German Shepherds can be very unusual sometimes and dirt eating is one of those unusual things that they sometimes do. It can be very concerning for you when you see your German Shepherd eating dirt. Hopefully, this post will help you to figure out why your German Shepherd is doing it and what to do about it.
So, why is your German Shepherd eating dirt? Possible reasons include boredom, trying to satisfy nutritional deficiencies, to soothe an upset stomach, it smells food there, it likes the taste, an inherited trait or stress. If you’re German Shepherd has been doing it regularly over a prolonged period then take it to the vet to make sure nothing is wrong.
And, how should you stop your German Shepherd eating dirt? The best way to get your German Shepherd to stop eating dirt will depend on the reason that it is doing it. Possible solutions would be to make sure your German Shepherd gets lots of exercise, has a good diet, has other things to chew, is trained to come to you when you call it, and you can reduce the access that it has to dirt.
It’s actually not that uncommon for German Shepherds to eat dirt but it is important that you take measures to prevent it and to make sure that it doesn’t lead to your German Shepherd getting sick.
Why Your German Shepherd Eats Dirt
There are a number of possible reasons that your German Shepherd might be eating dirt that I will mention below. It’s important to take the time to consider why your German Shepherd is eating dirt because it will make it easier for you to get it to stop.
German Shepherds are a breed that were bred to be extremely active where they would work with their owners doing intensive tasks for hours on a daily basis.
This means that they need a lot of exercise to be properly stimulated. If they do not get a lot of exercise then they will look to make their own entertainment which could include tasting dirt.
If your German Shepherd isn’t currently getting a lot of exercise then one of the first things for you to do would be to make sure that it does daily.
It’s an inherited trait
It’s also thought that dogs would eat grass and dirt before they were domesticated by humans. They would do it since they wouldn’t have been able to get food as easily so they would try to get some more nutrients from grass and dirt. It could be that this is a trait that dogs still have today which is why they occasionally choose to eat dirt. This could be why wild dogs are often seen eating grass and dirt.
The cause could be that your German Shepherd is looking to get minerals and vitamins that it isn’t getting in its diet. If you’re unsure that your German Shepherd is getting the nutrients that it needs then you can read on nutritional guidelines at petswebmd here. The good news is that this is not usually the case but you should still take a moment to make sure that you’re feeding it the right things.
One proposed reason that German Shepherds eat dirt is that they do it to ease an upset stomach. One way this happens is where the dirt can cause it to be sick causing its stomach to feel better. If you think that sickness could be the reason then the dirt eating will likely have come on suddenly and it should stop after a few days. If you’re concerned that illness could be the cause then take it to a vet to make sure that nothing is seriously wrong.
It likes the taste
It could simply be because it likes the taste of the dirt. To reduce this from happening you can make sure that your German Shepherd is getting a lot of exercise and you can give it things to divert its attention away from dirt such as toys to chew on.
It smells food
Another cause that your German Shepherd might be eating dirt is that it smells food there. This could be the case when the dirt is where there has been food such as below a barbeque or where some leftovers might have been thrown.
Another cause could be that it’s a coping mechanism to put up with stress. If your German Shepherd recently had something happen that could be causing it to be stressed such as a change of environment, a change of owner or if one of your other dogs died then this could be the cause.
How to reduce how much dirt your German Sheperd eats
There are a number of ways that you can reduce how much your German Shepherd eats dirt and the best way to do it will depend on the cause of its dirt eating.
German Shepherds were bred to work with humans by doing intensive tasks for hours on a daily basis. With that being the case, they need a lot of exercise to be properly stimulated. If they don’t get enough exercise then you should make sure that it does.
By allowing it to get enough exercise you’ll be able to reduce its need to do things such as eating dirt and you’ll also be able to prevent other bad things such as stress, destruction, hyperactivity, illness and you’ll be able to get it to be more responsive to your command.
There are a number of ways that you can give your German Shepherd exercise and I will mention a number of them below.
- Walk it
Walking your German Shepherd is a good way to give it exercise. However, you might find that it’s not enough to simply walk yours for an hour so you’ll need to find ways to wear it out even more.
