There are two things I can count on whenever I turn my German shepherd, Jaws, loose in the backyard for a midday romp: He will inevitably knock over the planter by the door (Every. Single. Time), and he will find a nice patch of grass to chow down on. And while I know the reason for the first — probably time to move that planter — I often wonder why Jaws thinks grass is such a tasty snack.
However, there doesn’t appear to be one single reason dogs love to chomp the lawn. Extensive sleuthing shows there could be myriad explanations for the behavior. Fortunately, though, the overall consensus is that this habit won’t hurt your dog.
As for your lawn, well, that’s another story, right?
But if this behavior baffles you enough to seek out the source of your dog’s organic appetite, you obviously want details. So here are a few possible explanations to help you better understand your pup.
It’s an evolutionary trait
According to Andrea Rediger of the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, one theory is that domestic dogs crave grass due to their ancestral DNA. This theory suggests that “undomesticated dogs are naturally omnivores, therefore domesticated dogs instinctively include plant material in their diet.” It is also speculated that undomesticated dogs developed a taste for grass because it filled the stomachs of the prey they consumed.
They have an upset tummy
Personally, this is what I was always told growing up — that if a dog eats grass, its stomach is probably upset. Like people (and even more so since their options are limited), dogs tend to seek out natural remedies to maladies like nausea and bloating. Enter grass eating. “When they eat the blades of grass, it is believed the tiny ‘hairs’ on the blade tickle the esophagus and stomach as they go down,” explains Vet Live‘s Dr. Laci. “This then often causes the dog to vomit, which may be just what the doctor ordered if something they ate is upsetting their tummy.”
They’re filling a nutritional gap
If your dog is well-fed and cared for, this theory may not apply to you at all. It’s worth noting, though, because some pet owners who prepare their pet’s food on their own can be susceptible to nutritional gaps — particularly if they’re new to this sort of feeding. Other dogs who may fall into this category are neglected or abandoned dogs who are excessively hungry. Essentially, Dr. Michael Goldberg, a veterinarian, tells Modern Dog Magazine the idea is that if a dog’s nutritional needs aren’t being met, its body will crave and seek out certain nutrients.
They like the way it tastes
Hey, sometimes the simplest explanation makes the most sense. As dog whisperer Cesar Millan points out on his website, pups are natural scavengers who are pretty much always on the prowl for their next tasty morsel. Could it be that, like humans, dogs like the taste of fresh greens? Millan thinks it’s a distinct possibility. Just think of your yard as a free-range salad bar!
Of course, it’s always a solid idea to give your veterinarian a call if you notice an uptick in your dog’s grass-eating habit or any other change in their diet. In the meantime, stick to nontoxic products in the yard so your pup doesn’t risk being poisoned when he lunches on your lawn.