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First things first: This is 100% my fault. When we brought Peggy home at 9 weeks, we placed some rocks in her kiddie pool, as she seemed to love poking around in the water, working to figure out how to pick them up, and then remove them from the pool.

How stupid am I?!

We, of course, have since come to our senses and no longer play this game. But now, at 14 weeks, she picks up rocks EVERYWHERE.

And not just rocks—small stones. She'll carry them quietly in her mouth, innocent as can be, and then eventually spit them out when something more interesting comes along.

Obviously this is an accident waiting to happen, but not even high value treats can coax her to relinquish them. I have to put my hand in her mouth and remove the stone, and THEN give her the great treat.

But I suspect this will eventually backfire on me as she learns to play keep-away (or worse - starts guarding and/or stops trusting me near her mouth).

Has anyone dealt successfully with this particular quirk? Unfortunately, our property (including her potty area and the path in and out from our front and back doors) is 50% gravel and river rock. We literally cannot avoid it.

We did try soaking a few especially tempting rocks with Bitter Yuk, but it didn't deter her even slightly. She did not so much as flinch, despite avoiding the taste on other objects.

Truly, she loves her rocks.

Help?
 

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We’ve all done something stupid in training our dogs so don’t beat yourself up. It’s great you are reaching out for help.

I would spray some rocks with hot sauce and allow her to pick these rocks up. Given all the rocks on your property I suspect you will have to spray hot sauce in many areas and after it rains.

In the meantime you should train your dog to accept a muzzle, then muzzle her when she’s outside and has access to rocks when you are not actively training her with hot sauce rocks.

The goal is to allow her to try various rocks in different parts of your yard that is sprayed with hot sauce and use the muzzle when not training so she doesn’t self reward by picking up a non-treated rock.
 

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You could do that but definitely condition her ever so carefully and gradually to a muzzle. She's a very sensitive dog and a muzzle is a very sensitive, vulnerable place. If Bitter Yuk doesn't work, maybe Skylar's idea of hot sauce might. And it might work in preventing her from practicing the behavior and not having it develop into a habit. On the other hand, she's not able to use any self control, which of course, she has yet to develop.

But it's not just because you did that with the pool. I can vouch for that. Lots of puppies, my two poodles in particular LOVED picking up little stones the second I brought them home. It was very difficult for a time. I just got right on it with teaching drop it, leave it, give it training asap. We did this in the house in a non-distracting area. And supervised big time outdoors...helicopter mom. lol. And pulled the little stones right out of their mouths without trading. I mean, if they swallow one, that's really potentially serious, right? I think as long as you also work on the trading for dropping things, leaving it and giving, you won't cause any big problem for this short time that you have to just take things sometimes. It's dogs that constantly have things taken from them with nothing in it for them that often develop resource guarding and/or running away with things. This won't be a constant thing or a long lasting one.

You can also bring out some other toys that she loves...especially reserved for outdoor play only. Get her going on a game, teach retrieve a little bit...just short throws...couple feet at first. Keep her busy with things she's learning and make everything fun. In other words, keep her so busy doing other things, playing with other things that she doesn't think of getting rocks, that she has no time to look around, think too much and then go after a rock. Then take her back inside. Hopefully, finding alternatives that are rewarding...really rewarding will take up that brain space that has been used for finding and being so interested in rocks. lol.

I put tennis balls in the pool for the pups. They had a hell of a time getting hold of them. Or you can use a little plastic toy that floats. That way they won't get water up their nose too badly as they won't have to put their whole head under water to get something that sinks. But yeah, teaching to give by trading is something to get on asap. Often they get something that is dangerous or too valuable to mess around struggling with them over.

 
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This is all so helpful. Thank you!! I've hesitated to use something like hot sauce because I don't want it getting on her paws. Hard when the tempting object is also her walking surface! But I might try putting it on one or two strategically placed rocks.

And PBG - Thank you for that bit of reassurance! I can see that a gravel path would look an awful lot like a pathway of toys to a young pup. I just should've been working from day 1 on deterring that behaviour instead of encouraging it. Adult human brains see the difference between big rocks and little stones. Puppy brains? Notsomuch ?
 

