Q. Why does our 1-year-old Lab eat rocks? We have already paid $1,200 to get a rock out of her stomach and she just continually eats them. There is no way to watch her constantly. It makes me sad, but I am thinking we may have to give her away to someone that deal with her. I hate the thought of muzzling her and kenneling her. Any suggestions? She is pretty anxious and nervous. She gets stressed easily. I don’t think she had a very good life while she was a puppy. Help!
A. Whether you decide to keep your Lab or re-home her, she’s going to need to be closely monitored when outside and kept safely away from swallow-able rocks. Your dog obviously can’t be trusted outdoors, unless vigilantly attended and/or kept away from areas with rocks. She needs to be exercised on-leash only, so you’re right there to prevent her from gobbling rocks. If she’s too fast to stop her from grabbing and swallowing rocks, then she needs to get used to wearing a basket muzzle when you take her outside.
You should also work on teaching her the “Leave it” cue, so she won’t grab rocks or other unhealthy items, when you’re there watching her. Get help from a professional dog trainer if you don’t know how to do this.
Though you may “hate the thought” of muzzling a dog, that’s a misguided emotion. In your dog’s case, a muzzle could save her life and prevent the need for repeated, expensive, rock-removal surgeries. A muzzle is not a bad thing, and though sometimes annoying to the dog at first, most quickly adapt to wearing a muzzle without stressing out about it. Most professional dog trainers can help you with this, too.
A warning, though, you must never leave a dog muzzled when she’s unattended, either indoors or outdoors, because she could get it caught on something and hurt herself struggling to get free, or could manage to remove the muzzle somehow and eat rocks.
Many dogs outgrow their rock-eating habit when they’re fully mature (at around three years or so). But until a dog no longer wants to gobble rocks, she must be prevented from doing it.