Their adorable squishy face and those sweet puppy dog eyes, they seem like they can do no wrong, but when you are out for a relaxing stroll in the nice sunny weather and you notice your dog feasting on something rather disturbing such as poop or grass you may change your mind.
Seeing your Shih Tzu chow down on grass, sticks, poop or dirt 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 have this problem and concern as well. So why do they do it?
Your Shih Tzu 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 non-edible things that your Shih Tzu might want to feast on, we will discuss if they are dangerous to your dog, and what to do to encourage them to stop.
Why does my Shih Tzu eat grass?
There are several reasons to consider why your Shih Tzu might be drawn to the green stuff. Here are a few things to consider.
- Boredom – Shih Tzu’s are usually very content to sit in our laps and follow us around all day, but that doesn’t mean that they still might get bored from time to time. Most dogs depending on their personality enjoy fun enrichment activities that will keep their mind occupied and engaged.
If you have a Shih Tzu that has a little bit more energy than most then you might need to find some things to keep their minds busy so they don’t decide to sit and graze on your lawn because they are bored.
- 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 pumpkin, apples or broccoli instead.
- They like the way it feels – The texture and taste of it could be enticing to some pooches and what’s more there was a study done by the University of California that says your dog could actually enjoy eating grass and get an uptick of Dopamine for it. In their survey they found the 68% of dogs ate grass on a regular basis.
- 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 is still a small percentage that this could apply to. If your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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.
Why Does My Shih Tzu Eat Sticks, Rocks, and Dirt?
- Habit – If your Shih Tzu is a heavy chewer he may have developed a habit of chewing and eating on things he 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 Shih Tzu’s with a great texture as they rip it into pieces and chew. If your dog likes chewing on sticks try giving them something like these bully sticks from Amazon (affiliate link)! My dog loves them and it helps him not to chew on other things he shouldn’t.
- 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.
80% of dogs have some form of dental disease by the time they are 2 years old, so it’s really important that we do our best to keep their teeth clean. My Dog gets his teeth brushed every day!
- 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 if your Shih Tzu eats dirt, sticks, or rocks?
Yes, Sticks and Rocks are very much a problem and can become very dangerous if your Shih Tzu gets one stuck in their intestines causing a blockage.
They could also cause your Shih Tzu to chip or lose their 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 or be a choking hazard 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 Shih Tzu Eat Poop? (Is Cat Poop a Problem?)
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 scientific term for the habit of poop-eating is Coprophagia.
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 puppy’s 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 Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 – Shih Tzu 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 – Shih Tzus should have around 50% protein and carbs. Having the right balance of nutrients and vitamins in their diet with help your dog to be healthy and not overweight. If their diet is not quite balanced they will go looking for those nutrients in unsavory places.
- The Draw of Cat Poop – Shih Tzus are drawn to cat poop because it’s something delicious smelling (to them at least) that they can scavenge for. The poop probably smells like your cat’s food and has a higher protein content than other kinds of poop.
Should you be worried if your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu eats poop from another animal, like your cat!
Any other animal poop always has the potential to carry intestinal parasites or other illnesses. If your dog eats the poop he also eats the parasites and 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.
If your dog is eating his own poop it doesn’t mean he’s safe for intestinal parasites. It’s less likely that he will get them if he’s a healthy dog otherwise. The poop that came out of your pup isn’t going to change much in your pup if it goes in again except for the gross factor.
If he is eating his own poop however that could be an indication that your Shih Tzu is not able to absorb the nutrients it needs from his food the first time he eats it and he’s eating it again to try and get the vitamins and nutrients that he missed out on.
This may mean that your dog needs higher quality food or needs a good probiotic to help him better absorb the nutrients.
If you suspect your pups poop eating is a habit, however, it’s always advisable to seek help from a vet and a trained behaviorist.
How Can I Stop My Shih Tzu From Eating Everything 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 Shih Tzu what is and isn’t ok to eat you need to watch them closely to figure out 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.
- Set up a barrier to the cat litter– It’s a great thing that cats can jump higher than your short-legged Shih Tzu. This makes it a bit easier to either put a baby gate between your dog and the cat litter (like we did for our dog Bear) or find a place on a higher shelf, bench, or table to put the cat litter in order to keep your dog out of it.
- 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 Shih Tzu this command will help them know what is and isn’t appropriate to put in their mouth.
- Provide them with other options – Giving your Shih Tzu 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 Shih Tzu 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 – If they are looking to eat strange things because they are lacking specific nutrients or minerals getting high-quality food like this one (link to Amazon) can really help and possibly end the behavior.
- Give them plenty of exercises and mental stimulation – If you think your Shih Tzu is bored then increasing their activity levels with more interesting things to do can help. A bored Shih Tzu is a recipe for disaster especially if you have a puppy!
Keeping your Shih Tzu 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.
Another sign of boredom or a desire for more attention may be that your Shih Tzu is always starting at you. Click here to read my article about Shih Tzu staring and find out if that’s the case for your Shih Tzu.
- Increase their intake of vitamins and minerals – If you’ve tried everything else it may be that your Shih Tzus lack 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 Shih Tzu owners have reported success using this supplement.
- Take them to your Vet – This is important if you believe that your Shih Tzu 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.
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How Can I Stop My Shih Tzu From Eating Too Fast?
One problem you may have if your Shih Tzu loves his grub is eating too quickly. If your Shih Tzu 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 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 throughout 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).
It can take a lot of time and money to figure out why and how to get your Shih Tzu 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.