most likely the reason your dog ever started with this habit in the first place.

    Puppies start out with curiosity in mind and when they pick something up in their mouth to explore it, they may accidentally swallow it. Many vets have said that they’ve seen some pretty interesting things in the tummies of their patients.
  • Habit – If your Cocker Spaniel is a heavy chewer he may have developed a habit of chewing and eating things he shouldn’t. It’s best to try and fix this as young as you can teaching your dog what is and isn’t ok to put in their mouth.

    You can do this by offering other more tempting things for them to chew on such as bully sticks or a Kong filled with yummy treats (Amazon affiliate links) and working on training techniques such as the command ‘leave it’.
  • They Like the texture- Sticks, in particular, provide Cocker Spaniel with a great texture as they like to rip it into pieces and chew, this is why I really like bully sticks as a safer replacement.
  • Dental or oral problems – Check your dog’s teeth and gums for redness and swelling. Chewing might be making his mouth feel better temporarily but long-term it is probably making the problem worse.

    Cocker Spaniel Teething and Teeth Care Guide
  • Medical Issues – Some dogs who suffer from a condition called Anemia (low blood count) will try to look for minerals in the dirt that may help them with their condition.

Should you be worried if your Cocker Spaniel eats sticks, stones or dirt?

Yes, Sticks and Rocks are very much a problem and can become very dangerous if your Cocker Spaniel gets one stuck in their intestines causing a blockage. They could also cause your Cocker Spaniel to chip or lose its teeth.

Some sticks or wood pieces can also be poisonous to dogs such as Buckeye, Chestnut, and Oak. Acorns as well contain chemicals that can be very dangerous to your dog and cause poisoning if swallowed or eaten.

If your dog has eaten any of these things you should consult your vet immediately. They will most likely need to do tests and run diagnostic images so that they can see if there are any blockages in your dog’s stomach or intestines and assess how bad the problem is.

Why does my Cocker Spaniel eat grass?

Even with their easy-going nature Cocker Spaniels also have some hunting instinct within their genes. It’s hard to say if that plays a part in your Cocker’s desire to graze on the green stuff, but it could have something to do with it. Here are some reasons why your cocker may have a desire to eat your lawn.

  • Looking for more fiber – Dogs are Omnivorous meaning they eat meat and veggies. Cocker Spaniels who are eating grass may be looking for extra fiber in their diet.

    While grass has no nutritional value for them and can’t be digested they might be trying to forage for something to fill a gap in their diet. You can try giving your dog some carrots or broccoli instead.
  • Boredom – If your Cocker Spaniel doesn’t get enough mental stimulation or exercise he may turn to other behaviors to fill his time.

    Generally, Cocker Spaniels only require around 1 hour of exercise broken up throughout the day, so if your dog isn’t getting at least that try to add some more playtime and more frequent walks in to see if that helps curb the behavior.

    7 Reasons Why Your Cocker Spaniel Whines (Quick Solutions Guide) – Paws and Learn
  • They like the way it feels – The texture and taste of it could be enticing to some pooches especially the active Cocker Spaniel who is always looking for new ways to explore and play.
  • They are feeling sick – This is probably the explanation for grass-eating most people think of first, but it is rarely the real reason. It has long been thought that dogs eat grass when they have an upset stomach to make themselves throw up.

    There has been newer research showing that if your dog is eating grass it most likely does not indicate they are sick. In fact, less than 10% of dogs are munching on grass to ease an upset tummy.

However, there still are enough that this applies to that it needs to be looked at. If your Cocker Spaniel is showing any other symptoms like lack of appetite for things they normally eat, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, or other signs that they are not themselves they could be eating grass because they are sick. Take them to your vet.

Should you be worried if your Cocker Spaniel eats grass?

Of the list of non-food items your dog is munching on grass is probably the least concerning. It’s a very common behavior for dogs and vets generally agree it’s also pretty harmless. 

If there are concerns it would be to make sure that your dog isn’t munching on grass that has been treated with chemical fertilizer or weed spray that could potentially make your dog sick. If you think your dog has been eating treated grass it’s best to contact your vet.

If this is a new or sudden change in behavior that you haven’t noticed in the past that could also indicate that something more may be going on and you should seek a consultation with your vet.

Why Does My Cocker Spaniel Eat Poop?

Ok, so this one is definitely the one that causes the biggest gag reflex! Especially when you unknowingly let your pup give you a big fat kiss then get a whiff of that awful nasty poop breath (yes this has actually happened to me)! It’s enough to make you never want puppy kisses again!

The official term for your poop-eating pup is something called coprophagy. That’s just a fancy word that means poop eater.

I know for us it is super nasty to even think of our dog putting something like that in his mouth, but for dogs, it’s actually not that uncommon, in fact, it’s a fairly ordinary instinctive thing for them to do, and here’s why.

  • They’ve always done it – Even though we find it disturbing this behavior has long been a part of a dog’s pattern of living. A study of canine behavior has shown that dogs are scavengers, and that includes scavenging for poop. Dogs learned how to survive in the harshest of conditions when there wasn’t a lot to choose from as far as meals go they learned that poop will do in a pinch.
  • They eat it to keep their den clean – Mothers of puppies nurture and care for their young by eating their puppies poop. This is a natural instinct for dogs. Seeing their mother do this teaches them to eat their poop to keep their sleeping areas clean and free from parasites.
  • Behavioral issues – If your Cocker Spaniel is not getting enough attention or is experiencing a lot of anxiety you may notice the poop eating getting worse.

