How To Get Your Dog To Stop Eating Grass, According To Experts
It can be tough to get your dog to stop eating grass. If it's become a habit, they might sit outside happily munching away on the lawn, and not be interested in doing much else. But it is something you can make seem less appealing, with a little effort.
Of course, there are times when you can simply let them be, if they want to chew for a few. "If your dog occasionally eats grass in safe (spray-free) environments and nothing happens afterwards, you have the glorious option of just letting it happen," dog trainer Kristi Benson, CTC, tells Bustle. Dogs are their own creatures, she says, and sometimes they just want to do their own thing.
"Some dogs just love the taste of grass," Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a small animal and exotic veterinarian and consultant for DogLab, tells Bustle. But since it can sometimes be a sign your dog is sick, you'll always want to rule that out, first. "If your dog is ever vomiting or seems like they have stomach pains, it is best to seek veterinary care," Ochoa says.
Assuming they have a clean bill of health, here are some things you can do the next time you catch your dog eating grass, according to experts.
1. Distract Them With A Command
Dogs can get a bit fixated on an activity, especially if there's chewing involved. So if you want to break their focus, simply redirect their attention back to you.
"The best thing to do is to consider the behaviors that your dog already knows," Benson says. "For example, a sit, a recall (coming when called), or a hand-target, where the dog will touch their nose on your open palm." Basically, if they can do a trick, have them do it for a treat.
This will keep their mind busy and off their desire to eat grass. And it's something you can repeat whenever necessary.
2. Take Treats With You On A Walk
You can also distract them with commands while out on walks, where your dog might be in the habit of pulling you towards weeds on the sidewalk for a quick snack. Just make sure you bring along a few of their favorite treats.
"When you get to the locations where your dog typically munches on grass, or when you notice your dog munching on grass, simply cue the behavior," Benson says. "You’ll have your baggie of treats at the ready, and can reinforce them for doing this new thing instead of eating grass."
If you can keep them excited about getting a treat in return for doing a behavior, you'll be keeping their attention on you, instead of grass. "Note that your dog might need some help to start," Benson says. "You might need to shake the baggie, talk in a high pitched voice, or lure them into a sitting position with a treat."
3. Keep Their Attention
Once your dog has stopped eating grass, keep their attention with a happy tone of voice, and say the command again whenever necessary. "Over time and with practice, your dog will probably start sitting or doing a recall much more quickly and maybe even automatically," Benson says.
Just be sure you're consistent. If you're trying to get them to stop eating grass while walking, you won't want to occasionally give in, or be sporadic with your commands. If you aren't predictable, they may not make the connection and will continue aiming for people's lawns.
4. Make Sure They Aren't Bored
A bored dog is much more likely to eat grass, so one way to keep them from doing it is by providing more interesting activities, Kayla Fratt, a certified dog behavior consultant at Journey Dog Training, tells Bustle.
"If your dog is eating grass due to boredom, [you] should add enrichment to her life," she says. This might mean staying in the yard with and throwing a ball, making sure she has enough fun toys to play with, or even walking down different streets so she can smell the world to her heart's content.
Dogs need a lot of stimulation to stay happy, so if yours seems a bit bored, or if she spends a lot of time alone doing nothing, figure out ways to make a change and add more fun to her daily routine.
5. Count Down From Three
While you never want to tug on your dog's leash, you can apply gentle pressure to get them to lift their head up, and away from an exciting patch of grass. As you do, Fratt says you can "count down [from three] and then put pressure on the leash at one. Practice this enough, and you’ll quickly find the dog picks up her head on her own at 'one.'"
6. Make Sure They Have Good Nutrition
"One reason dogs eat grass is because their diet may be lacking," Colleen Demling, a dog behaviorist at Dogtopia, tells Bustle. "If their food is not providing enough fiber, they can crave an increase of substance which can explain eating grass."
So give their food labels a once over. "Make sure your dog food contains enough age and size-specific portions of the vitamins and minerals they need," Demling says. Or check with your vet to see which foods they recommend. If this was the issue, you might notice that your dog is less inclined to eat grass.
7. Ask A Vet For Advice
Again, it's fine for your dog to eat grass on occasion. "Overall, [it] isn’t necessarily harmful for your dog, unless it is sprayed with pesticide or other chemicals," Demling says, which is when you'll have to make them step by bringing them inside, or walking away.
But if you're concerned about the habit, especially if it's becoming excessive, don't hesitate to take them to the vet. "If your dog tends to eat grass more often than not, it could be a symptom of something else," Demling says. "Always check with your vet if you are unsure of a health issue with your dog."
More often than not, grass eating isn't a big deal. But if it's become a compulsion, or they seem sick, that's when you'll want to double check with an expert.