Dear Dr. Gaddy,
I have a male pit bull that loves rocks. Big ones, little ones, it does not matter. What can I do to stop this. I’m afraid he will choke!
– Nick, Jackson, NJ
Eating or chewing on rocks is certainly a bad habit to get into. When I got my dog as a puppy, he was chewing on a cement block! And while I didn’t think anything of it at the time, it was definitely a sign of what he would grow into, a dog that eats just about anything!
Chewing rocks can cause broken teeth and discomfort, and swallowing large rocks or many small rocks can cause blockages in their intestinal tracts which can become a medical emergency. Avoiding these situations is important, but very hard as you cannot remove every rock from your pet’s environment. I generally recommend a few options for pet owners in your situation.
If he is eating the rocks when you are present, it may be his way of trying to get your attention, or he may be doing it out of boredom. Regardless of the reason, there are different training methods you can try. Teaching your pet to “leave it” or “drop it” will give you more control over what he puts in his mouth. Start with him on a leash and walk him by the rocks. If he looks at them, say “leave it” and offer him a treat. Then praise him when he turns away from the rocks. Eventually, you can progress to working with him off the leash in the same way.
If your pup is mainly eating rocks when you are not around, then investing in a basket muzzle may be your best choice. A basket muzzle allows the pet to pant and drink water, but prevents them from ingesting something harmful, like a rock. You should discuss with your veterinarian if this is a good option for your pet. You may even want to get the basket muzzle fitted for him.
If these techniques do not work, consider taking your pup to a veterinary behaviorist who may be able to work with both you and your pet to tackle the problem.