6 Reasons Why Puppies Eat Dirt (And What To Do About It)

6 Reasons Why Puppies Eat Dirt (And What To Do About It)

Puppies do a lot of adorable things but sometimes they do very strange things too – like eat dirt. So, why do they do it?

Puppies eat dirt because they have behavioral issues, or they are stressed or bored. Some puppies eat dirt because they have vitamin or mineral deficiencies, or an underlying health problem. Other puppies just like the way dirt tastes.

Some puppies might see dirt as a tasty treat, but eating dirt is not always a good thing!

This article will explore all the reasons puppies have for eating dirt. We’ll look at what might happen if your puppy eats dirt, and how to stop your puppy from eating dirt once and for all.

Why do puppies eat dirt?

Photo of a Labrador puppy eating dirt

Puppies that spend a lot of time eating dirt have a condition known as pica (click here to find out how to tell if your puppy has pica).

There are many causes of pica, but here are the top 6 reasons why your puppy might be eating dirt:

Dirt tastes good

Sometimes dirt just tastes good, especially if food, grease, or other tasty treats have fallen on the ground. If you have an outdoor grilling area, the dirt beneath it could be delicious.

Puppies may also sniff, lick, and eat dirt that other animals have walked on to follow the trail. Or your puppy might be trying to remember where they hid a bone.

Did you know? Dirt goes into a dog’s mouth and gets transferred to their water bowl, which is one of the reasons why bees love dogs’ water bowls so much!

The puppy is teething

When they are little, puppies go through a stage where they want to chew on and bite everything they can find. This is completely normal and is one of the ways that a puppy explores and learns about the world around them – everything is still new to them at this early age.

It’s also how a puppy deals with teething.

A puppy can’t pull out annoying loose teeth. And new teeth breaking out of the gums can be pretty painful and frustrating for a pup. Biting on things and chewing on hard sand is one way that puppies try to help their old teeth fall out and their new teeth come out.

Most puppies grow out of this biting stage by the time they’re 7 months old.

Infographic showing the puppy teething timeline

The puppy is bored

Bored puppies get into all kinds of mischief. The most common type of mischief when a puppy is bored involves chewing on things.

Bored dogs will often chew your shoes, plants, cables, furniture, or even their own feet. Sometimes, they’ll even eat dirt.

The puppy is stress eating

Stressed-out puppies and bored puppies can behave similarly.

A stressed dog is more likely to exhibit what are known as displacement behaviors. These are behaviors that don’t seem to fit with a particular situation.

For example, if your puppy is stressed about a new person or animal moving into the house, they might react by eating dirt. It doesn’t make sense and is a bizarre reaction, but this is displaced behavior – an abnormal reaction to what seems to be an unrelated situation or experience.

The puppy is low in vitamins or minerals

Puppies that are low in certain vitamins or minerals, especially vitamin B or iron, will often eat dirt because they feel like they’re getting something they need from the soil.

The puppy has a health problem

There are many health-related reasons why puppies eat dirt, like an upset stomach.

Some of these are a one-time problem that has nothing to do with serious health issues. Other problems, such as anemia or malnourishment, have deeper causes and need professional help.

– Anemia in puppies

Anemia is probably one of the most common health-related reasons why puppies eat dirt. When a puppy has low iron and red blood cell counts, the puppy tries to fix the shortages by getting these things from the ground.

There are a few things that can cause anemia, including:

If your puppy eats dirt often, it might be time to visit your veterinarian for advice. If your puppy has anemia, your veterinarian might need to run tests to find out what’s causing this.

– Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) happens when your puppy has long-lasting inflammation in the intestines. This could be from parasites (usually worms) or because your pup is allergic to something in their diet.

Dogs with IBD are often very low in vitamin B and eat dirt to try to get this vitamin from the ground.

– Upset stomach

Another common cause of dirt-eating is a simple one: your pup has an upset stomach.

If a puppy eats something that doesn’t agree with them, which is very likely to happen with puppies, they may eat dirt and grass to try to force themselves to throw up, so their stomach can calm down.

If your puppy isn’t a habitual dirt eater and you just see them do it now and then, this is likely the reason, especially if they throw up soon after.

– Underweight / malnourished

Underweight and/or malnourished dogs have some of the same problems as dogs with anemia or IBD: they’re missing the nutrition they need to be fully healthy.

A puppy that is severely malnourished and on the verge of starvation may just be eating dirt out of hunger.

Can a puppy get sick from eating dirt?

A puppy can get very sick from eating dirt, especially if they do it often and in different places. Just because puppies eating dirt is common doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous or unhealthy. Some problems that might happen are that the puppy could:

  • Choke
  • Eat parasites living in the dirt and get very sick
  • Swallow poisons or toxins in the soil
  • Block or damage their intestines
  • Get a very sore stomach because the soil upsets the digestive tract
  • Damage their teeth, throat, or other organs by picking up rocks, glass, or other dangerous items from the ground

If your puppy eats dirt once in a while, it’s normal and they’ll probably not have any problems. But it only takes one piece of glass or one sharp pebble to do serious damage – so the more dirt your puppy eats and from public areas, the more chance your puppy is going to get sick.