Some ways to do so would be to walk faster, walk further, walk in a hilly area or to make it wear a dog weight vest that doesn’t weigh more than 10% of its body weight.
- Play fetch with it
Playing fetch with your German Shepherd is a very efficient way to give it a lot of exercise. It wears it out quickly because it requires that your dog do a lot of sprinting without much rest. It can be difficult to teach your German Shepherd to play fetch but you can learn how to here.
- Teach it to swim
Teaching your German Shepherd to swim would be another good way to get it to do exercise. When your German Shepherd swims it will have to move its legs around a lot in order to stay afloat which will wear it out quickly. It’s also good for the summer months since it will help it to stay cool.
- Have a dog walker do it for you
When you don’t have the time to do it yourself you get get a dog walker to do it for you. There are apps that you can download now that let you book a local dog walker directly through the app.
Give it a good diet
Giving your German Shepherd a good diet could help to reduce its dirt eating. It’s thought that dogs will eat dirt sometimes when they aren’t getting enough nutrients so getting a good diet is something that should help to prevent dirt eating. You can read on nutritional guidelines at petswebmd here.
Give it other things to chew on
Another option you have is to distract your German Shepherd from eating dirt. You can do this by giving it other things that will keep it occupied such as by giving it lots of toys to play with and by giving it lots of toys that it can chew on instead. This is especially helpful when it’s in the teething phase where it will naturally want to chew a lot of things.
Train it to come to you
You can also train your German Shepherd to come to you when you call it. That way when you see your German Shepherd eating dirt or when it is about to eat dirt you can call it to come to you which will help you to reduce the amount of dirt that it is able to eat.
To do this do as follows:
- Get some treats that it likes and a long lead if you have one
- Tell it to sit then reward it with a treat. If you haven’t taught your German Shepherd to sit yet then you’ll want to do that first.
- Then you say “Stay” then reward it if it pays attention to you for one second.
- You then repeat the process each time getting it to keep its attention a little longer.
- Then you tell it to stay then walk a few steps back then if it stays you walk back and reward it.
- Continue to do that each time walking back a bit further and, when it gets good, wait for a few seconds before walking back to it.
- Now you’ll say stay go back a few steps and then say “come” and reward it for coming to you
- Repeat doing that until you’re able to go far away
- Make sure to do this frequently so that your German Shepherd stays responsive to your command
You can watch the video below to see how it’s done
Take it to a vet
If your German Shepherd has been regularly eating dirt and it is something that is concerning you then it could be that your German Shepherd has a chronic issue at play. The best option for you would be to take it to the vet to get checked out.
Reduce its access to dirt
The other way that you can reduce how much dirt it eats is by reducing the access that it has to dirt. You could do this by fencing off the areas with dirt in your backyard or you could try walking it in different areas.
Things to consider
When you’re trying to get your German Shepherd to stop eating dirt there are some things that you should keep in mind.
Risks of eating dirt
Even though eating dirt is not something that will normally harm your German Shepherd it is something that could harm it. The dirt could contain poisons and pesticides which could be harmful. To prevent this from happening try to avoid letting your German Shepherd be in areas where there are likely to be poisonous things for it to eat. You can also make sure that you don’t have any poisonous plants in your garden.
It could be very concerning if your German Shepherd is sick after eating dirt but it’s not that unusual for German Shepherds to eat grass or dirt and then to be sick. If your German Shepherd is showing other signs of illness then you should take it to the vet.
It’s not very unusual
It can be very concerning when you see your German Shepherd eating dirt but just because it does it doesn’t necessarily mean something is seriously wrong with it.
Physical punishment won’t help
It can be tempting to physically punish your German Shepherd when it eats dirt. You’d think that doing so would prevent it from doing so again. But, that’s not how it usually ends up and you’ll be risking causing other issues such as fear and distrust.
Why does my German Shepherd eat grass? The reasons that your German Shepherd could be eating grass are largely the same as the reasons that it could be eating dirt. These include boredom, sickness, a poor diet, an inherited trait, smelling food, stress or simply liking how it tastes.
If you would like learn everything that you need to know about how to have a happy, healthy and well-behaved German Shepherd, take a look at the German Shepherd Handbook