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Dog Behavior: Why Dogs Eat Grass
unusual dog behavior
Why do dogs eat grass? I, along with millions of other dog owners, have pondered this strange dog bevavior for generations. Over the decades, I’ve owned, bred, and trained hundreds of canines, and many of them partook of grass from time to time. I have two adult male Great Danes now, and they eat grass about twice a month, on average. My black-and-white spotted Dane, Grendel, rather resembles a Holstein when he gulps down grass in the front yard. Hamlet, a fawn Great Dane, looks more like a Jersey steer, I guess. Unlike Grendel, however, Hammie leisurely nibbles the grass instead of scarfing it up like Grendel. Hamlet prefers grazing to gobbling.
I’ve read a lot about why dogs eat grass, and I’ve discussed it with several veterinarians. Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast single answer. Vets disagree, and some admit they have no idea why dogs eat grass. Several possible reasons have been suggested, and I’ll briefly discuss them below.
Dogs eat grass for the fiber
I found this theory especially interesting. Some vets think dogs eat grass because they need the fiber. Animals often instinctively crave foods that contain nutrients that are lacking in their diets, so it’s possible that if a dog isn’t getting enough fiber in its dog food, it will supplement its diet with fiber from eating grass.
This might sound far-fetched, but I read about a couple of studies about dogs that ate grass every day. When their regular food was switched to a high-fiber dog food, the canines completely stopped eating grass.
Dogs eat grass to help cure a tummy ache
Some vets speculate that dogs with an upset stomach will eat grass in order to induce vomiting. This definitely seems to be the case with my Grendel. We’ve noticed that when he’s acting as if he feels sick, he’ll run outside and gobble some grass. In just a minute or so after eating grass, he’ll throw up. Then it’s like he’s all cured and feeling fine again.
On the other hand, Hamlet doesn’t do this. He never gobbles the grass, and he never throws up after eating it, either.
Dogs eat grass because they’re curious
Dogs and puppies love to explore things with their mouths. Some dogs will try chewing on just about anything: paper, furniture legs, human hands, pillows, and my brand new crocodile loafers. Perhaps eating grass is just another example of canine curiosity. Maybe they sniff the grass to discern if other dogs have been in their territory, and the grass tickles their nose, so they chew the grass to learn more about it and to see if it’s edible.
Dogs eat grass because it tastes good
Some veterinarians think that people are over-thinking this canine behavior. This group believes that dogs eat grass because they like the way it tastes. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not totally carnivorous. Instead, they’re omnivores, and that includes wild canines. Most are a combination of hunter and scavenger. Think about your own pooch. It doesn’t eat just meat, and if it gets the chance, it won’t stick solely to its dog food, either. In fact, our dogs will eat anything, including pickles, bread, lettuce, bananas, raw broccoli, and everything else they can get their big jaws on.
It is dangerous for dogs to eat grass?
My veterinarian has more than fifty years of experience dealing with dogs, and according to him, eating grass doesn’t usually cause any problems. Some serious problems can occur, however, if the grass has been treated with insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides, or other chemicals. In that case, you shouldn’t let your dog eat grass. If you have other ideas about why dogs eat grass, I’d love to hear them!