It’s best to put a stop to dirt-eating if at all possible.

How to stop your puppy from eating dirt

Photo of puppy on a leash

The best way to keep your puppy from eating dirt is to keep an eye on them and train them to leave things alone.

Here’s a video from Zak George, showing us how to train a dog to leave everything alone, everywhere:

If your dog is mainly an indoor dog, take them out when you have time to watch what they’re doing.

If you see your puppy eating dirt, distract or implement your training until they stop.

Keep your dog on a leash so they can’t run off and sneakily eat some dirt when you can’t see them. If your puppy is really bad and keeps finding dirt to eat, think about getting a basket muzzle like this one on Amazon for long walks.

When dogs spend a lot of time outside by themselves, stopping them from eating dirt is harder. There are still things you can do if you can figure out why your dog is eating so much dirt.

Once you know why your dog can’t stop eating dirt, here are some steps you can take to stop it:

For distracted or stressed puppies

Photo of two puppies sleeping

If your puppy’s dirt-eating seems to be a behavioral issue, try to keep their stress level to a minimum. A steady, stable routine can help with this.

If you’re introducing a new person or animal into your pup’s life, do it slowly, giving your puppy time to get comfortable with the new addition.

Make sure your puppy gets enough rest and peaceful sleep, without being disturbed.

Give your dog lots of entertainment and physical activity. When dogs have enough things to do, they’re less likely to eat dirt. And a dog that’s exhausted from exercise is too tired to get up to too much mischief.

Get your puppy toys to chew on and explore, like this AWOOF Pet Snuffle Mat (Amazon link). This is an interactive dog toy where you can hide your puppy’s favorite treats in the “grass,” and they’ll have tons of fun digging and searching to find their food. The XiaZ Retractable Interactive Dog Toy is another great option if you have a large-breed dog.

For sick or malnourished puppies

If you think your puppy’s dirt-eating is because of malnutrition or sickness, take them to a veterinarian to find out what’s going on. It could be something as simple as a vitamin deficiency, food allergy, or changing your puppy’s diet too fast that results in an upset stomach.

Once your furry friend is healthy again, the dirt-eating should stop being a problem.

Reduce your puppy’s access to dirt

If your pup eats dirt every chance they get, it’s a good idea to limit their access to dirt altogether.

Keep indoor potted plants out of reach, and try to find areas outside where there’s no loose soil to munch on.

Also be sure to watch your puppy outside, to stop them from eating dirt.

Your puppy should grow out of this behavior by 6 months of age.

Final thoughts

It’s fairly common for puppies to eat dirt, especially younger puppies that are teething and want to chew on everything in sight.

Watch your dog closely while they’re outside, and distract them with toys or a loud command whenever they start eating dirt.

Give your dog plenty of healthy distractions, and make sure they eat a balanced diet.

If dirt-eating becomes a habit, you may need to see a veterinarian to find out if there are any bigger health issues that need to be addressed.

10 Easy Ways To Keep Bees Out Of The Dog’s Water Bowl

10 Easy Ways To Keep Bees Out Of The Dog’s Water Bowl

If you’re finding a lot of bees buzzing around your dog’s water bowl or floating dead in the water, you’re probably worried that one of these bees might sting your dog or be swallowed when your dog takes a drink.

To keep bees away from the dog’s water bowl, it’s best to keep bees away from the area altogether. You can try using smells that bees don’t like, growing plants that bees stay away from, or giving bees their own water to drink.

Luckily, there are many things you can do to keep your dog’s water bowl bee-free and not harm the bees in the process, such as…

Keep your dog’s bowl very clean

Photo of dog's water bowl with water in it

Bees are attracted to water because they need it to survive. And bees often love water that isn’t pure – such as what’s floating in your dog’s bowl.

Your dog’s mouth carries food particles, slobber, and many other things that your dog sniffs or tastes throughout the day. When your dog drinks water, these particles often move from your dog’s mouth to the bowl.

Bees use their excellent sense of smell to find slobbery water just like this because it’s full of goodies, such as nutrients and minerals from the dog’s food.

Did you know?

A bee’s sense of smell is 50 times better than your dog’s sense of smell

Wash out your dog’s water bowl daily, to get rid of these particles. This is healthier for your dog and helps to keep the bees away.

Click here to find out how to keep your dog’s water bowl clean and free from mold (it’s not as hard as you think it is).

Put vinegar in the water bowl

Add a few drops of white or apple cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water, to keep bees away. Don’t add more than this or your dog will be able to smell the vinegar too and stay away.

Most dogs can tolerate a tiny amount of vinegar diluted in their water, but watch to make sure that your dog will still drink the water.

Move the water bowl

Take a look around your yard and home to see if there’s another place to keep your dog’s water bowl, where bees will stay away from it or can’t get to it.

Choose an outdoor area where you’ve never seen bees before or move the bowl inside.

If there’s no way to keep your dog’s water bowl inside, keep the water bowl close to the entrance where there are fewer insects.

