Dog Grass-grazing

By Kim Boatman

Dog Grass-grazing

Some dogs see a verdant lawn as an invitation to romp. Others view that swath of grass as a welcome snack. If you count your pup among the dogs that occasionally graze on grass, you’re far from alone. Veterinarians receive many questions about grass grazing, and they don’t always have direct answers for their clients, says Laird Goodman, DVM, a member of the board of directors of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association.

“Nobody really knows why dogs do it,” says Dr. Goodman. “The short answer is they do it because they like to eat grass. I sometimes say some dogs want to have salad before they have their meal.”

Why Dogs Eat Grass Several possibilities may explain your dog’s occasional inclination to munch on grass. Dr. Goodman and Dr. Steven Steep, past president of the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association, explain the theories.

  • Vomit stimulation It’s an unpleasant reality associated with grazing, but many dogs bring up their food after eating grass. However, it’s unclear whether dogs eat grass to stimulate this action and clear their throat or stomach of unwanted matter. “Most clients think that their pets eat grass because they need to vomit,” says Dr. Steep. “This isn’t necessarily so. Many seemingly healthy dogs eat grass and may or may not vomit. There are also many dogs that have gastrointestinal upset but do not show any interest in grass.”
  • Nutritional deficiency Some veterinarians suspect that dogs graze because they’re missing something in their diet, says Dr. Steep. However, science doesn’t yet provide any definitive answers about what those deficiencies may be.
  • Canines’ animal nature Wolves and coyotes often eat the grain- and green-filled entrails of their prey first, says Dr. Goodman. “That’s the salad before the meal part,” he jokes. One of Dr. Steep’s veterinary school professors suggested that eating grass may even be a throwback behavior that provides some evolutionary advantage to dogs.
  • Taste The answer may be as simple as your dog’s enjoyment of the tender green stuff.

Helping Your Canine Grass Grazer Even though eating grass falls within the realm of normal behavior for dogs, handle your pooch’s grazing with caution, say the veterinarians. They advise you to take these three steps:

  • Define the location your dog grazes Lawns are often treated with toxic fertilizers or pesticides, which could harm your dog -- particularly during the warmer months. Consider providing an alternative like the kitty greens that cat owners grow, in a small pot indoors. Fresh, moist shoots, which may be more appealing to your dog, are less likely to irritate its digestive system than are tough, sharp grass blades.
  • Limit the amount of grazing The messy tummy-upset sometimes associated with grass grazing may cause inflammation of your dog’s esophagus. “Dogs are the consummate vomiters, but it is not always beneficial,” says Dr. Steep. Because dogs don’t digest grass well, provide it only as a small, rare treat.
  • Offer pet food containing greens Feeding your dog a commercial food that contains greens, such as spinach, is a safe alternative, says Dr. Goodman. If your dog’s grass grazing is due to nutritional reasons, the food should satisfy that need.

If you take these steps, there’s no reason to worry about your dog’s behavior. “It has been my observation that some dogs just like to eat grass. They may have a preference for certain types of grass,” says Dr. Steep. “I had a wonderful dog named Moose who would wander the backyard until he found just the right type of grass -- long, slender strands -- and he would graze on those tender shoots.”

Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California. She is also the managing editor of ExceptionalCanine.com. Boatman's work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals, and a frequent contributor to The Dog Daily


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Posted on March 26, 2010

CHRISTINA says: I LOVE DOGS

Posted on February 8, 2011

jp says: "make sure you WIN if you play tug-o-war (alpha dog wins, and alpha makes the rules. If she wins, then she's alpha and she gets to decide if it's okay to attack shoes or not" Oh good lord, please educate yourself about canine behavior before spewing this kind of nonsense. The "dominance" theory is outdated and incorrect. See, for example, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201007/canine-dominance-is-the-concept-the-alpha-dog-valid where it states "The reason that all of this is important is that it tells us, (regardless of concerns about the amount of force used in training) that Cesar Millan's technique, and that of many other trainers who use a military-like concept of canine social hierarchy as the basis of dog training and problem solving, is based on a false premise. It is a holdover from German military service dog training at the turn of the last century, and generalization from outdated wolf research based on artificial packs of captive wolves." You don't have to "win". You have to kindly TEACH and reward good behavior -- not just punish bad behavior. Not wasting my time at this site again...

