Picture this…. You are out for a leisurely play session with your Australian Shepherd as you stop for a moment to admire the scenery when you look down to see your precious pooch chomping on poop!
You only turn your head for a second and your Aussie has again eaten something it shouldn’t have! Not only can this be dangerous, but it’s completely disgusting! Why do they do it? Eating strange things is not uncommon for canine companions.
Your Australian Shepherd is eating grass, poop, rocks, or dirt because of a condition called pica. Pica can be caused by boredom, nutritional deficiencies, behavioral issues 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.
I’ve dug into the research and am ready to share with you all the reasons your dog eats inedible stuff and what to do to help prevent it.
Why does my Australian Shepherd eat grass?
There are several reasons to consider why your Australian Shepherd might be drawn to the green stuff. Here are a few things to consider.
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- Boredom – Australian Shepher can be very demanding of attention. They thrive on being played with and cared for by their owners. 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 energetic Australian Shepherd 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. New research shows 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 Australian Shepherd 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?
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.
You also want to be sure that it’s just grass that your dog is eating and not anything else hiding out in the grass. If they have found poop, or a dead carcass, or are actually eating dirt or something else then that can be dangerous.
If you are sure that it’s just untreated grass and they aren’t eating an excessive amount then it shouldn’t be too concerning.
Why Does My Australian Shepherd Eat Sticks, Rocks, Mulch, Paper, and Dirt?
- Habit – If your Australian Shepherd 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 dogs with a great texture as they rip it into pieces and chew. I find that my puppy really likes the texture of paper and tissues. He not only loves to try and eat them but to shred them into little pieces!
- 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.
Is your Australian Shepherd chasing or chewing on its tail?
Should you be worried?
Yes, Sticks and Rocks are very much a problem and can become very dangerous if your Australian Shepherd gets one stuck in their intestines causing a blockage.
They could also cause your dog 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.
There is a big difference between playing with a stick and chewing on or eating a stick! As long as you are engaged and watching your dog you should be fine. Puppies will need special care and attention when learning to play with sticks so that they don’t get in the habit of chewing on them.
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.
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!
If your dog routinely eats feces it is called Coprophagia. This is the actual medical term for the problem, but 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 Aussie 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 dog 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.
Australian Shepherd Obsessive Licking (With Quick Solutions Guide)
- To get a reaction from you – Australian Shepherds 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 – Aussies require a delicate balance of protein and carbs & Veggies. If their diet is not quite balanced because of low-quality ingredients in their dog food or they will go looking for those nutrients in unsavory places.
- Undigested or poorly digested food – If you notice that your Aussies poop looks like there are particles of food (dog food or other foods) then they could be having trouble digesting it and are trying to either re-eat their own food by eating their poop or eating cat poop or other dog poop to try and make up for their lack of nutrients that they haven’t been able to get.
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 dog 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.
See the next section for details on how to prevent your Australian Shepherd from eating poop and other things it shouldn’t.
How Can I Stop My Australian Shepherd From Eating Things it Shouldn’t (Poop, Rocks, Sticks)?
- 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 Aussie 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 dog this command will help them know what is and isn’t appropriate to put in their mouth.
- Provide them with other options – Giving your dog 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 Australian Shepherd owners report that they have good luck getting these toys from Amazon and rotating through so that their dog doesn’t get bored. Raw carrots also 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 (link to Amazon) and it was like magic, Nico stopped eating poop almost completely.
- Give them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation – A bored Aussie is a recipe for disaster especially if you have a puppy! Keeping your dog 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.
- Increase their intake of vitamins and minerals – If you’ve tried everything else it may be that your dog 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 Australian Shepherd owners have reported success using this supplement.
- Take them to your Vet – This is important if you believe that your dog 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 Australian Shepherd From Eating Too Fast?
One problem you may have if your Australian Shepherds loves his grub is eating too quickly. If your pup 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 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).
Are Australian Shepherds Picky Eaters
Generally, Australian Shepherds are not picky eaters. Most Australian Shepherds have a big appetite in order to keep up with the high amount of calories they burn. Some Australian Shepherds can develop picky eating habits. Owners may be unintentionally doing things to reinforce picking eating.
When most people think of dog breeds that are picky eaters we tend to think of the smaller breeds such as Maltese and Yorkies. It’s true that there has been some interesting scientific research showing that small breeds do tend to be the pickiest eaters in the dog kingdom, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones.
Every Breed has its share of picky eaters and Australian Shepherds aren’t much different, but the difference is that because of how much energy Australian Shepherds burn up and use on a daily basis having a picky eater can be quite worrisome. Australian Shepherds need to be getting enough calories to sustain their energy levels and body weight.
What is considered a picky eater? If your dog takes more than about 20 minutes to finish his meals or routinely leaves some food untouched (even when feeding them the recommended amount by your vet) then your dog would be considered a picky eater.
Why Has My Australian Shepherd Stopped Eating?
Your dog may stop eating his food if it is under a lot of stress if its environment has changed if it is struggling with an underlying health condition if it is distracted or just being picky about what kind of food it wants to eat.
If your dog has all of a sudden stopped eating his food then you need to schedule an appointment with your vet to make sure that there is no underlying cause of illness.
What Should I Do if My Australian Shepherd is a Picky Eater
If you feel like you have tried everything including taking your dog to the vet and you’re still worried that your Border Collie is not eating enough here are some more tips from Border Collie owners.
Raw food- Although controversial some owners have had great success feeding their picky eaters with this diet. A raw food diet is based on what dogs ate before they became domesticated. On this diet dogs eat raw muscle meat and bones, raw organ meats, safe fruits and vegetables, and some dairy products. Here’s an article you can read to learn more.
Warm it up – Sometimes a warm meal will do the trick. You can heat it up for a minute in the microwave, just make sure not to get it too hot!
Get rid of the bowl – It sounds strange, but some dogs actually prefer to eat their meal straight from the floor.
Pretend to eat it – Yes, dogs can sometimes act like a stubborn toddler, and yes pet owners have actually said when they pretend to eat the food first their dog is more willing to dig in!
Check for teeth problems – No one likes to eat when you have a toothache! Check for extra tarter buildup, sore or swollen gums, bad breath, and discoloration or brown teeth.
Check the expiration date – Sometimes it’s the most simple things we miss. Has the food gone bad? Check the expiration date. You may also want to check to see if there is a recall by looking at this website?
It can take a lot of time and money to figure out why and how to get your Australian Shepherd to eat properly, but if you ignore the problems 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.