Give bees their own water bowl

Photo of bees drinking water out of dog bowl

Giving bees a water bowl may keep them away from your dog’s water bowl. Make sure to get a colorful bowl for the bees, as they are attracted to bright colors that resemble flowers.

Bees can see yellow, blue, purple and white, so make your bee bowl one of these colors. Bees struggle to see red, so don’t make your bee bowl this color.

The bee bowl needs to be shallow, so the bees don’t drown. And to make it even nicer for the bees, put colorful marbles or little rocks in the dish for the bees to sit on.

Keep the bee dish high up, out of your dog’s reach, so your dog can’t drink the water, annoy the bees, or swallow the marbles (this is very dangerous).

Make bee repellent

It’s very easy to make your own bee repellent, but this repellent is toxic to animals and is not safe for your pets to eat – don’t use it in your dog’s water bowl or anywhere your dog might lick.

The smell of peppermint keeps bees away. Some people add dish soap to their spray to kill bees, but the recipe below is to keep them away rather than kill them.

This recipe is for a popular home-made bee repellent:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with water
  2. Put 30 drops of pure peppermint extract or some peppermint essential oil in the water
  3. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and another pinch of cinnamon
  4. Shake until combined

Spray this bee repellent around the areas where there are bees. It should get rid of wasps as well, though wasps eat many pests and are good to have around.

Here’s a video showing how to make a bee killer and repellent, and how to spray it around the area you want to keep bees away from. If you spray it on bees the Dawn dish soap will kill them:

Again, do not use this spray in your dog’s water! Peppermint is not safe for your pets, but it will help to keep bees away.

Alternatively, fill a spray bottle with water and pop in some crushed garlic. Leave to soak for a few days, then spray it around the area where you find a lot of bees. This spray also isn’t safe for your dog to lick or drink because garlic is toxic to dogs.

Buy bee repellent

You can also try a commercial bee repellent to repel bees from the area.

Here are some bee repellents that are available on Amazon (affiliate links):

Pet-friendly Natural Spray

Non-toxic Herbal Spray

Wood Bee repellent Spray

Grow plants that bees hate

Photo of marigolds

Bees love some flowers a lot, such as lavender, blue borage, sunflowers, and roses. If you have any of these growing in your backyard, move the water bowl far away from these plants.

Just as bees love some flowers, there are plants that bees stay away from. Plant these plants around the area where your dog’s water bowl sits, to keep away bees.

Here’s a list of plants that bees stay away from:

Hang thyme socks in the area

Bees don’t like the smell of thyme oil, which you can use to keep them away from your dog’s bowl.

Soak some old socks in thyme oil. Socks work well because they are so absorbent.

Squeeze out any excess oil and hang the socks on branches that are close to your dog’s water bowl.

Many people say they’ve had very good results with this technique.

Attract birds to your yard

Photo of a red talanger that eats bees

If you have a lot of bees and you want to keep the population under control in a natural way, you can try attracting birds to your backyard.

There are many birds that love eating bees, and if birds are near your dog’s water bowl then bees will probably stay far away from it (or risk being eaten).

To attract more birds to your yard, hang a bird’s nest in a tree and get a bird feeder.

The following birds love eating bees:

  • Blackbirds
  • Catbirds
  • Kingbirds
  • Magpies
  • Mockingbirds
  • Phoebes
  • Purple Martins
  • Scarlet Tanagers
  • Starlings
  • Summer Tanagers
  • Swifts
  • Thrushes
  • Woodpeckers
  • Wrens

Don’t give bees a place to make a hive

You don’t want bees to come into your yard and make a home, so take a walk around the yard and remove anything where bees can build a hive.

If you’ve had a beehive before, clean the area well so that other bees don’t smell the honey from the first hive and come to make a new hive there.

If you suddenly see a lot of bees, it might be time to walk around your house and yard to see if you can find a bee hive.

If you do find one, the kindest thing to do is leave it. The bees will be out within 7 weeks and then you can break down the hive.

Move your dog’s water bowl far away from the hive until the bees are no longer active there.

And there you have it – 10 easy ways to keep bees out of your dog’s water bowl.

What Is A Double Merle Dog And How To Tell If You Have One

What Is A Double Merle Dog And How To Tell If You Have One

I recently saw a merle border collie chasing a ball happily on my local dog beach. I started chatting to the owner and she was telling me about the breed and why she chose to rescue a merle and the risks involved with being a double merle, which her collie wasn’t.

I asked her what a double merle is and she explained that:

A double merle dog has a mother with the merle gene and a father with the merle gene, which gave the puppy a double merle gene. The merle gene gives the dog a mottled coloring, but a double merle lacks color pigment and can be all white or have very little coloring on the coat.

Not all dogs born to mothers and fathers that carry the merle gene will be double merles. But breeding merles together is unpredictable and not a healthy way to produce litters.

To fully understand what a double merle dog is, we need to understand what a merle dog is, so let’s start there…

PRODUCTS MENTIONED IN THIS POST (Amazon affiliate links)

Embark DNA test

What is a merle dog?

