Why Do Puppies Dig & Eat Dirt?

Puppies will eat dirt for a variety of reasons, with some more serious than others.
Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Dogs are considered man's best friend -- besides offering us unconditional love, they provide us with endless hours of entertainment. From playing toss and retrieve to watching him chase the squirrels through the yard, your dog's behaviors are usually fun to watch. Unfortunately, there are also times when his behavior is just plain odd, like when he decides to dig up the yard and eat dirt. This can cause curious dog owners to wonder what the heck is wrong with their beloved pet.

Reasons for Digging

Dogs are diggers by nature, but the habit is not as prevalent in most domesticated breeds because they are usually only left outside for a short periods of time. Still, your dog's desire to dig can rear its head if conditions are right. For instance, if your dog has an excess of pent-up energy, he may use digging as a means to burn some off. His predator instinct may also be the cause of his digging, as it is common for dogs to chase and dig after underground vermin like moles.

Your dog may also be digging out of boredom or, if you have scolded him previously for the act, he may be seeking attention. On very hot days, a dog will sometimes dig a hole so he can lie on the cooler dirt below the surface.

Understanding Pica

Pica is the term used when a puppy or dog has a tendency to eat inedible objects, like dirt, rocks, sticks, feces and anything other than his food. Sometimes a puppy may try to eat inedible objects simply because he is exploring his surroundings, or he may be suffering from some type of mineral deficiency or other health condition.

Mineral Deficiency

Dogs require certain vitamins and minerals in order to live healthy and active lives, and sometimes inexpensive store-bought dry dog food can be seriously lacking in these essential nutrients. If your puppy has started eating dirt regularly, then ask your veterinarian if the dog food you are feeding your pup is a good match for his nutritional needs. He may not be getting all he needs from his diet, and this could cause him to look for those nutrients elsewhere.

Upset Stomach

When a puppy has an upset stomach, he might attempt to calm his restless tummy by eating grass and occasionally dirt. He does this to try and force whatever it is that's making him nauseous out of his stomach.


Sometimes, a puppy owner may think his pup is eating dirt when he is really just eating a piece of food that found its way into the yard. All the owner sees is his pup's face covered with dirt, but just because his face is dirty doesn't mean he's eating actual soil. A puppy has an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and if there is a piece of food in the grass or just below the surface of the ground, he will find it and root it out. In either case, it is important to pay attention to your pup's behavior when he's outside. If you notice him eating dirt on a regular basis, take him to his veterinarian to have him checked out.