Puppies are inquisitive and like to explore the world with their mouths, including stones which can be dangerous! This behaviour probably seems strange, but let’s face it, stones aren’t the most delicious things for puppies to eat, so why do they do it, and can you learn how to stop a puppy from eating stones?
In this article, we’ll explain why puppies eat stones, how you can get your puppy to stop eating stones, and what might happen if your puppy swallows a stone.
If you’re looking for a full training programme developed to work with your puppy’s stage of development and align with their breed-specific needs, then download the Zigzag app and start training today. We have a team of professional dog trainers to help you with any puppy-related queries, 24/7.
Why do puppies eat stones?
Puppies eat stones to investigate their taste and texture, to chew on while teething, to strengthen their jaw muscles, due to a lack of calcium, nutritional or dietary deficiencies, boredom, or because they are a breed that likes to have something in their mouth, such as Spaniels and Retrievers.
Puppies will often put everything in their mouths, including rolling stones (no not Mick Jagger) or holding pebbles in their mouth. Most will spit them out, but some will try to swallow them too, which is dangerous!
How do I get my puppy to stop eating stones?
To stop your puppy from eating stones, ensure that their nutritional needs are met, that they are not bored, that they have ways of expressing breed-specific behaviour, teach them to leave it and drop, and stop any punishment-based techniques that you may have been tempted to use.
Feed your puppy a complete diet
Some puppies and dogs eat stones because they’re missing vital minerals like calcium, so try to get this by eating stones.
Check out our puppy nutrition, raw feeding for puppies and home cooking for your dog guides.
Prevent boredom by using enrichment toys
Brain games and puzzle toys will all help to prevent boredom in your dog, and give them something better to do than entertain themselves with stones.
Provide Breed Specific Outlets
If you have a Gundog or retrieving mixed-breed, such as a Labrador, Cockapoo, Cocker or Springer Spaniel, then they are genetically engineered to find carrying things around in their mouth rewarding. If you’re constantly taking things out of your puppy’s mouth, then this could be why they are eating stones.
The Zigzag app is specifically written to work with breed differences because retrievers gonna retrieve, German Shepherds want to work and Terriers gonna rag and tear!
Give them plenty of chews and chew toys
Whether your puppy is at the dreaded teething stage, or your adolescent dog is strengthening their jaw muscles with their adult teeth already through, puppy chews and chew toys like Kongs are going to give your dog something to do and prevent stone eating.
Teach them to leave it
Teaching your dog to leave it if they start to go towards stones can be a really useful way to stop your dog from eating stones. Leave it should be used before they’ve even got to the stones, to stop them from interacting with them, and to teach them to come away.
They need to learn this one before you start using it on high-value things like pebbles and stones, so teach them to leave food and toys with the help of our article on leave it or the more detailed leave it lessons in the Zigzag app.
Teach your dog to drop
Teaching a dog to drop things on cue, is a good idea for lots of reasons, and not only to teach your dog not to eat stones. It will help prevent your dog from swallowing the stone and prevent you from having to go in and fish the stones out, which can lead to resource guarding if not handled correctly.
Avoiding getting cross!
It’s hard when you’re panicking, but it’s important not to get cross or start grabbing things out of your puppy’s mouth like stones. Train using positive reinforcement and you’ll get a puppy who can both leave stones or drop them if they do get to them and avoid stone eating becoming obsessive or a resource-guarding opportunity.
Muzzle if necessary
Muzzles can be a good management tool to prevent your dog from picking up and eating stones. They won’t fix the behaviour, but they’ll stop your puppy from practising picking up stones. Often breaking the habit is important when you’re going through training your dog to leave it and drop.
What happens if my puppy swallows a stone?
If your puppy swallows a stone, the best thing to do is contact your Vet for advice, don’t just leave it to ‘wait and see’ as it can be dangerous! Stones can cause intestinal blockages; symptoms of this can include diarrhoea, constipation and lack of appetite.
Depending on the size of the pebble or stone your puppy may well pass it through without a problem, but as stones can’t be broken down by stomach acid it can cause problems.
When you take your puppy to the vet, they may suggest an X-ray in order to make an informed decision as to what to do next. In some cases, if the stone is large, your puppy may require surgery to have the stone removed.
If you have a puppy who is a gravel grazer or a stone scoffer, there are things you can do to stop your puppy from eating stones. This can range from an increase in enrichment to dietary changes, and positive reinforcement training to teach them to leave the stones alone. Don’t be tempted to just ignore the problem, as a puppy who keeps eating stones, can land themselves in trouble, and you with a Vet bill!
Head on over to our leave it guide to stop the stone eating, or how about learning why does my puppy eat everything?
If you’re looking for an in-depth training programme that will give your puppy the best start to training, and prevent problems like stone eating in puppies, then download the Zigzag app. There’s a team of professional dog trainers to help you with your dog training questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so you won’t be alone.