Labradors love to eat anything they can get their teeth or paws on. While most of the things your lab likes to eat are meat-based, you’ll often find it gnawing on grass strands… which can seem pretty weird for an animal that has sharp teeth and such a strong affinity for meat.
Why does my Labrador eat grass? Your labrador might be eating grass for a few reasons:
- It tastes good.
- Your lab isn’t getting enough fiber in its diet.
- Your lab has an upset stomach.
- Your lab is trying to improve its digestion.
- Your lab’s ancestors ate grass.
The rest of this article will discuss these possibilities in more detail, as well as provide some tips to stop your labrador from eating grass whenever you pass by a tasty lawn or field.
Reasons your labrador might be eating grass
Before we dive into the potential causes for your labrador eating grass, I want to make something clear: nobody really knows for sure why dogs eat grass. Scientists and veterinarians have come up with a few promising theories, but there’s no real way to conclusively test them.
If we could talk to dogs and ask them about it, we might be able to figure it out. Unfortunately, that’s impossible ‒ so we have to make do with the following educated guesses.
It tastes good
The first possibility is also the simplest one: your labrador likes how grass tastes. Dogs have no concept of nutritional value, nor do they know what a proper diet is. If your lab sees something it likes, it’s probably going to eat it ‒ and your lab might just like the taste of grass.
This is definitely a weird possibility to our refined human taste buds, but scientists say it’s a possibility nonetheless. This liking for grass may stem from millions of years of evolutionary development, which we’ll talk about in a bit.
Lack of fiber
Another reason your labrador might be eating grass is that it’s not getting enough fiber in its diet and is attempting to supplement with grass.
This theory stems from a study that examined the diet of a miniature poodle for several years. For a long time, the poodle would eat grass every single day without fail. As soon as the owner switched to a food mixture fortified with fiber, the grass-eating disappeared entirely.
If your lab is seeking fiber from grass, it’s no surprise. Fiber is super important in aiding digestion. When fiber enters your dog’s intestine, beneficial bacteria ferment it into fatty acids. The body uses these fatty acids to keep the growth of harmful bacteria in check. This is particularly useful in fighting colon cancer, as it enables the body to process and get rid of carcinogens more quickly.
This isn’t the only health benefit fiber provides. It’s also a crucial component in maintaining a healthy weight. Just like in humans, a diet rich in fiber will help your dog feel fuller on less food.
So if your labrador is eating grass on a consistent basis, check the nutritional content on your pet food. If it doesn’t contain a substantial amount of fiber, your lab could be trying to get the rest of the fiber it needs from your lawn.
Another theory that has been thrown around by scientists is that dogs eat grass to soothe an upset stomach. When the grass blades enter your lab’s digestive system, they stimulate the lining of the throat and stomach. This stimulation can cause your lab to vomit, which can make your lab’s stomach feel significantly better.
We typically think that dogs exclusively eat meat ‒ but this isn’t actually the case.
While domesticated dogs do eat food formulas that primarily contain meat, dogs in the wild include berries, roots, grasses, and other plant-based forms of sustenance. Coyotes, a close relative of dogs, are also known to eat the plants and vegetables found in the stomachs of their prey. Your labrador’s eating grass may be a remnant from a time when dogs had to use every available food source in order to stay alive.
A combination of causes
The real reason your labrador eats grass probably isn’t any single one of these ‒ it’s more likely a combination of a few of them. Here’s one possibility: your lab eats grass because it tastes good. It tastes good because your lab has evolved over millions of years to like the taste of grass. This evolution may have occurred because your lab’s ancestors needed to improve their digestion, and they found eating wild grasses helped with that.
This is just one of many possibilities. While reading this section may not have left you with any definitive answers, it should give you a few solid ideas.
One more thing: the way your labrador is eating grass can help you solve the mystery. If your lab is casually picking at a few strands here and there, it’s likely eating for taste, or possibly for a bit of digestive help. But if your lab is devouring grass at a breakneck pace, it could be trying to induce vomiting to relieve an upset stomach.
Can eating grass hurt my Labrador?
With a few exceptions, eating grass is harmless. Your labrador could eat buckets of grass, and an uncomfortable spot of throwing up would probably be the only negative thing to come of it.
One exception is if your lab is a puppy. While full-grown labs can digest large amounts of grass, puppy digestive systems aren’t mature enough to handle lots of fibrous material. The leaves, grass, and small sticks they eat could block the digestive system and cause a serious health concern.
The next exception is if the grass your labrador is eating has been sprayed with an excessive amount of pesticides or herbicides. These chemicals are toxic to most living things, dogs included. Small quantities every now and then shouldn’t cause a problem, but larger amounts on a near daily basis could make your lab sick over time.
To prevent pesticide poisoning, you should keep a close eye on your lab whenever you’re in a public park or other location where the grass has likely been sprayed. You should also be on the lookout for “No Dogs Allowed” signs on lawns or fields. While some people place these signs to keep dogs from leaving waste behind, others place them to prevent dogs from ingesting harmful chemicals.
Toxic house plants
The last reason eating grass might be a problem is if you have toxic house plants. This problem can be avoided by placing your plants high up and out or reach.
Alternatively, if you need to keep your plants in an accessible area, you can try training your labrador to avoid the room in which the plants are kept. This is definitely risky though ‒ a single mistake could easily lead to an emergency vet visit.
How to get your labrador to stop eating grass
While your labrador might enjoy eating grass, there are some instances in which you might want to stop them.
- You might have a labrador puppy.
- There might be chemicals on the grass.
- There could be rocks and sticks mixed in amongst the strands.
- You might just want to keep a perfectly manicured lawn.
Whatever your reason, here are a few tried and true strategies for getting your lab to stop eating grass.
Avoid walking on or near grass
The simplest and most obvious way to get your lab to stop eating grass is to avoid walking on or near grass.
I know, I know ‒ this is close to impossible given how prevalent grass is. Nevertheless, you can try planning a walking route that avoids as much grass as possible.
Take treats on your walks
Aside from avoiding grass, the most effective way to keep your lab from eating grass is to stop them in the act.
Because many dogs eat grass for the taste, a good way to distract them is to offer something even tastier. By bringing a bag of your lab’s favorite treats on your walk, you can coax them back onto the walking path whenever they wander into some grass and start nibbling.
Use the “heel” command
If your labrador is open to being trained and taking commands, a great one for curbing grass eating is the “heel” command. If your pup successfully figures out this command, you can get it to walk by your heel (and away from the grass) whenever you want.