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Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

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Your perfectly manicured lawn may look to you like an invitation to walk barefoot or lie down on your back and gaze up at the clouds. But to your dog, that expanse of endless green looks more like an all-you-can-eat salad bar. Which begs the eternal question: Why do dogs eat grass? (And perhaps, more importantly, how can we get them to stop -- or at least limit -- their intake?)  

The Why

There’s no universally accepted reason as to why your dog munches on grass. It may be looking to aid in digestion or find relief from an upset stomach since we know eating grass may cause your dog to vomit. It could have an undiagnosed nutritional deficiency. Or maybe Fido is just plain bored. There’s also the chance that your dog simply likes the taste of grass. Whatever the reason, most vets agree: Eating grass seems to come naturally for dogs: 79% of dog owners say their dog snacks on it.  After all, this is behavior they often practice in the wild.  

Training

 

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So, what can you do to protect your grass from your dog’s natural inclination to munch on it? Experts say it’s best to use kindness, rather than punishment, to train your dog out of this (and any other) habit. And don’t delay, as we all know old habits are harder to break. Throw some bones or outdoor dog toys into the yard to provide alternative temptation. (It helps if you play with him.) Try a short, strong verbal command such as “No” or “Leave it,” and redirect your pooch to other chewy enticements. Even a favorite stick strategically placed in the yard will do.

Protect Your Lawn

Sometimes, it feels like dog vs. lawn - a never-ending battle to keep your yard from becoming a buffet. But there are ways to ensure both you and your dog can enjoy the lawn. Along with positive training, check with your veterinarian to ensure your pooch is getting adequate nutrition (especially enough fiber) and change food if necessary. Also, rule out digestive issues like intestinal worms or other disorders which can cause dogs to eat grass. Your vet will be able to suggest diagnostic tests that can rule out potential problems and treatments to cure them.

The Forbidden List

Now that we understand why our four-legged friends sometimes snack on our backyard and that we likely won’t be able to keep them from it 100% of the time, it’s time to think about what we’re putting on our grass. Certain fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides used on lawns can be toxic for dogs, especially if ingested. Some are even made with bone meal or corn products that can entice dogs into sampling. Check packaging labels for ingredients and recommended length of time to keep dogs off the lawn after application.

The Yes List

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Along with limiting your dog’s grass-eating, consider these other quick tips for keeping both your dog and your lawn healthy: use a low nitrogen fertilizer (dog urine is already high in salts that break down into nitrogen, which can cause those unwanted patchy, brown spots on your grass), plant hardy grass varieties like perennial ryegrass that withstand dog play better than some other grass varieties and “mow high” to help your grass stand up to dog waste and require less rinsing. Now, get out there and roll in that grass you’ve worked so hard to cultivate and maintain!

 About the Author:

A former veterinarian’s assistant, Jasmine Patel has parlayed a love of animals into a career of advocating for and writing about her furry friends.

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