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Oh! And she's shockingly excellent at dunking her head. She blows a steady, hilarious stream of bubbles to keep the water out of her nose. Can't wait to see her swim one of these days!
Haha...It sounds like she's going to be a natural. I had a Lab and we lived at one time during her life near a bog type lake. There were frogs galore and frog eggs that come ensconced in a gel-type sack. Along the edge of the shore Bonnie, my Lab would dunk her whole head and more... right under and come up with this slimy, gunky stuff full of poor little frog eggs that she would slurp right up. Ewwwww! Dogs can be so disgusting. :ahhhhh:
 
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Even if you don't have a problem that you need it for I think teaching all dogs to accept muzzles is really important. I keep muzzles in my dog first aid kit in the event of an accident since a hurt dog will not necessarily have bite restraint. Here's how I taught the dogs to be chill about the muzzle. Show it to them and touch it to their nose and cheeks while giving treats. When they are good on that put treats in the palm of your hand under the muzzle so that have to stick their muzzle in to get the treats. Just hold everything steady and let the dog dig around to get the treats. When they are eager about that lay the closure straps across the back of their neck without buckling the straps. And then repeat the same pattern but now buckle the strap around their neck and have them sit and wait to get the treats, etc...


It is worth it to practice this periodically to keep it comfortable for the dog to be wearing the muzzle. I have these. https://www.chewy.com/baskerville-ultra-dog-muzzle-black/dp/117371?utm_source=google-product&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=hg&utm_content=Baskerville&utm_term=&gclid=Cj0KCQjwh8jrBRDQARIsAH7BsXdKoDqDZk55Z8rq3MswrOyAtWVfpMFeEJE4r4fjT8SWb6p85DzXWGgaAraKEALw_wcB
 

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I wonder if they even make a muzzle that would fit wee Maurice's muzzle. Or even Matisse's. They're so tiny. I've never even tried a muzzle on my poodles. Never came up with a reason for it. Just look at that teeny tiny muzzle. This picture shows the comparison of his size in relation to the front door and little step up. And he's not even the smallest poodle out there. He's a whopping 4.7 lbs or so. But such a refined, dainty muzzle.

 

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I never even considered a muzzle for my last dog. She even tolerated an exam with a dislocated hip! Never so much as growled. But I can see she might have been exceptional in that regard. I'll look into adding a muzzle to our first-aid kit.

As far as the rocks go, today my husband suspected she had one in her mouth and he reached for it. No rock. We think she might have swallowed it. Needless to say, I've been frantically googling and will keep a close eye on her over the next 48 hours for any sign of blockage.

Clearly reaching for it is the wrong move. Makes her frantic. But trading continues to not work.

Going to pick up some Tabasco today, but I'm not feeling especially optimistic.
 

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(Should have also mentioned I'm going to take your advice, Poodlebeguiled, and work on "leave it" and "drop it" in an area far removed from the gravel. I think my mistake has been practicing these commands in high stakes moments. The distraction idea is also very good, but I've found NOTHING that will distract her from slurping up rocks. Not food, not toys, not even the excitement of heading out to the car.)
 

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Yes, training can't take place right in the midst of the distracting moments or the times where they're doing just what you need to be training against. And it's hard to trade something if the thing they have is valued and they have no history of reinforcement for this exercise. So, yep...sit on your kitchen floor, get some treats and practice a few times a day if you know what to do to teach this... and if you need help, just ask me. I'm 5 minutes away. lol. Or ask your trainer you're using for puppy classes. Once they get into the habit and their brain is wired to love the game, it becomes very easy to have them drop things. You should see Matisse. He gets something out in the yard and I say, "drop it" and he drops it with gusto and then looks very pleased with himself. lol.

I sure hope she didn't swallow it. Sometimes though, if it's teensy, it will pass through. Crossing my fingers she didn't swallow a rock where it will cause problems.

I guess that muzzle training is called for and the hot sauce. You might have to just take her someplace else besides where the gravel is until she learns...like a walk on the road there. Lots of work, huh. It will all level out before long though.
 
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Peggy that is another thing we have taught our dogs to accept, having us reach into their mouths. I have actually gotten tissues and napkins out of Lily's mouth as she was starting to swallow and the object was was back at the base of her tongue. I also find it helpful in giving an oral medication that doesn't taste good. We mostly just play around with their mouths, look in them and such while saying let me see your snarly teeth. We actually touch all over everyday as a game for each dog. Leave it and drop it too and as you have seen, not when she is around the rocks and gravel.
 
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