Stopping a dog's urge to chomp on stuff is next to impossible. But for your dog's health's sake, you need to provide suitable outlets for doing so, such as toys. Problems arise when the urge for chewing non-food items turns into an eating said items. Tree bark is especially dangerous as it can splinter, causing cuts to your dog's mouth and gums as well as obstructions to his digestive tract.
Boredom and Attention-Seeking
Lack of mental stimulation is the cause of a number of undesirable and destructive behaviors. If your dog is stuck in the yard or inside every day with nothing to do, he's going to make his own fun. Chewing and eating tree bark can be a stimulating diversion. It becomes a rewarding activity to the dog if you or other members of the family rush over to tell Lucky to stop when he noshes on tree bark. What may have been a boredom-relieving behavior can become his favored means of getting your attention.
Sometimes dogs eat non-food items when they have nutritional deficiencies or digestive problems and are trying to fulfill an unmet nutritional need, such as lack of fiber. Often the behavior coincides with changes to appetite and irregular bowel movements. Since certain tree bark contains nutrients, depending on the species of the tree it came from and the freshness of the bark, your dog may be eating it in an attempt to get vital nourishment that is lacking in his diet.
Puppies experience discomfort from teething intermittently from the ages 3 weeks to 6 months. During this period, puppies chew on anything they can find to relieve pain. If a pup happens to be parked next to a tree or a piece of bark when the urge calls, a round of chomping on it could
be all it takes for your dog to develop a long-term taste for it.
Pica is the medical term for the compulsion to eat nonfood items. Pica can be a reaction to anxiety, fear and boredom. The problem is distinct from destructive chewing caused by boredom or attention-seeking. With pica, a dog will try to consume and digest the bark, rather than merely chew it up and spit it out.
By Simon Foden
Border Collie Rescue: Eating Wood
Cesar's Way: Rock-Eating Pica Pup
Cesar's Way: 5 Steps to Correct Inappropriate Dog Chewing
ASPCA: Pica (Eating Things That Aren't Food)
The Survivalist: Survival Foods; Can You Really Eat Tree Bark?
Pets Web MD: Why Dogs Eat Grass; Causes and Prevention
About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.