Your Dog Eat or Chew Grass?
My dogs crop grass like cows. They eat it with gusto whenever they encounters it, to the extent that my friends
have begun to refer to them, jokingly, as ‘Salad Munchers’. This habit of theirs doesn’t bother me at all, since it
seems to have no ill-effects whatsoever - although, when I’m standing outside in the cold waiting for one of them
to relieve themselves during one of their infrequent small-hours toilet calls (normally the timing is much more
considerate), it’s hard not to hop impatiently from foot to foot while they enthusiastically tears out the
mandatory five to seven mouthfuls of grass, chews thoroughly, and swallows, instead of just getting on with the
task at hand. Unless your dog’s digestion is suffering unwanted upheavals from his grass-eating habit, it’s not
really a problem. Dogs have been eating grass since the dawn of time (or at least, of the species) with few
ill-effects, aside from the odd bout of vomiting - and really, this is one of those things that seems to bother
owners a lot more than their dogs; most dogs, will simply re-ingest the vomitus and go about their day unfazed.
Truthfully, nobody really knows why dogs eat grass. There are a variety of theories as to why animals that are
widely regarded as carnivores would willingly consume moderate quantities of vegetation.
One of said theories pertains to the fact that dogs, though being carnivores, are "obligate omnivores", which
literally means, “eat anything” or in their case, eat anything available to them.
This theory postulates that the modern-day dog eats grass in a deliberate attempt to supplement his diet with
nutrients that are missing from his daily meals. The main crux, thrust, and gist of this argument centers around
the idea that dogs, are eating too much meat and need to balance this out with some greenery on the side, much as
you or I might crave a nice tart salad to go with our steak.
If you ask me, this is nonsense. First of all, most people feed their dogs primarily on kibble, which in theory,
contains the full spectrum of fully-absorbable nutrients that dogs require (or at least, high quality kibble has
more of a chance of it; I can’t vouch for the quality of supermarket-brand dog food). If you’re feeding your dog on
meat alone, whether canned or fresh, there may be some substance to this theory - dogs need a wide range of
vitamins and minerals for optimum health. It’s true that canned meat has some added nutrients; the main problem
with canned food is that it’s too soft and jelly-like to maintain healthy teeth and bowels. Dogs fed primarily on
canned food are far more prone to developing dental disease at a relatively early age (not to mention an increased
incidence of constipation and flatulence, from the lack of fiber and roughage). This is primarily due to the fact
that soft food will not 'clean' a dog's teeth. To counter this, you can add a variety of dental chews available or
if you're comfortable, raw bones.
Personally, both of mine eat a combination raw/home-cooked diet with proper supplementation and are as healthy as
can be, so it's doubtful that they are missing any dietary nutrients. But they both do continue to eat grass.
Another popular theory is that dogs use grass as a sort of natural emetic: that, since a nauseous dog lacks the
phalangeal structure necessary for the good old ‘finger down the throat’ move, he’ll resort to nature’s bounty as
an alternative. It’s true that grass does sometimes make dogs vomit - those tickly stems can irritate the stomach
lining, and there have been a few occasions when I’ve seen dogs vomit up a chunk of something that’s proved to be
indigestible, and along with the offending article, there’s also been a clump of grass in the vomit too.
However - and I’m sorry to pour cold water over this one too - I have to say that this is pure conjecture, and
somewhat nonsensical conjecture at that. Dogs are perfectly capable of vomiting all by themselves, without the
assistance of grass; I’ve seen too many dogs enjoying a post-prandial mouthful of mixed lawn greens, without any
regurgitational side effects, to lend the theory any credence.
If you’re worried that eating grass is going to hurt your dog, you can lay that concern to rest right now. The one
possible downside is that he’ll irritate his throat or stomach lining, but this issue will only cause him strife
for a second or two at most: he’ll either cough the problem away, or will toss his cookies without further ado
(which rarely bothers most dogs).
Really, grass-eating is nothing to worry about - it’s a life-long habit with many dogs, and if yours does decide
that it’s no longer in his best interests, he’ll simply stop eating it all by himself.
You may need to keep an eye on him around recently treated lawns, or anywhere where nasties like pesticides, snail
bait, and rat poison could be around, since most garden chemicals are highly toxic to dogs. Ideally, you’d be
keeping an eye on him anyway if he’s around those substances, but grass-eaters are at higher risk than most since
they’re more likely to ingest plant matter that herbicides and other toxic chemicals have been sprayed onto.
In addition to this, it’s also best if he’s kept away from those clumps of dried-out grass that lie around on the
lawn after it’s been freshly mowed. It shouldn’t be a problem if the grass is mowed by a push-mower; but if it’s
been through a gas-operated machine, the grass will be tainted with petrol fumes and grease, which at best will
taste horrible and at worst can make him pretty sick. (Fortunately for your peace of mind and your dog’s peace of
digestive tract, all but the most food-obsessed dogs will usually spurn this smelly fare in favor of clean, fresh
- Try varying his diet slightly. Unlike humans, dogs do not need a widely varied
diet to keep them “interested” in food; they’re creatures of routine, and diet is no exception to this rule and a
dog's dietary interest is ruled by smell rather than taste. However, since one of the theories that attempts to
explain why dogs eat grass is centered around a lack of nutritional variety, you can try introducing various tasty
vegetables into his food: most dogs enjoy tomatoes, carrots (either steamed or raw) and chopped apples. Be sure to
stay well away from grapes, raisins, and onions, since these are toxic to dogs.
- Supervise him whenever he’s around grass. This may not be a particularly
user-friendly option, especially for off-lead walks; you’ll have to keep a real eagle-eye on your canine walking
buddy to make sure he’s not making a dash for the greenery.
Realistically, there’s not really a lot you can do about your dog’s grass-eating habit (aside from deny him
access to grass utterly, which wouldn’t be fair to your dog and would make your daily dog-walking expeditions more
of an exercise in frustration than a relaxing stroll).
The general consensus from the experts seems to be that grass-eating, although somewhat of an enigmatic pastime to
us humans, is just ‘one of those things’ as far as your dog is concerned. It won’t do him any harm, and you can be
sure that if he’s eating it, he’s enjoying it - so there’s really not a lot to be said for depriving him of that
Furthermore, and in addition to the logistics of permitting this penchant, I’ve got to say that watching your dog
ripping up and chewing generous mouthfuls of turf with an expression of half-lidded bliss on his face can provide
you (and passersby) with some unexpected entertainment when the two of you are out and about together!
For further reading …
For more information on dog psychology and general canine behavioral traits, with a particular focus on
problematic behaviors, you’ll probably want to take a look at SitStayFetch . It’s a complete, detailed manual for the intelligent and responsible
owner, and covers everything from obedience training through to preventing and handling a huge variety of common
problem behaviors. Well worth checking out!