    Being left alone for a long time can make your Cocker Spaniel more likely to eat their poop. Also, harsh punishments for potty training mistakes may encourage your dog to eat their poop in order to hide the evidence.
  • To get a reaction from you – Cocker Spaniels are very smart! They know when they have your attention. If you think your dog is eating their poop just to get a reaction from you then you are probably right. If this is the case try to stay calm and ignore the behavior rather than give in to the tirade that they are trying to illicit.
  • Lack of right nutrients in their diets – Cocker Spaniels require a well-balanced diet of high-quality food and nutrients.

    If their diet is not giving them what they need they will sometimes eat their poop as a way to try a second time to digest and absorb the nutrients that didn’t get absorbed the first time. A dog Probiotic could also help.

    This Chew has helped a lot of dog owners with getting their dogs to stop eating poop!

Should you be worried if your Cocker Spaniel eats poop?

Eating poop is usually not too concerning if it’s their own that they are treating themselves to. It becomes problematic for your pup when your Cocker Spaniel eats poop from another animal that has intestinal parasites or other illnesses. This makes it almost certain that your dog will get them as well.

If you notice that your dog has a habit of poop eating then you should be sure to have them on some good worming preventative as well as talk to your vet about any other problems this may have caused.

How Can I Stop My Cocker Spaniel From Eating Things They Shouldn’t?

  • Keep their area clean – Controlling their environment and keeping it free of the items that you don’t want them eating is the first proactive step that you can take.

    This can often be a lot of work and hard to keep up with so is more often than not a temporary solution. But starting with this while you work towards more long-term solutions such as training is key.
  • Supervise them – In order to teach your Cocker Spaniel what is and isn’t ok to eat you need to watch them closely to figure when, why, and how they are getting into the forbidden items. This will give you clues on how to attack the problem from multiple angles.
  • Train them the leave it command – This is an important command for any dog to learn. Dogs from a young age are very curious and want to chew on or pick up anything they can in their mouth. Teaching your Cocker Spaniel this command will help them know what is and isn’t appropriate to put in their mouth.
  • Provide them with other options – Giving your Cocker Spaniel something else to chew or snack on that is more enticing than the naughty things can help reinforce the patterns of behavior that you would like to see.

    Many Cocker Spaniel owners who have heavy chewers recommend this indestructible chew toy found on Amazon.
    Raw chopped-up carrots are a great choice as a snack for your Cocker, not only are they packed with nutrients, but they can also help as a natural aid in your dog’s digestive tract to get rid of parasites and worms that your dog may have picked up from eating poop.
  • Provide them with high-quality food – Again this is a crucial step in the process of illuminating this behavior. If you aren’t sure if your dog is getting the balanced diet that it needs you can consult with your vet on what the best food for him would be. Other Cocker Spaniel owners recommend this high-quality food.
  • Wear them out! – There is a saying I’ve heard that says a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. If that’s the case then a bored and energetic Cocker Spaniel is a recipe for disaster. Keeping your Cocker Spaniel busy with these fun activities (link to games for your dog on wag walking) will help them focus on more efficient and productive ways to spend their time, and they will be less likely to eat things they shouldn’t out of boredom.
  • Increase their vitamins and minerals – If you’ve tried everything else it may be that your Cocker Spaniel is lacking vitamins and minerals that they need to have a well-balanced diet.

    Canines historically would forage for their food and in doing so create a pretty well-balanced diet. It’s in your dog’s nature to do this. Some Cocker Spaniel owners have reported success using this supplement but always check with your vet before making any changes first.
  • Take them to your Vet – This is important if you believe that your Cocker Spaniel has eaten anything that may be causing problems or symptoms in your dog. It’s also important if your dog seems obsessed with its behavior. This could be a sign of a more serious issue medically known as Pica. Your vet can give you additional resources and help to keep your dog healthy and their diet well balanced.

Trying out a fun training program together like this widely popular program Brain Training for Dogs can help unlock your dog’s hidden potential and help them learn how to avoid problem behaviors.

How Can I Stop My Cocker Spaniel From Eating Too Fast?

If you have a dog who loves to eat everything in sight it’s likely that he may also love to scarf down his food. This could also be problematic since eating so quickly could cause your dog to choke. Eating super fast can also cause dangerous bloating in your dog’s stomach and harder for their bodies to absorb nutrients.

If your Cocker Spaniel is taking less than 2 minutes to finish off his meals then it will be beneficial for you to help him slow down.

Some easy ways to help them slow down include:

  • Put a tennis ball in their dish – They have to eat around and under it and it will slow down their intake.
  • Get rid of the bowel – Because dogs like to forage getting rid of your dog’s dish and spreading their food out on the floor will not only slow down his eating but help him satisfy his desire to forage.
  • Feed them smaller meals through the day – Talk to your vet to make sure you aren’t overfeeding them, but spreading it out more could help them not be as starving when it comes time to dish them their dinner.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise right before or after meals – This will help their digestion slow down a little and make it so they aren’t trying to quickly feed their bodies for all the calories they just burned.
  • Put their kibble in a puzzle toy – This Snuffle Mat is a good choice. This food puzzle is also a fun idea. (Affiliate links to amazon)

Does your Cocker Spaniel LOVE TO LICK? Check out this article:
Cocker Spaniel Obsessive Licking (Quick Solutions Guide)

It can take a lot of time and money to figure out why and how to get your Cocker Spaniel to stop eating everything in sight, but if you ignore it and it gets worse you may end up spending a lot more time and money on vet bills or in surgery and recovery to fix a problem that could have been dealt with early on.

Next Steps

Learn more about caring for your Cocker Spaniel by reading these articles.

Why is My Cocker Spaniel Limping?

All About Cocker Spaniel Paws (Size, Grooming, Problems)