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Does Your Dog Think He’s a Garbage Can? Dealing with Dogs Who Eat Everything

By AKC GoodDog Helpline Trainer Hilarie Erb

Some dogs are bound and determined to consume things that are not meant to be consumed. I have had two dogs experience life-threatening intestinal blockages: one due to a toy that I gave her and the other due to his constant search for anything he can swallow just for fun. He’s our walking garbage can.

Understand that just because we, as humans, could not imagine consuming an entire knotted necktie, a dog may think it’s a great idea. After all, there are delicious food stains on it! Socks, hosiery, and underwear are favorites as are dishrags and washcloths.

Usually these things smell wonderful to a dog, but there must be other attractions to them – the dog who ate the necktie once ate a package of brand new, never worn knee socks that were waiting to be turned into a Scout project (plankton nets, if you’re wondering). I was busy packing for a camp-out, and the dog took advantage of my distraction. A late-night trip to the animal emergency clinic brought up the knee highs along with one of my husband’s socks!

The necktie episode was a close call. Without expensive surgery, we would have lost our beloved, naughty dog. I’ve spent many years with dogs but it wasn’t until several years ago that one of our dogs experienced an intestinal blockage that required life-saving surgery. Every veterinarian has a list of crazy things that have been removed from dogs’ digestive tracts. Don’t think it can’t happen to your dog.

Often dogs eat things like socks and we are none the wiser until we clean up the yard and find that it passed right through. But if a blockage occurs, the dog cannot hold anything down. It may be a day or two before symptoms show but then they are sudden. When the dog vomits anything she consumes within minutes of ingestion, even water, it is an emergency, and you need to get her to the vet right away.

If you know your dog just ate something and not more than an hour has passed, you may be able to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide. Ask your vet for the safe dosage. However, if you think your dog may have swallowed something sharp, don’t do this. Go straight to the veterinarian.

My family has learned that almost nothing is off limits to Mike. He is an old dog now but managing his habit is still critical. He is not allowed free run of the house. My husband installed self-closing hinges on the children’s doors to prevent his access to the clothes they leave on the floor. I do not leave kitchen towels and cloths hanging on bars like most people do. We use baby gates to keep him in a safe part of the house when he’s not directly supervised. I have also used a basket muzzle on occasion.

Take a good look at your home from the dog’s point of view, and you may see lots of temptation. Even if your dog has never consumed something he shouldn’t, it’s possible he might decide to try. Extra caution on your part might save his life.



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Why does my dog do that?

You have questions, we have answers. Download this e-book to get the explanations behind some of the strangest canine behaviors.