Eating grass is just one of the many canine behaviors that make dog owners wish that dogs could talk.
If only your German Shepherd could just give you an explanation for why they eat grass!
After all, you buy your GSD expensive and tasty food that your dog seems to really like. You hand out dog treats like candy during training sessions. Your dog seems healthy and happy.
And then you let your German Shepherd outside and what do they do? They eat grass. Why?
In this article, we dig down deep to explore this strange canine behavior and the most likely reasons for it.
Why Do German Shepherds Eat Grass?
There is no one single reason why German Shepherds eat grass. In fact, some German Shepherds may not eat grass often or ever, while other GSDs will eat grass all the time.
Over the years, many theories have arisen.
Most of these theories came about as dog owners watched their dogs eating grass, observed what happened next, took notes, compared those notes with other dog owners, and then developed theories.
But even canine veterinarians and researchers are still not exactly sure why dogs in general and German Shepherds specifically eat grass.
Logical Explanations for Why German Shepherds Eat Grass
As Memphis Veterinary Specialists points out, even well-fed, healthy dogs often eat grass.
Despite the fact that humans don’t understand why, this behavior seems relatively normal and common for pet dogs.
However, even though canine veterinarians cannot give their customers a single clear answer as to why a German Shepherd might eat grass, they can offer up a lot of different theories that might explain the behavior.
Your German Shepherd is trying to vomit
As Pet Check Urgent Care reports, the most popular theory for why German Shepherds eat grass is because they are trying to vomit.
Why would your German Shepherd want to vomit?
Vomiting might relieve gas or bloat. It could be a way to ease digestive upset. Or it might provide a pathway to get rid of toxins or poisons.
In this way, grass might be the canine equivalent of antacids for people. After all, the grass is pretty much pure fiber, and fiber is what the digestive tract needs to work properly.
However, there is a problem with this theory. The problem is that many dog owners have observed their dogs eating grass and NOT throwing up afterward.
So if your German Shepherd eats grass and doesn’t throw up, this isn’t a reason to panic. In fact, it could be reassuring because at least your dog probably doesn’t have an upset stomach.
Your German Shepherd is channeling their inner wolf
As Fetch by WebMD explains, many wild canids, including wolves and coyotes, have been seen to eat grass.
In the same article, WebMD points out that 79 percent of pet dogs have been observed to eat grass at some point in time.
So it could be that eating grass does provide some type of nutrient benefit even if we are not sure what it is.
Your German Shepherd has pica
The American Kennel Club (AKC) explains that some dogs can develop a condition called pica (“pie-kuh”).
Pica is a condition that is characterized by the animal eating non-food objects.
The weird part about this theory is that pica is generally considered to be a condition based around nutritional deficiency.
The animal starts eating strange things or non-food things because their body is having cravings for missing nutrients.
So here, it is possible that grass does provide some missing nutrients to your dog. This could be especially plausible if your German Shepherd eats grass but does not vomit it back up afterward.
But what if you are already feeding your GSD a complete and balanced dog food?
The important thing to remember here is that consumer research into dog foods has often shown that the nutrient levels stated on the manufacturer label do not always match what is actually in the food.
As the Truth About Pet Food highlights, sometimes pet food can be imbalanced because it contains more than the daily allotment of certain nutrients. In many ways, too much is just as bad as too little.
This is a huge topic in itself and deserves a separate post to deal with.
But suffice it to say for our purposes here that your German Shepherd may have a nutrient deficiency even if the food you offer claims to be complete and balanced.
And if this is the case, your GSD may have cravings that express as pica through grass eating.
Your German Shepherd is anxious, bored, or lonely
Do you stress-eat or know someone who does? If you answered “yes,” you know that eating isn’t always about pure physical hunger.
While it is easy to assume that only people would eat for reasons other than hunger, dogs have evolved to live very closely with people over many millennia.
So a dog that gets lonely, for example, might cope by finding something to do to distract itself, such as chewing on grass.
An anxious German Shepherd might resort to grass-eating because the act of chewing is calming.
And a German Shepherd that is bored could find an outlet in ripping grass out of the lawn and then eating it.
These are all possibilities. The best way to test this theory that your German Shepherd is eating grass out of boredom, loneliness, or anxiety is to adjust your dog’s environment so those variables disappear.
If your German Shepherd is calm, engaged in fulfilling activities, and always in your company and the grass eating disappears, this could be why.
But if the grass eating remains, one of the other theories might be a better fit.
Your German Shepherd likes grass!
Many cats have a well-known preference for catnip, a special type of grass that often produces hyperactivity or sleepiness in pet felines.
But there is no known equivalent to catnip for canines – at least not yet.
However, it is possible that your dog simply likes the way grass tastes, as weird as that might sound.
Or, as we mentioned in the previous section here, perhaps what your dog likes most is the “mouth feel,” the texture and rhythm of chewing on the fibrous grass stems.
Another possible explanation is that the grass your German Shepherd is chewing on has been peed or pooped on by another dog or a cat or some other animal.
German Shepherds and all dogs have a well-documented affinity for rolling in things no human would ever want to roll in.
We are not sure exactly why they do this, although here again there are lots of theories.
But you can test out whether this theory might be the explanation by watching where your German Shepherd goes to eat grass.
Does your dog always seem to nip at grass in the same location? Or is your GSD eating grass right where you picked up a steaming pile of some other animal’s poop the other day?
Did you see your cat pee on the grass right near where your dog is going to town?
It could be that your German Shepherd is simply engaging in full-sensory immersion in all the other scents (and flavors) that that particular patch of grass is offering up.
Can You Stop Your German Shepherd from Eating Grass?
As Canine Journal reports, there may be some times when you absolutely need your dog to stop eating grass.
If your grass has been chemically treated with fertilizers, pesticides, or rodenticides, then eating that grass could kill your German Shepherd.
You should also immediately stop your dog from eating grass if you are noticing that they are repeatedly eating grass and vomiting.
This is an indication your dog needs to go to the veterinarian for a checkup right away.
The hands-down best way to prevent your German Shepherd from eating grass is to remove access to the grass. This is definitely a time-intensive method, but it works.
Walking your GSD on a leash will allow you to retract the leash when your dog tries to eat grass.
You will also need to go outside with your dog when it is time to potty and then bring your dog right back inside so there is no time to eat grass.
Making other adjustments to your dog’s daily routine and talking with your veterinarian about adjusting foods and portion sizes may also help clear up your German Shepherd dog’s grass eating.
Listen to a Scientist Decode Grass Eating in Canines
In this YouTube video, a scientist talks about why modern domestic dogs might have evolved to eat grass.
As you will learn, there are more theories than there are hard, quantifiable facts.
However, one thing seems quite clear: many German Shepherds (and other dog breeds) do in fact eat grass, even if they can’t tell us precisely why.