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He Eats EVERY Thing!

Sticks and pine cones and bark ...

The good news is, YOUR PUPPY IS NORMAL!


If he's a puppy, he's teething and learning about his world.  Discovery!  Everything is a potential toy!

If he's a teenager, he's probably bored.  He probably needs more exercise, appropriate chews, and outlets for play. 


Mother nature has provided puppies with a variety of tooth brushes, floss, pacifiers and all-natural, organic "toys" that they are naturally drawn to.  If they are just dragging them around and what they are gnawing on is not toxic, it's messy but likely not dangerous.  Dismantling a pine cone can be pretty satisfying work.  Dragging a stick bigger than yourself around the yard can be good exercise and feel good on those adolescent jaws.


The problem is if they swallow them or if what they are chewing is toxic. 

If your puppy is swallowing rocks and sharp wood splinters, that's a problem.  If there's very little shrapnel left behind and you are seeing chunks of foreign matter in their poop, that's reason for concern.  Vomiting, lethargy, distended abdomen, discomfort?  Get them to the vet, NOW.  Pica is when dogs compulsively eat non-food items, often causing life-threatening intestinal blockages.  Learn more here.

Is your dog a Garbage Goat?

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Don't create a compulsive gobbler.

If every time he finds something awesome, you snatch it away, he will start avoiding you when he finds something.  If you go down his throat to steal it from him, he will gulp it faster and maybe even bite you in order to keep it.  

Resource guarding can be a learned behavior
Teach a willing trade!

Dogs are scavengers.  Their ancestors survived on garbage and road kill and the feces of other animals.  Even poop is food!  They will eat things from the compost bin and garbage and dig up things the squirrels left behind.  They may chew hoses and garden gloves, too. 

Dogs are omnivores - they appreciate the veggies from your garden as much as you do.  They eat grass because it tastes good and maybe because it fills a hole in their dietary needs.  Many dogs love to graze.  Especially the sweet young grass that shows up along your fence line in the spring.  Sometimes they barf it up later.  Sometimes it comes out the way it went in. 

Chemicals, weed killers?

Know what you are putting on the ground where your puppy plays.  Read the packaging and do your homework.  Like toddlers, puppies spend a lot of time on the ground, putting things in their mouths.  They come in contact with things that not only make them sick today, they could cause cancer in the future.

Avoid toxins on your lawn
Pull grass and weeds rather than poisoning them - but don't let your puppy see you do it.  Dogs are great at mimicry and will copy what you do.  They don't know weeds from rose bushes.  Don't let them see you dig unless it's in their own personal digging pit or you may see more digging later!

Know what's in your garden. 

The bark from the garden store may have artificial coloring.  Avoid coffee mulch and coconut husk mulch, especially if your puppy is part goat.   There are other toxins in your yard.  After a rain, toadstools.  Many common plants are toxic: the leaves from your tomato plants, lilies, bulbs.  Grapes.  The pits from stone fruit.  Click the links below to find out what's safe and what isn't:

Animal Poison Control Center

Plants that are poisonous to dogs


Your adult dog may not pay any attention to toad stools in the lawn.  But puppies are on a constant state of "Hey, that wasn't there yesterday!   And "I wonder what that tastes like?"

It's one more reason to ALWAYS go out with your puppy during house training - and frequently even when he is older: 

  1. So you know that he went potty - both #1 and #2, and so you know they didn't get distracted and not go at all!

  2. So you can name it as they search for a spot - "Hurry, go potty!"

  3. So you can praise as it happens.

  4. So you can scan the yard for dangerous things.

I once found a bagel in my yard, dropped by a crow.  Walnut shells left by squirrels.  Pink fiberglass insulation dropped by nesting birds.  Watch for toad stools that pop up after a rain.

It's also a good time to check the gates and make sure there are no holes under fences or loose boards.   

Ellie toadstools.jpg


Management is key.

Just like you don't leave a human toddler alone, you must constantly manage the environment for your puppy, too.  You install child safety locks and outlet covers to keep them safe, you will need to do the same for your puppy.  Baby gates are for puppies, too.  Puppy proof the yard to keep him out of the garden and away from your prize rose bushes.  He chewed up your garden gloves?  Put your things away!



Yelling later when you come home to find all your potted plants upside down does not teach him anything but the fact that sometimes you are scary and can't be trusted. Tomorrow, the warm soil will still smell inviting and the plants will still be great fun to shake and drag around the yard and your tantrum after-the-fact will still have no connection to what happened hours before.


Give him something better to do:

Teach him to bring the things he finds to you:

Management & Prevention


  • Does he like sticks?  Try a bully stick!

  • Hard things?  Moose antlers are easy on teeth, no smell, no mess. 

  • Rocks?  Himilayan Yak chews and Water Buffalo horns have weight and hardness.

  • Chunks of wood?  How about a Gorilla Chew - it's java wood.  You can see how it's gradually worn down. And it's like woodsy potpourri when they gnaw on it.

gorilla chew.jpg
java wood chew.jpg

Watch!  SUPERVISE!  What is he about to get into now?
Teaching your puppy to choose better options takes time and supervision.  Is he approaching something that isn't a good choice?  Redirect to what you want him to choose instead.  Make it FUN to make good choices.

Enrich the environment!  Make better choices plentiful and rotate them so they are always new.  Put things out of reach that you want left alone.  Leave things you DO want him to interact with readily available. 


"But he has all kinds of things, and he never plays with them!"  Show him how much fun they are, so he knows they are awesome.  Maybe you just haven't found what he likes, yet.  Choose appropriate items that are similar in weight and texture to the things he is drawn to that you want him to leave alone.  Provide a variety of brain toys, pacifier toys.  Rotate them to keep them novel.  Hide them and play hide and go seek.  Stuff Kongs and hide them around the yard like an Easter egg hunt.  Buy frozen marrow bones and other safe chews!  A digging pit and a wading pool. 


Don't leave him in situations where the environment can reward unwanted behavior.  Everything he practices becomes stronger.  He will do what dogs do unless you are there to teach him what you want him to know and do instead.  You must provide better options.  Prevention is key.  Make it physically impossible to rehearse behavior you aren't there to redirect.  Install pretty fencing around the Koi pond, or your water-loving puppy is going to go swimming every time you leave him alone.


It may seem much more kind to leave your dog outside to enjoy the yard while you are gone to work all day.  But dog thieves and teasing kids and people who toss poisoned food over the fence are a reality in today's world.  If your dog is barking and you aren't home to interrupt and redirect it, he could be annoying your neighbors.  And now you have another problem.  Your dog is safer inside, and so is your yard, when you aren't home to supervise.

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This is a must-have book for dog owners who love their gardens as much as they love their dogs!

This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -ditr_training @ -

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