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Gen B.
Gen B., Retired Veterinary Technician
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 2227
Experience:  Lhasa,Shih Tzu Breeder/ B.A.Neurophysiology & Animal Behavior/I use plain English!
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Customer Question

Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.
Is this behavior NEW, or has she been doing it all her life?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
no not all her life and not all the time going through bad patch at monent
Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.
When did this behavior start? At what age?

Under what circumstances? When she is left in the garden alone to "potty", or even when you are present?

What have you done to try and stop it?

Is she underweight (you can see her rib bones), overweight (you cannot feel her rib bones when petting her), or "just right"?

Does she try eating any other non-food things around the house?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
about age five, even when i am present i have tried being cross to no avail, her weight is just right, does not try eating other non-food stuffs around house
Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.

Hello and thanks for researching this very important question!


Trying to retrain a dog to ignore something they find pleasant is quite difficult.


It is a natural dog behavior to dig in the ground for mice, grubs and roots. In this way, the beginning of dirt-eating is "normal". Ingesting large amounts of soil, or being obsessed and fixed on dirt-eating is not normal.


Training a dog to LEAVE IT should be undertaken with a calm attitude, since dogs are "cross" with each other when they are jealous and competitive. You are trying to get the point across that the behavior should just STOP (and that you don't have any particular feelings about it).


Start LEAVE IT training with your pet on-leash at all times when outdoors around temptation. Walk her past her Favorite Holes. When she shows an attraction to the hole/dirt, tug gently and quickly to the side while saying, "LEAVE IT". Your tone should be the same as if you were saying, "SIT" for a treat. Walk away from the dirt and engage in a "More Interesting" behavior of your choice.


Since it has taken about a year for this behavior to reach this level of obssession, you need to be very patient and persistent. Make sure to have distractions with you during training...treats for Good Behavior and toys to play some interactive games that are more interesting than digging/gulping.


Video of LEAVE IT training here.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW: Since she was an adult when this started...we have to consider medical reasons that the brain might be doing this.


Dogs can develop a number of neurologic and behavioral side effects from illnesses such as hypothyroidism, liver or kidney disease, Cushings Disease, and diabetes. These illnesses are diagnosed by having some simple blood tests run, and should be ruled out right away in any adult pet that has changed its behavior.


Slow-growing brain tumors can also lead to strange changes in behavior and temperament. "Pica", or the ingestion of non-food items, although commonly associated with nutritional problems, can be caused by neurologic deficits, and has been documented in dogs that have one of the lymphoma/leukemia types of cancers.


Make sure that you are feeding her the best-quality food that you can afford, work on formal re-training to LEAVE IT, and have her examined thoroughly for medical problems.


If you need additional support at this time, please click "Reply", otherwise I thank you in advance for your "Accept".



Customer: replied 7 years ago.

didn't mention i am having a nightmare getting mo to eat her food help!

Expert:  Gen B. replied 7 years ago.
Wow...yeah, I'm really concerned that something medical is going on.

Make sure that she is getting regular meals at regular times---NOT free-feeding with a full bowl all day long. Offer less than you think she needs so that you know she should be hungry. Put the ration down and walk away...sometimes dogs get nervous if we stand by or over them and fuss. After 20 minutes, take the food back up and offer it at the next meal time.

If adding some no-salt chicken broth to her regular food doesn't get her to eat well today and tomorrow, please have the vet give her a complete examination.

These behaviors in combination are quite concerning...something may be causing her brain to confuse food and dirt. Some medical help in-person is needed to get to the bottom of this situation.

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