If your pup goes by the nickname of Hoover, because like the vacuum he'll suck up and ingest everything in sight, you're probably already used to seeing items go amiss only to find them a day later coming out from Hoover's caboose. Luckily, by understanding the causes for this behavior and by employing some effective strategies, you can make things a tad bit more bearable.
Hoover Puppy Dangers
What does it mean when a puppy eats everything? It means it's time for you to take action to stop this behavior. First of all, once swallowed, certain items can pose a potential choking hazard, and depending on what they are, they can even be toxic. Secondly, even though it sounds like a scientific law, not necessarily everything that goes in always comes out. The issue is more mechanical and stems from poor design; basically, it boils down to Hoover's esophagus being larger than the outlet of his stomach. Yes, Hoover there's a problem.
Just a Normal Pup
If you think your pup will eat anything in sight, relax; most likely you own a perfectly normal dog. Puppies go through a phase during which they'll eat all sorts of objects, including non-edible items. Behavior experts aren't quite sure as to why your little monster may do this, but chances are, he may go through an oral stage where he gets "mouthy" just as babies do. Fortunately, this is a relatively short-lived phenomenon and most puppies outgrow it by the time they turn 6 months old.
Relief from Sore Gums
Don't blame your puppy for turning into Chewbacca; when pups are teething, they tend to get relief from those sore gums by chewing and trying out different textures. While the majority of pups will simply chew without ingesting anything, some may actually end up swallowing some chunks of whatever they were gnawing, according to the ASPCA.
At times, puppies may develop odd eating habits as a defense against hunger. This can happen in puppies with a history of being the runts of the litter and being forced to fight with their siblings for every mouthful. In this case, these pups are simply adhering to the "seize the day" philosophy of life. Their experience basically tells them to suck up everything in sight before it's gone once and for all.
Possible Pica Problem
If your puppy develops an unusual appetite for rocks, concrete, dirt, plastic, string and a host of other non-food items, have your pooch see the vet. Pica is the medical term for an appetite for non-nutritive substances. Although pica can be triggered by a nutritional deficiency, dietary imbalance or an underlying medical problem, consider that in puppies and young dogs it can often also be triggered by so-called boredom.
Once your Hoover pup has received a clean bill of health, your next step is to prevent rehearsal of the undesired eating behavior. Keep your home free of clutter while keeping an eagle eye on your pup at all times. Investing in taste deterrents to spray on non-food items may prove helpful. Make sure you're ready to immediately intervene should your puppy attempt to gulp down any non-food items, and when you can't actively supervise your pup, keep him safely confined in a crate or exercise pen.
To keep your pup healthy and happy, provide adequate physical exercise and lots of mental stimulation. Give him a variety of safe, interactive toys to chew, play fetch with him and organize some play dates with his favorite buddies. With easy access to appropriate chew toys and troublesome items kept out of reach, your puppy will be set up for success and have less chances of practicing the unwanted eating behaviors over and over.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.