Photo of a merle border collie playing fetch with a ball
This border collie is a merle

Genes are made of DNA and pass traits from parent dogs to their puppies. For example, a larger-than-normal mother and father could pass on the ‘big’ gene to their puppies, who have a greater chance of being bigger than normal too when they grow up.

Breeders use physical and personality traits in adult dogs to breed puppies that are more likely to have the traits of their parents. Over time, a dog breed changes the more these traits are bred into the breed.

Merle is a gene in dogs that influences their coloring or pigmentation. Experts think that this gene started in border collies, but it has been bred into many other breeds (there’s a full list later in this post).

If a dog carries the merle gene, the gene often shows up in the patterns on the dog’s coat, but not always so you can’t be sure if a dog carries the merle gene or not.

A merle coat has patches of mottled darker colors splashed across lighter versions of the same color. A merle puppy’s coat can become darker as it matures into an adult.

Many people love this merle coloring and want to have a merle dog, which is why breeders keep on breeding dogs with this gene.

A merle dog often has blue or different-colored eyes that are light in color, such as blue, green, or light brown.

A merle dog is not the same as a double-merle dog, but they might be confused because they can look quite alike.

What is a double merle dog?

Photo of a double merle border collie sitting on the grass
This border collie has the merle or double merle gene

When any dog with the merle gene has puppies, this merle gene can be passed on to all, some, or none of its puppies.

But when a female dog and a male dog that both have the merle gene have puppies together, one-quarter of their puppies (1 out of every 4) will be what is called ‘double merles’.

We can think of it like this:

Merle mother + merle father = puppy + puppy + puppy + double merle puppy

This statistic is fairly consistent and isn’t affected by the dog breed or how much ‘merle’ you can see in the parent dogs.

The problem with breeding two merles is that they give birth to double merles. These double merle puppies may have a tough time in life because of health issues that come with the double merle gene.

It’s very irresponsible to breed a merle with a merle. If your dog is a merle, you can consider sterilizing it or keep it away from other merles.

How to identify a double merle dog

Double merle dogs may have coats that are completely white in color as the double merle gene affects their ability to make pigment, but the dog may have small patches of mottled or merle colors in its coat.

Double merles may have problems with their hearing or sight, and can be completely deaf or blind.

You can do a DNA test to see if the dog has the merle gene or what breeds are in the dog, if the dog is adopted or a rescue. A DNA test can be done through Paw Print Genetics or Embark, to find the merle gene.

See more info on the new Embark coat color testing here.

How do I know if my dog is a double merle?

It can be very difficult to tell if your dog is a merle or a double merle dog.

Many breeds with merle have other genes that cause white in dogs, and this white coloring has nothing to do with the double merle gene.

For example, many Border Collies have a white neck, face, feet and tail tip. And some Collies have fur that’s mostly white but they don’t carry the double merle gene.

Other dogs have so little merle you can hardly tell them apart from non-merles — but they’re still genetically a double merle.

What if your dog is mostly white with merle patches? Is it a double merle? Not necessarily.

If you find even one tiny spot of merle in your dog’s coat, assume that your dog is at least a merle, and perhaps a double merle.

There are only two ways to be sure if your dog is a merle or a double merle:

  1. Get your dog from a responsible breeder who lets your see your puppy’s parents or photos of the parents. If you see any merle in the parent dogs then you know that your dog probably carries the merle gene and perhaps even the double merle gene
  2. Give your dog a DNA test to test for the merle gene

There are a few ways to tell if your dog might be a double merle by looking at the dog. Dogs with the double merle gene may be/have:

  • All white in color, or have patches of merle/mottled coloring on the top half of their body – their head, back, and base of the tail
  • Light-colored paw pads
  • Have light blue, green or brown eyes, perhaps even eyes that are different colors
  • Have noses that are all or mostly pink in color (not to be confused with plastic dish dermatitis from eating out of a plastic bowl)
Closeup photo of a dog's nose with pink discolored areas on it
  • Are deaf or have hearing problems
  • Are blind or have problems with their sight and eyes, such as their eyes not looking straight ahead but rather in opposite directions, one looks left and the other looks right (the opposite of being cross-eyed)

Dog breeds that can be merles

Photo of a merle cocker spaniel
A merle Cocker Spaniel playing fetch with a ball

The following dog breeds can carry the merle gene and have the merle coloring:

  • American Cocker Spaniels
  • American Pit Bull Terriers
  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • Australian Koolies
  • Australian Shepherds
  • Beaucerons
  • Bergers des Pyrenees
  • Border Collies (where the merle gene probably started)
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgis
  • Catahoula Leopard Dogs
  • Chihuahuas
  • Dachshunds
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • French Bulldogs
  • German Collies
  • Great Danes
  • Hungarian Mudi
  • Irish Setters
  • Labradoodles
  • Miniature American Shepherds
  • Miniature Australian Shepherds
  • Norwegian Hounds
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Pomeranians
  • Pyrenean Shepherds
  • Rough Collies
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Weimaraners
  • Welsh Sheepdogs

The above list has been adapted, with thanks, from the US National Library of Medicine, White Kisses Great Dane Rescue, and other sources.

Is double merle bad?

