When Dogs Eat Inedible Objects

The caller to the AKC Canine Good Citizen department sounded frustrated.  “My Lab mix will eat anything that is laying around.  She chews the heads off my son’s action figures, she eat tissues from the trash, and she never met a sock she didn’t like.  What should we do?”

I had a long talk with the owner, and here are the key points.

  1. Start with a vet check.  Sometimes pica (the technical term for eating inedible objects) is related to a nutritional problem.  Make sure the dog has had a veterinary work-up.
  2. Control the environment.  The dog eats everything “that is laying around.”  That’s clue #1 — things are laying around.  If it’s not there, she can’t eat it.  Just as you would baby-proof a home, you need to dog-proof yours.
  3. Exercise is important.  Providing daily exercise will keep your dog from getting bored and making lunch out of Buzz Lightyear.
  4. Provide acceptable, safe chewing options.  Your home should have plenty of chew toys that are easily available to your dog.  Try an interactive toy in which you can hide treats.
  5. Supervision.  Keep an eye on your dog and use a crate to keep her safe when you have to leave.  Pica is a serious behavior problem that can result in intestinal obstructions.

And as always, training gives your dog something to wrap her mind around.  CGC classes will help and you’ll feel better in the hands of an experienced instructor.

Have any of you ever had this problem with your dogs?  How did you fix the situation?  Share your stories with everyone in the comments.

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About Canine Good Citizen

AKC Canine Good Citizen Director, Author of the AKC's official CGC book, "CITIZEN CANINE"
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5 Responses to When Dogs Eat Inedible Objects

  1. Janet says:

    Those are some very good solutions to what can be a dangerous situation. Using a trash bin that has a securely fitted lid is very useful. And while the CGC class is obviously great–I would not stop there. “Leave It ” skills are not always a part of that class–so I would suggest continuing with additional obedience training–the more the better. Teaching bomb-proof recalls and higher-level distraction training would be helpful. Giving the dog some games to do within the home environment might also help. With my dogs, once I taught them Go Find It games, where they were encouraged to use their nose to find hidden treats around the house, they both stopped chewing on forbidden objects. I started with easy finds–within sight. I progressed to harder and harder ones–in other rooms, underneath their toys, at various heights, or underneath things I did NOT want them to chew. They learned to leave those things alone in search of the targeted treat.
    But in the long run, I do think prevention is the single most important element in a successful program of keeping a dog that chews objects out of trouble. My dogs have taught me a lot about picking up after myself. They are, after all, opportunists, and it only takes one mistake to end up in the veterinary emerency room.

  2. Lynn Messer says:

    I had a Doberman pup about six months old pull apart a raccoon toy and swallowed the tail. I immediately called the vet, he said to give the pup perioxide until she vomited. The tail came out looking just the same as when it went down. If I had not seen her swallow the tail she would have died. That was the end of using stuffed or fabric toys, other than Kongs. She once ate a safety pin thankfully, she only had the head of the safety pin was in her intestines, the vet had us feed her Vaseline three times a day and that cleaned everything out. Her toys consist Kongs, heavy duty toys designed for heavy chewers, large cooked boned designed for dogs and with supervision. Our two 4 years don’t chew on anything, so hope she is growing out of in. But I am careful what kind of toys I give her, she is now 18 months, and hasn’t chewed any thing that wasn’t designed for chewing in a long time.

  3. nan puppo says:

    After a hydrogen peroxide/ finger down the throat episode when our pup was 4 months old,we baby proofed. 4 yrs later Remy doesn’t scarf anything that doesn’t smell like food, Medication was especially scary. Ceasar (dog whisperer) said feed your dog bananas if they eat poop. They are lacking potassium.

  4. I usually ‘redirect’ my Basenji (when I catch him..) to something else other than the tissue he just brought in from a bin that he moved the topper off. He does not know the leave it yet, so I just say in my best Minnie Mouse “hey look what I have, let’s go this way…and give an appropriate item. Most garbage bins are in a cabinet or covered, but when he goes for the stuffing from a dog bed (I don’t pay for dog beds per say, I buy comforters from the thrift store…) I have to spray with cloroseptic (bitter apple was too yummy) or sprinkle with a poultice of alum (McCormick in the spice section)-a little messy, but they ‘leave it…’ I had a client who used it on her hands…..worked! Oh, and the other TV show dog trainer used pineapple for someone whose dog was eating poop, I used it and since my dog liked it, the coprophagia ceased.
    Now I just don’t know what to do about his mushroom hunting…….I plan on using lyme in sections to hopefully change the ph of the soil for next season…..It has become so satisfying to seek and find, (the dried ones in the soil are really fun!) so when I do see him I have been calling him over with the whistle he was trained for recall and give a tasty kibble. Sometimes it works and sometimes not……PS He had only had one episode of the shakes the next morning, but it passed. I even tried the mushrooms, and not poisonous, just disgusting.

    • Just because the mushroom is not toxic to one species, does not mean it might not be to another. In addition to Lime, ( you may want to get your soil tested by your local Agricultural Office – it is usually free for homeowners [not in commercial use]. Spores of many mushrooms are airborne as well as resident/dormant in the soil and areas of decaying vegetation – if you have used bark/leaf mulch under or around trees, plantings, etc. I would recommend removal of all that material and perhaps starting with recycled tires or landscape cloth that will not harbor fungal growth ( or termites ).
      But, please don’t go tasting mushrooms! you could end up very very dead.

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