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The Hair-Eating Puzzle: Understanding Why Dogs Do It (And How to Stop It)

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
January 8, 2023
3 min read
The Hair-Eating Puzzle: Understanding Why Dogs Do It (And How to Stop It)
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Finding that your dog is (oddly) eating your hair?

This bizarre behavior can be rather problematic for you (and your scalp) as well as your dog’s stomach.

So why in the world is your four-legged best friend so intent on eating your hair?!

Hair-eating can be a part of a puppy’s development, a case of pica (an obsessive-compulsive disorder), or boredom and attention seeking. Be mindful of when your puppy or dog exhibits hair-eating behavior to determine the cause. You can stop this by providing appropriate toys, offering mental and physical stimulation, visiting the vet to remedy the pica, or speaking to a professional dog trainer.

In this article, I’ll discuss these common reasons for hair eating in dogs and what you can do to stop this behavior.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Table of Contents
01
Common Reasons Why Dogs Eat Hair
02
How to Determine the Cause of Your Dog's Hair-Eating
03
How to Stop Your Dog's Hair-Eating Habit

Common Reasons Why Dogs Eat Hair

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We may not find hair appetizing, but there are a few reasons dogs may have the compulsion to engage in some unpleasant hair-eating.

If your hair eater is a puppy, then this could just be a piece in your dog’s mental development. Like babies, dogs can only understand the world by using their senses. Putting things in their mouth is how a puppy begins comprehending what is edible and not! Hair can be a very curious thing to a little four-legged one, and after putting it in their mouth, your puppy will become more acquainted.

If hair eating continues into adulthood, you might have a case of pica on your hands. Pica is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder in which a dog neurotically devours things that aren’t usually edible or classified as food. Dogs suffering from a neurological disorder, hormonal imbalance, or nutritional deficiency can turn to eating inappropriate things as an impulse. Hair is a unique texture and tends to feature a lot of flashy movement, which can make it a pica-eater’s prime choice.

Boredom and wanting your attention can also be why your dog is trying to eat hair. If you haven’t given your dog something to do to occupy themselves, they frequently discover other methods to pass the time. It’s not always ideal how a dog decides to occupy themselves, unfortunately! Dogs need mental and physical stimulation to remain content (and tired).

When a dog wants attention, their purpose is to act in a way that causes a response. You have encouraged this habit if you find yourself yelling or talking to your dog when they bite your hair. Therefore, your dog will keep biting at your hair when they want something from you.

How to Determine the Cause of Your Dog’s Hair-Eating

Figuring out which of the above reasons causes your dog’s hair-eating habit can be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes detective moment. Basically, be attentive to the behaviors and circumstances around the hair eating, providing context.

If your young puppy is doing so once more, this tends to be a part of their development.

Often puppies will do this when they are out exploring or feeling over-excited, as that’s a prime time for them to start nipping and discovering the world.

A pica diagnosis is something a veterinarian or behaviorist can diagnose officially, but you can likely determine it at home as well. If your adult dog has a tendency to eat and swallow inappropriate objects (such as fabric, carpet, and yes, even hair), then you definitely have pica on your hands. A dog suffering from pica may be trying to steal hairbrushes and getting into anywhere hair could be because that’s one of the items they prefer to eat. Pica also tends to exhibit itself when your dog is anxious or alone.

As for boredom and seeking attention, be mindful of what your dog is doing before and after the hair-eating behavior.

If you haven’t had much time to spend with your pup, a walk hasn’t transpired, or your dog hasn’t been played with… they’ll probably be biting at your hair to ask for one of the above things. If your dog only gets more excited after you’ve snapped at them to stop biting your hair, then the reason for such behavior is very likely a need for your attention.

How to Stop Your Dog’s Hair-Eating Habit

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Ending the unpleasant behavior depends on what the cause of the habit is.

For puppies, tell them no and start training, as this is not appropriate behavior. You would immediately ignore your puppy and not offer attention, much like ending other bad behaviors. Puppies are quick at picking this up! You can offer alternatives, such as toys specifically for teething or doing a training session to work the brain instead.

If you suspect pica, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian. Pica in dogs may be brought on by hormonal imbalances or dietary deficiencies. To determine what could be causing the obsessive behavior, get some blood work done and have a regular checkup with your veterinarian. Depending on the results, your vet will help you go from there.

For bored and attention-seeking dogs, create a routine for your dog that includes lots of exercise, training time, and fun! Your dog will be happier and less inclined to misbehave by exercising both the mind and the body (removing the urge to get at your hair when bored). Provide plenty of appropriate toys to chew on and enjoy, satisfying the chewing craving as well.


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Dog BehaviorsDog Training
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