Double merle dogs can have health problems when they are born or as they age, such as blindness, deafness, or get cancer from the sun because their skin is light and sensitive, especially if they enjoy lying in the sun as some dogs do (here’s why).

10% of double merles are deaf in one ear and 15% end up deaf in both ears. Eye color does not seem to affect the chances of the double merle dog being deaf.

Sometimes double merle dogs are born with extremely small eyes that don’t work, which is a condition called microphthalmia. Sometimes these eyes need to be removed.

Photo of a double merle with labels on physical traits to look for
This Australian Sheepdog is a double merle, with many of the physical traits and challenges that come with the double merle gene

Aside from a higher risk of hearing and sight problems, double merles are very healthy animals. Though again, it’s very irresponsible to breed two merles together because of the health issues that might come through in the double merle puppies.

Double merle life expectancy

Double merle dogs generally live as long as merle dogs or other dogs of their breed, with smaller breeds tending to live longer than bigger breeds overall.

In other words, a double merle dog has the same life expectancy as any other dog of their size and breed, even if it wasn’t a double merle.

Double merles are usually healthy and, if well taken care of, very happy dogs to have as part of your family.

Pica: Does your puppy suffer from this eating disorder?

Pica: Does your puppy suffer from this eating disorder?

My brother’s puppy, Paris, used to lick and chew on anything she could reach. She often ate dirt, but she also enjoyed licking painted walls and wooden fences. I recently found out about a condition called pica, and I was wondering how to tell if Paris had it.

It turns out that…

A puppy with pica eats things that aren’t food, such as stones, dirt, paper, plastics, and fabrics. Puppies do lick and chew on things when exploring the world or to soothe their teething gums, but puppies with pica crave and may obsessively look for non-food items to eat. They even swallow these objects because they cannot control their behavior.

Pica is short for ‘pets with ingestion and caching’. Ingestion means these pets eat things and caching means they may hide them for later. Hiding things is a natural instinct for dogs – such as when they bury bones and remember where to find them.

Eating some sand now and then shouldn’t hurt your puppy, but swallowing a rock could end up in a trip to your veterinarian’s emergency room. Pica is not a puppy just being ‘naughty’, it may be a sign of something more serious that needs to be monitored and managed to keep your puppy safe.

In this article, we’ll look at what pica is and what causes it, the signs to look for to tell if your puppy has pica, and the steps you can take to try and keep your pica puppy safe.

What is pica?

Photo of puppy eating a piece of wood
Is this puppy teething or does he have pica?

Pica is an eating disorder in dogs. Dogs with pica eat things that aren’t food over and over again. They don’t just chew on or lick these things, and they don’t eat them once and never again.

Dogs with pica crave these items – they may go out looking for them, and they can’t resist eating them when they find them or just happen to come across them.

Just like you might love ice cream but I prefer chocolate, dogs with pica may prefer one or two non-food items. These are their ‘favorites’ to feast on. Other dogs with pica aren’t fussy and enjoy eating many different non-food things.

Dogs with pica have been known to enjoy eating:

  • Cardboard
  • Carpet
  • Dirt
  • Drywall
  • Firewood
  • Grass
  • Harnesses
  • Linoleum
  • Material/fabric items, such as cushions, bedding, towels, socks, soft toys, rope
  • Metal items, such as paper clips, coins, nails
  • Paint chips
  • Paper
  • Paper towels
  • Pens and pencils
  • Plants
  • Plastic items, such as toys, clothes pegs, plastic dog bowls
  • Rocks
  • Rubber items, such as tires or rubber soles on shoes
  • Shoes (all parts of the shoe)
  • Sticks
  • Tissues
  • Tree bark
  • Wicker furniture
  • Wood pieces, wood chips, and wooden items, such as furniture

Dogs with pica don’t chew on these items – they swallow them like food! You need to take extra care if you have a deep-chested dog that’s prone to bloat.

photo of a great dane showing the chest area

Do puppies get pica?

Most puppies will chew on and may swallow non-food items as they grow up, especially when their adult teeth are coming out when they are between 3 and 6 months old. This is all part of being a puppy and is completely normal.

You can read all about puppy teething (and what happens to those teeth) by clicking HERE.

Puppies chew on things because of their curious nature to discover the world around them, such as what’s yummy and what isn’t. Chewing on hard things also helps their adult teeth to break through their gums, which can be a painful time for your puppy.

Infographic showing the puppy teething timeline

Your reaction to puppy chewing often has an influence on how a dog learns to behave. If you scream, chase and run after your puppy for chewing, your dog will learn to grab and run away with things to chew or to swallow things whole. Or your dog might enjoy all the attention, even if it’s negative attention.

If your puppy is chewing something it shouldn’t eat, try to stay calm and walk away so your puppy follows you. Or trade the item in your puppy’s mouth with a healthy puppy treat.

But what begins as innocent puppy chewing may turn into pica – the obsessive eating of non-food objects. Pica usually starts in teenage dogs between 6 and 18 months of age, or even when the dog is an ‘adult’. Different dog breeds take longer to reach adulthood than others, with most smaller dogs reaching their maturity at 12 months and larger breeds taking 24 months to officially be an adult.