Posted on February 8, 2011

jp says: "make sure you WIN if you play tug-o-war (alpha dog wins, and alpha makes the rules. If she wins, then she's alpha and she gets to decide if it's okay to attack shoes or not" Oh good lord, please educate yourself about canine behavior before spewing this kind of nonsense. The "dominance" theory is outdated and incorrect. See, for example, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201007/canine-dominance-is-the-concept-the-alpha-dog-valid where it states "The reason that all of this is important is that it tells us, (regardless of concerns about the amount of force used in training) that Cesar Millan's technique, and that of many other trainers who use a military-like concept of canine social hierarchy as the basis of dog training and problem solving, is based on a false premise. It is a holdover from German military service dog training at the turn of the last century, and generalization from outdated wolf research based on artificial packs of captive wolves." You don't have to "win". You have to kindly TEACH and reward good behavior -- not just punish bad behavior. Not wasting my time at this site again...

Posted on January 6, 2010

Kristi says: The chihuahua rolls in feces because it's the canine version of expensive cologne. Dogs roll in poop to disguise their own scent. First, because prey animals associate "dog" with "attack" but "poop" with "I went to the bathroom". Even though most chis never hunt anything bigger than a grasshopper, they still have hunting instincts that say not to spook the prey with your smell. Secondly, dogs roll in poop to cover a smell they have picked up they don't like. For example, many shampoos smell great to humans but stink like the dickens to a dog (imagine your dog sniffing a flower and wondering why on Earth humans want to smell like the genitals of a plant!). So the poop may actually be an attempt to cover the shampoo you use. To stop it, just teach your dog that poop is NOT FUN ANY MORE. Pick something your dog ABSOLUTELY HATES but that is actually pretty harmless. For example, I have a papillon who hates to be blown on. I can use a can of compressed air (the kind you use to clean electronics) and shoot it at his body (never in the face, as this could cause eye damage). Other dogs hate being squirted with water. Some just don't like to hear their humans tell them "No!" in an angry voice (my pap also doesn't like this one - most toy breeds are sensitive to their humans and don't want you to be angry with them). Every time you see your dog investigating the poop (even sniffing or looking at it is off limits), do whatever it is that your dog hates. Pretty soon "checking out the poo" becomes paired with something unpleasant, and your dog won't even stop to look it, much less roll in it. Jack Russell terriers are known for being stubborn. However, they can be trained like any dog. First, teach her a basic command like "sit". Now, put the leash on her and just sit in a chair (no walking yet). If she bites your feet, say, "No!" in a firm voice, or use the squirt bottle or compressed air, and when she pauses to look at you, ask her to sit. Praise the sitting when she does it. Keep this up for several days/weeks until she doesn't attack your feet as you sit in the chair. Now try walking around the house (not outside yet, too distracting). Every time she goes to bite your shoes (they're moving now, so they're more interesting), say "No!" and then ask for a sit. Praise the sit. Then start walking again. If she doesn't go for your shoes and follows you politely, even for just a couple steps, PRAISE HER LIKE SHE JUST LEARNED A FOREIGN LANGUAGE. Petting, treats, toys, happy silly dances (dogs love to watch humans be silly). Keep walking and praising occasionally. You want to increase the duration it takes to get praise until you can walk all around the house with her on a leash. If she attacks your feet at any time, stop, tell her "No!" and ask for a sit. She'll learn that attacking your feet upsets you, and the fun of walking around stops (sitting is pretty boring). Then try going outside. Her excitement will go up again, so expect your shoes to be attacked (if she doesn't, GOOD DOG). Keep doing the walk, scold feet attack/praise sit, resume walk, praise good walk until you can get around the yard, and then around the block. It could also be a result of pent up energy (JRTs have energy levels through the roof). Make sure to play with her plenty. Fetch is a good game, but make sure you WIN if you play tug-o-war (alpha dog wins, and alpha makes the rules. If she wins, then she's alpha and she gets to decide if it's okay to attack shoes or not). Also give her chew toys, as she needs a place to direct her chewing and biting besides your feet. Hard rubber Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter can amuse a dog for hours, and they also make chewing sticks for teething puppies. The key is consistency. Rolling in poop and attacking feet are NEVER allowed if they're a problem (no games with shoe laces - buy a special thick dog rope to play with so it's obvious it's not okay to play with YOUR shoes, but HER toy is fine). I let my dogs mouth my hands when we play because they know to be very gentle and never bite down; a dog who has a problem with biting hard shouldn't be allowed to mouth at all. The key is knowing what poses a problem for your dog and annoys you and setting limits around that.

Posted on September 18, 2009

kat pondillo says: My Jack Russell puppy refuses to walk but rather chases my feet and biting my shoes. She makes it impossable to walk her. HELP!

Posted on September 8, 2009

cindy says: My 2 Chiuauas insist on rolling around in other animals feces and it is as you can imagine is a very discusting habit First off why do they do it and second what can i do to make them stop. I also fear for their health as you never know what animal may have what anymore.

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