In your puppy's mind, dog food is for the losers, while dirt and leaves are the meals of champions. But dirt and plant material aren't safe for any canine. Exercise and training prevent the behavior in most cases, but a trip to the scary vet might be necessary.
Teach your dog the "leave it" command. Hold one of his favorite treats in your hand, and show it to him by moving it almost all the way up to his mouth, but don't let his eager tongue snatch it up. Say, "leave it" authoritatively and close your hand over the treat. Don't withdraw your hand; you want him to try his best to get the treat from your grasp. The second he moves his head away from your hand, praise him and feed him a treat with your other hand. Repeat this over and over again, making your pup work harder to get his reward by putting the treat on the floor, waiting a few seconds before giving him his reward, training him with his leash on and practicing with actual leaves and dirt.
Watch your puppy carefully while on walks. Always use the "leave it" command when you notice him go for a leaf or a clump of dirt, and try to keep out of areas that are littered with leaves and those with bare spots of dirt. Some puppies try to cleverly sneak in a bite by keeping their heads low to the ground and then snapping at the nearest leaf or pile of dirt when you least expect it. If that's the case with your little guy, it's best to walk on sidewalks or along the edges of grass.
Play with your pup, take him for daily walks and practice regular obedience training. Obedience training will make the "leave it" command even more successful and training helps stimulate your pup's mind, while walks and playtime let him burn off his energy. If he's allowed to run free in your yard, always leave some toys outside to keep him busy. Treat dispensers are especially helpful at keeping his attention.
Use a muzzle if your puppy cruises around in your yard without a leash. If your puppy still shows an interest in dirt and leaves after you give him plenty of physical and mental exercise, a basket muzzle is an excellent option. Basket muzzles allow him to open his mouth so he can pant and drink water, but there will be no dirt or leaves in his stomach after he's done romping around outdoors.
Take him to the vet. While many puppies eat things they're not supposed to because they're bored, or because of a compulsive behavior, some do it because they're suffering from a medical condition. If your puppy insists on eating dirt and leaves despite your best efforts at dissuading him, schedule an appointment with your vet to make sure he's healthy.
- When practicing the "leave it" command, never let your puppy eat the treat you're training him with, because he'll think it's okay to eat what he's suppose to leave alone.
- Do not leave your puppy outside unsupervised, even if you have a fenced yard.
- If you see find that your puppy is acting abnormal after eating dirt or leaves or his stomach feels stiff, take him to the vet.
- Never use any other kind of muzzle except a basket muzzle. Your pup needs to open his mouth to pant and drink water if he's outside running around.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.