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Why do dogs eat dirt?


Ever wondered why your dog insists on eating the entire field on their daily morning walk? Sometimes a lot of what our pets do confuse us, especially when they scurry around in the garden seemingly looking or hunting for something but only to come back with a face full of mud. But is this something we need to worry about, or simply something we can brush off, like the mud from their fluffy faces and paws? We are here to shed some light into whether there is any health implications to your pup digging around in the dirt all day, and choosing to have soil for dinner rather than your – pretty expensive – premium dog food.


Firstly, you do not need to overly worried, it is not something that is uncommon when it comes to dog behaviour. And in fact, in most cases, unless it is a very regular occurrence, and your dog is eating large quantities of dirt then it should not be too much of a problem.


But when are the cases where we should be concerned? We have had a look into why dogs choose to have a dirty dinner and what we should be doing, if indeed anything at all, to help them or prevent them from doing so in the future.


Drawn to different smells

First things first, dogs are driven by smell, so if they smell anything that is not normal in a field they will immediately go and have a dig around to find out what treasures might be lying there. More often than not, these things tend to be dirty places, as these tend to smell more – places such as trash, toilets and littered areas.

Sometimes however dogs are drawn to these places as they are looking for minerals that they are not getting in their diet. Outside dirt is full of minerals that you might not find in your standard dog food pouch. And so if they are continually eating outside dirt, it might be worth looking into the actual nutritional value of the food you are feeding your pet. You may find that it is lacking in some essential nutrients and hence why your dog is craving these from elsewhere.


Do I need to worry?

OK so you need to be aware as to how much dirt your dog is actually eating. If they simply go out and enjoy rolling around in it when a bit happens to land in their jaw, this is not something you need to particularly worry about.

However if your dog is rolling around in outside mud all the time, then it might be worth making sure that the dirt outside is free of any nasty chemicals – such as pesticides and pest killers.


Have a think about what you have been feeding your dog. Is it homemade food or it is bought from a shop? More and more pet owners are being less trusting of the dog food brands, thinking that they are not made from good ingredients and in some cases are doing their pet more harm than good. Therefore if you have been feeding them a diet made from proper food at home, and your dog has been eating more and more dirt, it might be time to take a trip to the vet as the food you are making might be out of balance with the nutrients and minerals that your dog needs to stay healthy.

The food you are making at home, as best as your intentions might be, might not be a full and balanced diet for your dog. So before you make the switch, be sure to check up on what your dog should be eating to keep them happy and healthy for longer.


This nutritional imbalances could mean something else too. For example, dirt tends to contain high amounts of iron and if your dog is craving dirt more and more it might be that they are lacking iron in their diet. This could infer that your dog is perhaps anemic and that may be why they are craving higher levels of that specific mineral. If you think that this might be the case then it is worth making a check up appointment with your vet to make sure that this is not the case. And if it is it is better to know early on rather than later so you have time to fix the issue before it becomes more and more troublesome.


How can I stop my dog eating this rubbish?

If you have ventured down these routes and found that nothing is wrong with your dog but you would like them to stop eating so much dirt then there are a few things you can do. Or if you have found that there are some issues – like the ones listed above – with your dog then take the appropriate steps to help your dog out, be that with supplements, a better and more balanced diet or take your vets advice.


So what can you do?

Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise every day, this will mean that your dog should tend to be more relaxed in general and so they will cause less trouble for you. If all else fails, try training. This behaviour control can be applied to other things than just ‘fetch’ – have you thought about using it to try and stop your dog from digging up your garden and eating your soil?


If you catch your dog eating dirt, then try and intervene and replace it with another behaviour or activity that you approve of, such as playing fetch or playing with their favourite toy.


Make sure you always have a variety of toys and chews around the house and in the garden so that if they ever find themselves wanting to play with something or nibble anything then those are the things that they go for rather than heading straight to the neat lawn. If your dog does not tend to like toys then try to hide some treats inside to tempt them to be more inclined to play with them.


Remove the temptation – if you think that your dog is continually going to the same area to dig up the dirt, consider restricting their access to this area. If it’s a small patch of lawn, why not put up a small fence or if it’s the entire outside, make a paved section where your dog can enjoy being outside without causing trouble – out of sight out of mind right?