You’re out for a nice walk in the park enjoying some sunshine when you look down and notice your sweet Shetland Sheepdog chowing down on some not-so-scrumptious grub. It might be rocks, grass, sticks, or even worse poop. Sound familiar?
Seeing your fur baby scarf something considered inedible can be very alarming. It can make you question why on earth are they doing it and is it going to cause problems with their health. Rest assured you are not alone in this worry.
Many other dog owners say their dogs have this problem as well.
Your Sheltie is eating grass, poop, rocks, or dirt because it’s either bored, has a nutritional deficiency, has a behavioral issue like stress and anxiety, or because it’s a natural tendency for dogs to do. It could also be a combination of all these things.
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In this article we’ll explore some of the most popular inedible dinner delights that your Sheltie might turn to, discuss if they are dangerous to your dog, and what to do to encourage them to stop.
Why does my Sheltie eat grass?
There are several reasons to consider why your Sheltie might be drawn to the green stuff. Here are a few things to consider.
- Boredom – Shelties are outgoing and playful, they thrive on interaction and games. If not given the proper attention or exercise then they may turn to other behaviors to fill their time. These behaviors can include eating grass or other inedible things.
- Looking for more fiber – Dogs are omnivorous meaning they eat meat and veggies. While grass has no nutritional value for them and can’t be digested they might be trying to forage for the fiber they’re missing. You can try giving your dog some spinach or broccoli instead.
- They like the way it feels – The texture and taste of it could be enticing to some pooches especially the adventurous Sheltie 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 Sheltie is showing any other symptoms like:
- lack of appetite for things they normally eat
- other signs that they are not themselves
They could be eating grass because they are sick. Take them to your vet.
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Should you be worried?
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.
So why does my Sheltie eat sticks, rocks, and dirt?
- Habit – If your Sheltie is a heavy chewer he may have developed a habit of chewing and eating on things they shouldn’t. It’s best to try and curb this as young as you can teaching your dog what is and isn’t ok to put in their mouth.
- They like the texture- Sticks, in particular, provide Sheltie with a great texture as they rip it into pieces and chew.
- 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.
- Curiosity – Dogs (especially puppies) use their mouth to explore and figure out the world around them. It could cause them to pick something up in their mouth and accidentally swallow it. There may also be something that was dropped in the dirt or gravel that they find to be rather tasty.
- 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?
Yes, sticks and rocks are very much a problem and can become very dangerous if your Sheltie gets one stuck in their intestines causing a blockage.
They could also cause your Sheltie 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 to see how bad the problem is.
Why does my Sheltie 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!
Why do they do it when it’s soooooo disgusting!
Well for dogs it’s really not that repulsive, in fact, it’s a fairly ordinary instinctive thing for them to do.
- 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 Sheltie 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 Sheltie 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 – Shelties are very smart! 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 – Shelties require a delicate balance of protein and carbs. If their diet is not quite balanced they will go looking for those nutrients in unsavory places.
Should you be worried?
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 Sheltie 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 Sheltie from eating everything?
- 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 Sheltie 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 Sheltie this command will help them know what is and isn’t appropriate to put in their mouth.
- Provide them with other options – Giving your Sheltie 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 Sheltie owners report that they have good luck getting these toys from Amazon and rotating through so that their dog doesn’t get bored. You can even try raw carrots make for a good chew toy.
- Provide them with high-quality food – My brother’s dog Nico was obsessed with eating poop. Any poop that he could find he would scarf it down. My brother changed his food to a higher quality higher protein food like this one (affiliate link) and it was like magic, Nico stopped eating poop almost completely.
- Give them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation – A bored Sheltie is a recipe for disaster especially if you have a puppy! Keeping your Sheltie busy with training activities 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.
- Up their intake of vitamins and minerals – If you’ve tried everything else it may be that your Sheltie 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 Maltese owners have reported success using this supplement.
- Take them to your vet – This is important if you believe that your Sheltie 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.
How can I stop my Sheltie from eating too fast?
One problem you may have if your Sheltie loves his grub is eating too quickly. If your Sheltie is taking less than 2 minutes to finish off his meals then it will be beneficial for you to help him slow down. Eating too quickly can cause their stomachs to bloat and make it difficult for them to digest and absorb the nutrients in their food.
Some 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 bowl – 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 link).
It can take a lot of time and money to figure out why and how to get your Sheltie 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.
While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.