Why Does My Dog Play with Rocks? [How to Stop]

Dogs have a fascination with rocks.  While they seem boring to us, dogs see things differently.  Whether they’re digging them up, hiding them, hoarding them, or chewing on them, rocks can provide a dog with hours of entertainment.

why does my dog play with rocks
Why Does My Dog Play with Rocks?

There are several reasons why dogs play with rocks.  Playing with rocks is extremely common in puppies because they are driven to explore the world around them.  Similar to human babies, they pick up and examine objects in their environment using their mouths.  This is normal behavior in young dogs, but adult dogs sometimes play with rocks too. 

Dogs sometimes play with rocks out of boredom or loneliness.  When dogs aren’t properly stimulated or exercised, they will find ways to entertain themselves using objects around them

There’s nothing wrong with your dog digging in, gathering, or hiding rocks.  The behavior becomes dangerous when dogs eat rocks.  There are several reasons dogs do this, but it can lead to a dangerous situation that can be fatal to your dog.

Should I let my dog play with rocks?

Playing with rocks is an activity that can be completely harmless, fun problematic, and dangerous, depending on how your dog behaves.  Taking a closer look at your dog’s activity when playing with rocks will help you decide whether his habit can stay or if it needs to go.

While an obsession with rocks seems strange to us, you have to remember that dogs are creatures that run on instinct.  They’re also creatures who roll in dead things and eat feces, so rock playing isn’t much of a stretch.  Some dogs simply gather, bury, and dig for rocks.  Unless you are concerned about the damage being done from digging, there isn’t much harm that comes from this behavior.

How do I stop my dog from playing with rocks?

Herding breeds of dogs can become bored very easily and will often take to a gathering or “herding” things in their environment.  Rocks are an easy target as they can be picked up and moved and are easily piled in one place.  If the herding of rocks bothers you, the behavior can usually be easily redirected to balls, dog toys (see my favorite), or another object you’re more comfortable with.

Digging and burying behavior is a little harder to deal with than herding.  It’s an instinct with roots in your dog’s ancestry and wild relatives. Wolves and coyotes hunt for their food and obtain it in large quantities, but there are long periods in between when they have no food.  To preserve the well-being of the pack, they bury small bits of food to be dug up later when they need it.  If you observe, dogs frequently bury bones outside, dig them up, move them, and re-bury them.  The behavior is based on a desire to save it for later and prevent anyone else from finding it.

If your dog likes to dig for and bury rocks, it will take some time and serious commitment to stop the behavior.  You have to catch your dog in the act to redirect the behavior to something more positive.  Sometimes it is best to just keep rocks off-limits from your dog.

Ensuring your dog has a readily available supply of cool toys to play with can go a long way toward keeping him away from rocks, especially if boredom is the cause.  Consider your dog’s activity level as well.  Dogs that don’t get enough physical activity often resort to destructive behaviors.  Daily exercise will also help redirect his activities.

Why do some dogs eat rocks?

Some dogs take their rock obsessions to another level and go beyond simply playing with them.  Chewing on or even eating rocks can lead to very serious health complications.  The act of eating non-edible objects, like rocks, is called Pica. 

Pica is a serious medical condition characterized by eating non-consumable material that is potentially hazardous to a dog’s digestive system.  Rocks aren’t the only targets for dogs with Pica, but they are the most common non-edible snack of choice.

Chewing on rocks can cause irreparable damage to a dog’s teeth.  It can cause tooth breakage and tissue damage to the mouth’s inside and places dogs at risk for gastrointestinal issues, choking, and blockages.  Dog very rarely know their limits, so even if your dog is simply chewing on rocks, there’s a high risk of him swallowing it too.  If the rock is large enough to block his airway, it has quickly gone from a chew toy to a choking hazard.

The reasons dogs eat rocks can be either behavioral or medical.  On the behavioral front, some dogs eat rocks for attention.  Dogs don’t understand the difference between positive and negative attention.  If they feel they need or want you to pay attention to them, all they have to do is behave in a way that gets yours.  Yelling your dog to “give you the rock” is a form of attention and results in sufficient motivation for your dog to keep on eating.

From a medical standpoint, dogs may choose to eat or chew rocks because they have a vitamin or mineral deficiency in their diet.  This can be diagnosed by basic bloodwork at the vet to determine how to resolve the deficiency.  If this is the true cause of rock-eating, the behavior should cease once the dietary deficiency is addressed.  On rare occasions, type 2 diabetes or intestinal disturbances can also cause rock-eating behavior.

What happens when my dog eats rocks?

Several serious health complications can occur when a dog eats rocks.  These include perforated stomachs, intestinal blockages, and choking.  Often these conditions result in a need for surgical intervention.  In some cases, they can be fatal.

What do I do if my dog eats a rock?

If you know your dog has eaten a rock, the first thing you should do is make your dog vomit within two hours of its consumption.  If the rock isn’t removed and your dog is alert, energetic, and playful, you are probably safe to wait until the rock passes through his system.  If the rock does not come out with vomiting and your dog is lethargic and not eating, he needs veterinary attention.

How do I stop my dog from eating rocks?

The first step to stopping your dog’s rock-eating habit is determining the cause.  If your dog is suffering from a vitamin or nutrient deficiency, fixing his diet will resolve the problem.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

If it’s a behavioral issue, there are a few things you can do.  Ensuring your dog is exercised daily and isn’t suffering from boredom can go a long way towards reducing rock eating.  You will also need to spend some time training and counter-conditioning to show your dog the behavior you want him to do instead.  Basic obedience training and teaching the “leave it” command will help you prevent rock-eating while your dog is supervised.

The other option is to use aversive conditioning and spray something unpleasant on top of the rocks.  Anti-chew spray, such as this one, is safe for dogs and can help deter them from chewing on unwanted objects.

What does it mean when my dog licks rocks?

A dog who likes rocks is often trying to obtain salt, or sodium, from the rock’s surface.  Dogs with mineral deficiencies will lick things in their environment to make up for what they lack in their diets.  Dogs with calcium deficiencies, for example, will often lick bathtubs or kitchen tiles.

What do you do for a dog with Pica?

The most common causes of pica in dogs are boredom, stress, and fear of punishment.  Most of the time, pica becomes a compulsive behavior that will need intervention.  There are several measures you can take to prevent and treat pica behavior:

  • Ensure your dog has enough exercise and mental stimulation.  The amount your dog needs will depend on its size and breed.
  • Use enrichment toys when your dog is alone, like food puzzles or games.
  • Don’t give your dog access to objects he might eat
  • Train your dog to wear a basket muzzle like this while he’s outside.  This will ensure he can’t pick up rocks or other objects.
  • Distract your dog when you walk him on a leash and teach the “leave it” command.  Make sure to treat and praise him when he doesn’t eat rocks.
  • Provide a wide variety of safe toys and chewing objects.

Some dogs become so obsessive with pica that you can’t redirect the behavior on your own.  In this case, you may need to seek help from a veterinary behaviorist.

dog playing with rocks
Dog playing with rocks

How do I know my dog ate a rock?

In some cases, if the rock was small, you won’t know your dog ate it all.  A rock can pass safely through your dog’s digestive system.  It typically takes between 10-24 hours for an object to move the whole way, though.

If the rock is too big to pass through your dog’s digestive tract, it can cause an obstruction.  Symptoms of an obstructed digestive tract are:

  • Vomiting
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to pass stool
stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.