Is pica dangerous?

Pica isn’t dangerous, unless your puppy eats something that is poisonous to dogs or swallows something that gets stuck in the digestive system. If your puppy obsessively eats dirt or grass and your dog isn’t on any preventive medication, then your puppy could eat a worm or go near fleas, and get sick from that.

Pica can be an expensive condition to deal with. Many dog owners have spent a lot of money on surgeries to remove objects from their dog’s intestines.

What causes pica?

Most experts think that pica is an eating disorder based on compulsive behavior. Nobody really knows the true cause of pica, and there might be many things that can make a dog start eating strange things.

A dog may get pica because it feels separation anxiety, is bored, is lonely, has a medical condition, has been abused in the past, or is stressed out. Your puppy might also be sleep deprived (you’ll be surprised at how much sleep a puppy really needs!), exercise deprived, or possessive because of competition with other animals in the household.

Pica may also be a sign that your puppy is lacking a certain vitamin or mineral, so your puppy eats things to try to get this vitamin or mineral because it isn’t getting what it needs from its food. Remember that when changing your puppy’s food, you’ll need to do it slowly over a week or two (here’s exactly how and when to do it) so your puppy doesn’t get sick:

1-week plan to switch puppy to adult food - infographic chart

If your puppy’s eating habits have been unusual lately, it’s a good idea to speak to your veterinarian about it. A trained professional should have experience with pica and can examine your puppy to see if there is any underlying medical condition that needs treatment.

Do puppies outgrow pica?

Puppies that chew a lot and sometimes swallow things should calm down when their adult teeth come out, at around 6 or 7 months of age. Biting and eating strange things is pretty normal behavior for a puppy (much to the dismay of first-time puppy owners).

But dogs that develop pica as teenagers or adults often have pica for life, especially if the cause is behavioral and not from a medical condition that can be treated.

How to help a puppy with pica

Photo of a labrador puppy eating a wooden cane

If your puppy has pica, you need to monitor and manage your dog to stop it from swallowing objects.

Here are some things you can try to stop your puppy from eating things or swallowing things on the ground:

Get help from professionals

  • If your dog is swallowing non-food items, take it to the veterinarian for advice and to make sure there’s no medical reason for this type of behavior.
  • Find a qualified animal behaviorist on the DACVB site to help you with your dog.

What to do at home

  • Remove your puppy’s access to the items that it likes to swallow. Don’t leave these things lying around the house or within reach.
  • Feed your dog nutritious, balanced dog food (this is the one my veterinarian recommends) and make sure your dog has access to a lot of cool water to drink.
  • Train your dog to listen to the commands ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’. If your dog does get a non-food item in its mouth, you’ll have a better chance of getting it out of its mouth before the swallowing happens.
  • Make sure your dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day.
  • Give your dog toys to play with, and play games that your dog enjoys, such as these breeds that love playing fetch.
  • If you have more than one dog, make sure each dog gets enough attention and that one isn’t fighting for food or toys because the other is a bully and hogging everything.
  • Get your dog into a routine. Dogs like a calm environment and a routine, so they always know what’s happening next.
  • If your dog is eating something outside, such as your plants, spray them with water mixed with cayenne pepper or vinegar.
  • Make sure your puppy is getting enough rest and sleep.

What to do on walks

  • Put a basket muzzle, such as this one from Amazon, on your dog if your dog eats things when out on walks.
  • Attach your puppy’s favorite toy to a flirt pole and take this out on walks with you. Let your puppy follow the toy and play with it while walking, so your pup isn’t finding things on the ground and swallowing them.
  • Use a short leash on walks so you have more control over your puppy and what it does.
How To Calm A Dog Down During A Storm: What You Need To Know & Do

How To Calm A Dog Down During A Storm: What You Need To Know & Do

If your dog gets scared or anxious every time lightning strikes in the sky, your dog may have a fear of storms and loud noises. In fact, some dogs start getting anxious before a storm hits because they know it’s coming – they can feel the static electricity in the air, the changes in air pressure, and might even be able to hear thunder far away that you can’t hear yet.

Each dog reacts differently when they’re scared, but knowing why your dog is scared of storms, what signs to look for to tell if your dog is fearful, and then taking steps to help calm your dog during a storm will go a long way in making your dog’s life easier and happier.

Let’s start by understanding why dogs are scared of storms.

Why are dogs scared of thunder and lightning?

Photo of dog starting out window when it's raining

There are several reasons why a dog might be scared of a thunder storm:

They learned to be scared

A dog takes many signals from its owner on how to interpret the world. If a storm starts and you speak differently, move around much quicker than usual, lose your temper, panic, or look and act scared, then your dog will learn that storms are scary things.

And if your dog gets scared and you console it because the storm is so scary and terrible, then you are reinforcing the perception and communicating to your dog that fear is the correct response to a storm.

A dog that’s stressed or anxious, may develop pica, a lifelong eating disorder.

They don’t know what thunder and lightning are

Dogs use their senses to make sense of the world and to tell when something might be dangerous. This is part of a dog’s natural instinct to survive in the wild.

