Why Does My Dog Eat Sheetrock?

My dog chews on the wall at night and eats the sheetrock. I really do feed him. Is he missing something in his diet? He came from some one who gave him very little structure and at the age of 7 was still using puppy pads in the breakfast room instead of being completely house broken. He gets caught when we find him silently tippy toeing down the stairs like a fox with a smile. So, what makes sheetrock so special?

There are two ways to approach this problem – from a behavioral point of view and from a dietary point of view.

From a behavioral point of view, your dog may chewing/eating the sheetrock out of boredom. Perhaps he needs more stimulating toys to amuse him, such as puzzle cubes that dispense treats or firmer chewing toys like Nylabones, but perhaps also he is not sleeping through the night because he needs more exercise throughout the day. It is also possible that this was an occasional behavior, but that your dog is now learning that chewing/eating the sheetrock attracts your attention and he enjoys that – especially since you seem to find the behavior almost endearing. Aside from providing more stimulation, I would recommend coating the wall with a chewing deterrent such as Bitter Apple, which most dogs find unappealing, and also completely ignoring the behavior for a week or so to see if he will stop naturally without the encouragement of it attracting your attention.

From a dietary point of view, we’ve discussed before in this column how dogs seem to often eat unusual things, and that this might indicate a natural instinct to supplement a dietary deficiency. There is of course very little statistical evidence of this assumption, and one should never allow dogs to eat things which seem dangerous for this reason, but all dog owners are familiar with, for example, when their dogs choose to eat soil, tree roots, bark, stones and other seemingly random objects. In the case of eating soil, this is particularly evident in breeds which have known natural iron deficiencies, and this demonstrates how they may be seeking extra dietary iron in clay soils. Therefore, it is possible that your dog has a calcium deficiency (the main constituent of sheetrock) – and you could try to give high calcium supplements to him (within the range recommended by any over-the-counter canine supplement). If the behavior stops within a week or two, it is possible that the extra dietary calcium has negated your dog’s need for eating sheetrock.