Skip to main content

The world is not your dog’s salad bar: Why you shouldn’t let dogs eat plants

Some dogs are finicky eaters, demanding only the finest in life. On the other hand, some dogs will chew anything and everything. Your shoes, your furniture, and even the remote control might seem appetizing to chow hounds. If your dog is prone to the occasional dietary indiscretion, a term used by veterinarians in reference to dogs eating nonfood items, you may think taking your pup for a walk might help curb this behavior. 

But what happens when your dog turns his attention to leaves, sticks, pine cones, and even flowers? If you’ve ever frantically searched “how to keep my dog from eating plants,” this is the article for you. We’ll give you the rundown on why the world is not your dog’s salad bar, and teach you how to stop his snacking once and for all. 

A black and white French bulldog puppy chews on a stick.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you stop your dog from eating plants?

Does your dog like to nibble on sticks, leaves, and grass? Well, let’s start off with the good news: There’s usually nothing to worry about if your pup only eats a small amount. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), “Leaves and grass are not technically harmful, but, in large amounts, they can cause a blockage, especially in puppies.” Unfortunately, flowers, berries, garden plants, and even some tree leaves are toxic if your dog ingests them. 

You can prevent your dog from eating indoor plants by placing them in plant stands or displaying them on out-of-reach tables. (We recommend sticking to pet-safe plants just to be on the safe side.) But what about when you’re taking your pup for a walk? Firmly tell your dog, “No,” when she approaches plants, flowers, and leaves. When she returns her attention to you, make sure to heap on lots of praise – and maybe reward her good behavior with a treat or two. 

Another alternative is clicker training. While you can begin training your dog as early as eight weeks of age, young puppies have short attention spans. Some pups, like Magic, who performed adorable puppy push-ups at just 10 weeks of age, will catch on quickly, and others will require more repetitions before they understand what you expect from them. Keep sessions short and sweet: Try to keep your training at around 5 to 10 minutes when you’re first starting out, and gradually increase your sessions until they’re around 10 to 15 minutes apiece. Try to schedule multiple sessions throughout the day rather than packing it all into one lengthy session. It also helps to train your dog at the same time each day, preferably before meals, as this makes the treats she receives for good behavior all the more appealing. 

A brown dog chews on a pine cone in a field of grass.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you stop your dog from digging?

If your pooch likes to eat plants, there’s a good chance he’s also fond of digging. Some dogs dig because they want to expose the cool soil beneath the grassy surface, giving them a nice place to chill out on hot days. Others are trying to track down prey, like moles, voles, or groundhogs. Unfortunately, the experts say that many dogs who frequently dig holes are either suffering from separation anxiety, or else they’re extremely bored. Here are a few things you can do to keep your pup from digging up your yard. 

Protect your plants

Have a green thumb? The last thing you want is for your dog to destroy the garden you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. Fencing off the area you want to protect (or using chicken wire as a deterrent) should keep your rambunctious fur baby from unearthing your plants. 

Make digging unappealing

If you don’t have an outdoor garden but are still sick and tired of your dog digging holes in your yard it might be time for an outdoor overhaul. Using a substance like pea gravel instead of grass will keep your pup from tunneling his way into the ground. Dogs don’t like the way gravel feels beneath their toe pads, so they’re unlikely to continue digging in an inhospitable environment. 

Make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise

Whether your dog is bored, anxious, or a combination of the two, exercise is extremely beneficial – and it may even help curb his unwanted behaviors. Not only is exercise important to your dog’s physical well-being, but active dogs are much less likely to suffer from mental disorders than dogs who lead sedentary lifestyles. We recommend taking your dog for daily walks. If you have the time, a brisk walk in the morning and again in the evening will help your dog burn off excess energy. You should also provide your pooch with mentally stimulating toys, such as puzzle feeders, so he won’t become bored while you’re away from home.

A red and white dog chews on a large stick.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Dogs misbehave for a variety of reasons, but there’s one thing you should always keep in mind: Your dog isn’t trying to misbehave. When pups chew plants and flowers – or dig up the yard – they’re trying to communicate with you. Maybe they’re saying, “I’m curious and want to investigate.” Or maybe the message is, “I’m bored.” Once you learn to decode what your pup is telling you, you’ll be able to break his bad habits for good.  

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
The Best Salmon Oil for Dogs in 2024
Best salmon oil for dogs in 2024

As a fellow dog lover, I know how much we all want to see our four-legged companions thrive, bursting with energy and good health. But here's the thing – achieving that picture-perfect vitality isn't always as straightforward as we'd hope. Between the confusing array of supplements and the challenge of deciphering ingredient lists, ensuring our pups get the right nutrients can feel like navigating a maze without a map. Enter salmon oil for dogs, a game-changer in the world of canine nutrition.

This powerhouse supplement, brimming with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, is the secret sauce to supporting not just the physical health of our dogs, but their happy moods too. Today, we're diving deep into the world of salmon oil for dogs, uncovering the gems that promise to bring out the best in our furry friends. Leading the pack is the Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil from Zesty Paws, renowned for its purity and packed with benefits that are hard to beat. As we explore the top picks, remember, our goal is singular: to ensure our dogs not only live but flourish, with tails wagging and hearts full of joy.

Read more
Why does my dog have diarrhea? (and when it’s time to see the vet)
Your dog has the runs — should you run to the vet?
A close-up of a husky in sunlight

Being a dog parent can be a joyful experience — no matter what your boss thinks of you, you can count on your pup to show you affection when you walk in the door. In exchange for their unconditional love and affection, dogs require that we take care of them and — sigh — pick up their poop (your neighborhood's code enforcement requires the latter, to be more precise). Cleaning up after a dog also gives pet parents a role they may not have expected when they brought their furry friend home: Poop inspector.

Poop is a sign of a dog's overall health. Regular, firm stool that resembles a caterpillar is one sign your pup is feeling well. If the stool is loose, you may need an answer to the question, "Why does my dog have diarrhea?" That depends. While we can't answer the question definitively, we can provide some common causes of diarrhea and what to do.

Read more
Why do dogs like peanut butter so much? It’s more than just taste
Here's why peanut butter makes a great snack for dogs
Dog licks its nose while sitting

Every pet owner knows that a small scoop of peanut butter goes a long way toward making you a better pet parent, at least in the eyes of your pooch. A spoonful of PB is the perfect snack for many owners when trying to get Fido to take a pill or do a trick, but why do dogs like peanut butter in the first place? Like so many things, it's mostly evolution with a little human encouragement along the way.

Why do dogs like peanut butter?
Interestingly, while wolves and domestic cats are carnivores, dogs are officially omnivores. That means that they eat all kinds of foods, including meat and fruits, nuts, and veggies. Your pet cat can't really taste sweet things, but your dog definitely can (you knew that though, right). So it's a safe bet that part of the reason canine pets crave peanut butter and other similar treats is their insatiable sweet tooth.
Additionally, nuts, even in butter form, contain quite a bit of protein. Like us, pets need this to thrive and feel full. Of course, our buds will naturally seek out food that's good for them, like high-protein snacks. Lastly, one theory suggests that nut butters might smell meaty to animals. If that doesn't resonate with you, remember dogs have a sense of smell AT LEAST 10,000 times ours.
We may never get a definitive answer on exactly why pups go crazy for this gooey stuff — perhaps it's the smell, the sugar, or the protein. Most likely all three. And best of all, your dog's favorite snack is always whatever you happen to be eating. Don't be surprised if they start licking their chops any time you reach for the peanut butter jar for your own sandwich.

Read more