When loud thunder strikes, it sounds like trouble and time to take cover. There may also be bright flashes of lightning in the sky, heavy rain, hail, or howling winds.

In the wild, dogs run to their den and huddle together for protection during a storm. Your dog still has its natural instinct to stay away from the danger it hears and find somewhere safe to hide.

They are scared of noises

Some dogs are more sensitive to noise than others. A dog might be scared of a vacuum cleaner, trucks, fireworks, alarms, or thunder. Or perhaps the dog is scared of most of these things.

Once a dog is fearful of a noise or loud noises in general, it’s very unlikely that it will ever get over its noise phobia.

They had a bad experience in the past

If you have a rescue dog or your dog has been left alone during a storm in the past, it may have had a bad experience and will associate this unhappy experience with storms forever.

Every time a storm starts, the dog will remember this and get scared and anxious all over again.

They don’t like the static electricity in the air

Have you ever touched a door handle only to get a small shock on your finger? I tend to get a fright when this happens.

A dog’s coat can pick up static in the air, especially if the dog has a double coat. This static builds up in the dog’s fur, and when the dog touches a metal object with its nose, it gets a shock.

They don’t understand the change in their routine

When it starts raining hard and there’s hail, wind, or lightning, things tend to change around the house: You are running in and out of the house with umbrellas and raincoats, you might have to skip the daily dog walk, or all the doors and windows stay shut much longer than usual.

A dog may notice all these sudden changes and start feeling stressed or anxious that things are ‘different’. Dogs don’t understand different and changing routines can make a nervous dog very anxious.

How to calm down a dog during a storm

There are many things that you can try and do to calm down a dog during a storm, such as:

Exercise your dog

Photo of a woman walking her dog

It’s a good idea to know when a storm is approaching. If you want alerts for severe weather, download this Storm Shield app to your phone.

When a storm has been predicted, take your dog for a long walk, to the beach, or to the dog park for a good run round before it starts. Let your dog have fun and get some energy out.

Get your dog into a calm and happy state so that it is in a better position emotionally to handle the storm when it starts.

Act normal

Because a dog looks for clues from you on how to approach things, it’s important for you to show your dog that everything is fine during a storm.

When a storm starts, stay calm, move at the same pace, and don’t act any differently. Talk in a cheerful tone and keep smiling. Try to keep your regular routine as much as possible.

If you show your dog that storms aren’t something to fear, your dog your dog will probably realize that a storm is no big deal and life carries on.

Don’t make a big fuss about the storm or your dog, don’t show your own fear of storms, and don’t give your dog any reason to think that what is happening is dangerous.

This needs to be done with every storm, from the time you get your dog.

Stay with your dog

If possible, be home with your dog during storms or try to get someone to pop in to stay with your dog. Storms can be a scary time for any dog to be on its own, especially one that’s already nervous or scared of storms.

Whoever stays with the dog should act cheerful and stay very calm while they are with the dog.

Provide a safe hiding place

Let your dog find a ‘safe’ place to hide. This could be under a bed, in a corner, or in a quiet room in the house.

If your dog is happy in its crate during a storm, then this is a perfectly good hiding spot.

Try to make the room where the crate is as dark and quiet as possible.

Put your dog’s favorite toys or a piece of your clothing in the crate for comfort, and check on your dog every now and then to make sure all is well.

Try a pressure wrap

When we are upset or sad, we hug each other. But why do hugs make us feel better?

Because the gentle pressure around our body releases feel-good hormones that relax us and make us feel happier.

Hugs work the same way for dogs, but we can’t hug a dog through an entire storm and we don’t want to reinforce the fear that storms are scary.

A pressure wrap is a jacket that sits around a dog’s chest area.

Drawing of a dog and arrow pointing to the dog's chest area

These jackets sit snug, to create the feeling of a ‘hug’. This hug calms a dog down and helps to regulate the breathing. These wraps can also help to reduce or prevent static in your dog’s fur.

Don’t put the pressure wrap on for the first time when a storm hits and your dog is nervous. Get your dog used to the wrap when there’s no storm, and make it a fun experience to wear the wrap. When a storm starts, you can get out the wrap and your dog will be happy to put it on and wear it.

Here are two brands of pressure wraps that are popular on Amazon:


American Kennel Club Anti Anxiety Coat

If you don’t have a pressure wrap, you can try putting on your dog’s harness for the full duration of the storm – some owners report that this helps to calm down their dog.

Play white noise

Some experts say that playing loud noise in the house will distract your dog from the storm outside. Others say that too many sounds at once can make a dog feel stressed.

If your dog is having a difficult time during a storm, try some white noise in the background to see if this helps. If it doesn’t, switch it off.

It’s better to use sounds that your dog is already familiar with, such as its favorite fan that it uses to keep cool in summer, the TV, or the radio.

If you want to play music, play music that has been made to calm down dogs, such as this:

Use calming products for dogs

There are many products on the market that are designed to calm a dog down during a storm. Many of these products contain pheromones or herbs and herbal oils that have been shown to calm down anxious dogs.

