Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

It's a common belief that dogs eat grass when their tummies are upset ... we see a pool of puke and partially digested grass and assume that the grass made the dog or helped the dog throw up.  But that implies that grass is some kind of doggie medication and that dogs only eat grass when they don't feel good. 

But is that all there is to it?  Why do dogs eat grass?

Dogs are not strict carnivores.  They've always been scavengers, devouring anything and everything, as long as it fulfilled their basic dietary requirements.  Domestic dogs are actually omnivores and will frequently seek out alternative foods to fulfill their nutritional requirements, especially if they are fed a commercial diet.  And most of the time (about 75%), dogs don't throw up after eating grass. If you think that they do, it's probably because you only notice your dog has been eating grass because you can see it in her puke!  

Grass is good for your dog in moderate amounts UNLESS the grass has been treated with fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides.  Since grass is a plant, it has fiber and nutrients that aren't found in typical dog food.

A great alternative to letting your dogs graze freely on your lawn is Barley grass.  It's easy to provide some safe grass by planting a special patch of Barley grass.  Dogs who like the taste of "lawn" grass will most likely also appreciate Barley grass.  It's inexpensive, grows very quickly, and is highly nutritious.  Barley grass is rich in vitamin A and C, plus it provides other vitamins, plus minerals and phytonutrients necessary for all mammals. 

I planted the Barley grass in this photo about 8 - 10 days before I took the picture.  As long as the dogs don't demolish the patch right away (which they don't), the grass will keep growing most of the summer, just as if it was growing in the ground.  They nosh for a couple of minutes each day and then leave it alone, so it grows back quickly.

I like to use self-watering containers so that the soil stays moist and I don't have to worry about watering every day during the hot summer.  And because some of the grass gets pulled out while the dogs are eating it, I continually add a few seeds here and there all season. 

When it starts getting cold outside, I just bring the container inside and place it in a sunny location where the dogs can continue to eat the grass year round.  Before bringing it inside, though, I pull all the grass out so I can either change the soil or add organic matter to it ... in my experience, the Barley grass will grow more quickly inside during the fall and winter if it has good, fresh soil. 

"Crap! I thought I was in charge!"
"Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?"
~Jerry Seinfeld 


  1. Great info there Amy - also I'd like to mention that Barley Grass has other added advantages:Studies in Japan on barley grass have shown that it protects human cells and animal DNA from X-ray damage.

    1. Even better! Thanks, Gillian. So then I have to wonder if Barley is good protection against radiation in general. Must be the iodine, perhaps.

  2. Hey I learned something new! I wonder if the buns would enjoy barley grass.

    1. From what I've read, barley grass isn't as sweet as wheat or oat grass. I tasted it and it tastes pretty much like the grass growing in my lawn. You could always buy just a small package of seeds and see if they like it. ... I've noticed that 1 or 2 of my dogs isn't interested in it at all, but the others munch on it most every day. It's a matter of taste, I guess. :-)


Comments and Feedback are always welcome, as long as you follow one rule: Be the person your dog thinks you are (or cat, bunny, ferret, horse ...)