Pheremones are chemicals that dogs release to communicate with each other. Nursing mothers release pheromones to calm their pups, and these pheromones have the same calming effect on adult dogs.

Here are some of the calming products that are available on Amazon:

Dog calming diffuser – a pheromone solution that you simply plug into the wall

Dog calming spray – aromatherapy-based spray for the home or body

Calming treats – natural ingredients that relive anxiety

Calming collar – a pheromone collar that your dog wears around the neck

Remove static

One of the reasons why dogs may get nervous during a storm is because of the static electricity. This static electricity builds up in the dog’s coat and can give the dog shocks when its nose touches metal objects.

If you think this is a problem or see your dog get a fright when it touches an object, you can help to remove the static by taking an anti-static sheet and using it to rub down our dog.

You could also let your dog sleep in the bathroom or bathtub, without any blankets or material, to get away from the static.

Distract your dog with treats

The aim of the game is to give your dog something fun during a storm so your dog associates storms with fun time.

Keep some of your dog’s favorite treats ready for a storm. When the storm hits give it to your dog as a fun distraction. Make sure that the treat will take a long time to chew and finish, so it will keep your dog busy for a while.

If your dog doesn’t want a treat, try playing his/her favorite games.

Close the curtains

If the skies are dark and the flashes of lightning are scaring your dog, close the curtains or blinds. Keep them closed until the usual time when you would open them so things feel like they are going back to the normal routine.

Massage or brush your dog

Massage is a wonderful way to calm down a dog. Be sure to use slow movements and rub the areas that your dog likes rubbed, such as the ears and shoulders. Avoid areas where your dog doesn’t like being touched, such as the paws, face, and tail.

Here’s a video with Linda Tellington Jones, who created TTouch. TTouch is a massage method that calms dogs down, helps them focus, and helps with behavioral issues such as a fear of storms.

Feed calming foods

If you have a nervous dog, you can try feeding foods that are known to have a calming effect on dogs, such as turkey, eggs, grass-fed beef liver, rice (here’s how to make rice for dogs and how much to feed), sweet potatoes, fish, and blueberries.

If it’s difficult or too expensive to make your own dog food, try this calming dog food that is approved by veterinarians.

Just note that it’s not a good idea to change your dog’s diet suddenly as your dog could get diarrhea and an upset stomach.

Use the following 7-day plan to move your dog from its regular food to calming dog food:

infographic of 1-week pan to change adult dog food

If all else fails

If none of these methods work and your dog is very distressed every time there is a storm, it’s time to speak to your veterinarian for advice.

Before doing this, keep a storm journal and take notes on how your dog acts when there is a storm so you can give your veterinarian an accurate rundown on your dog’s behavior.

How to tell if your dog is anxious during a storm

Dogs show stress and anxiety in different ways, which come out in their body language as coping mechanisms. Your dog might show two or three signs of anxiety when a storm hits, while other dogs may show several signs.

One sign is simply not enough to tell if your dog is truly stressed.

For example, a dog that is shaking might simply be cold and need a blanket. But a dog that’s shaking, hiding in a corner, and has its tail between its legs is showing multiple signs of anxiety and fear.

If you want to know if your dog needs help to calm down during a storm, look for the following signs of stress:

  • Body shaking
  • Stiff body posture
  • Keeping the body close to the ground
  • Tail tucked in between the legs
  • Refusing to move
  • Following you closely
  • Hiding
  • Cowering in a corner
  • Pacing up and down
  • Panting
  • Yawning
  • Lips pressed together in a tight mouth
  • Licking the lips
  • Drooling
  • Self-harm, such as biting or licking an area of the body
  • Wide eyed, perhaps even showing the whites of the eyes
  • Avoids eye contact with you
  • Ears pinned back
  • Nuzzling or rubbing you with the nose
  • Pawing or lifting one paw to give to you
  • Strange behaviors, like urinating or destroying things
  • Barking 
  • Howling
  • Running away
  • Trying to escape the yard
  • Digging

Dogs have many ways of asking for help as they try to communicate with us. Here’s a list of how dogs ask for help and what they’re probably asking for.

Why dogs pant during a storm

Photo of a dog panting

Panting during a storm is a normal reaction and shows that the dog is anxious. When a dog gets anxious its heartrate goes up. The heart starts pumping faster and pushes blood through the body quicker than normal. Because the blood is pumping faster, the dog needs to breathe heavier than usual to get more oxygen for all the blood that’s flowing.

Dog breeds that are scared of loud noises

Some dog breeds are more prone to be scared of storms and loud noises. Dogs that are scared of loud noises in general are called ‘noise sensitive’.

The following breeds are more likely to be scared of storms and loud noises:

  • Beagles
  • Cairn Terriers
  • Collies
  • German shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Norwegian Buhunds
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgis
  • Rough Collies

A study was done in Norway in which researchers tested the noise sensitivity of dogs. It was found that nearly one-quarter of dogs (23%) are sensitive to loud noises like storms, fireworks, and heavy traffic.

Older dogs and female dogs were also found to be more likely to be noise sensitive, needing a long time to calm down after being scared by such a noise.