Seeing your dog eating something it shouldn’t tends to sound alarms bells ringing in your head, and even more so when it’s something you would never expect them to eat; such as human hair.
Whilst seeing your dog chew on your shoe or eat some grass might be expected, something more shocking is when your dog chews on human hair. It can be from a hairbrush, eating hair off the floor, or even nibbling at the hair on your head!
In this guide, I will provide some helpful information on why dogs eat human hair, whether it’s bad for them, and how you can get them to stop doing it.
Is it bad if my dog eats hair?
Whilst your dog’s sudden hunger for chewing human hair off the floor might seem puzzling to say the least, the good news is that for the most part, eating human hair isn’t bad for a dog.
However, it is important to realise that there might be complications in some cases, and that if your dog is compulsively eating human hair, you should understand why and have ways to stop it.
Why do dogs eat human hair?
Before we even think about how you can get your dog to stop eating human hair, it’s important to try and establish why they are doing it in the first place. Some of the most common reasons why dogs chew on human hair are as follows:
Like babies, puppies explore the world through their mouths. Chewing and biting things they haven’t come into contact with before is how they get acquainted with objects, and hair is no different.
From a sensory perspective, hair can really serve to pique your pup’s curiosity due to the way that it moves around and effectively gives feedback when your pup chews on it.
So, if you’re concerned about why your young puppy is chewing hair, you really shouldn’t worry. At a young age, it is perfectly normal and natural for them to do so.
However, if you want to stop you dog eating human hair, it is a good idea to provide them with a wider range of chew toys, encouraging them to gently deflect their attention onto those toys as opposed to one’s hair.
This means that they can carry on with their exploratory chewing without digesting mouthfuls of your own hair in the process!
Here’s a great chew toy on Amazon that our French Bulldog loves to gnaw on.
2. Pica condition
Whilst in rare cases it can be a sign of an underlying health condition, pica – a condition wherein dogs consume non-food items – is usually a behavioural issue.
Dogs eating human hair is a fairly common type of pica, and as with most cases of pica, the reason they’re eating it may be rooted in compulsion.
There are many reasons why dogs will compulsively eat non-food items like hair. It could be a learned behaviour, a sign of stress or anxiety or even a misguided attempt to avoid punishment.
Pica is likely to be the cause of your dog’s hair-eating if they are a rehomed or rescue dog, as it is more likely that they picked up bad habits and or are responding to trauma from their previous home.
Because pica is mostly a psychological issue, the best way to curb this habit is to seek a professional dog trainer or behaviourist.
3. Attention-seeking behavior
If your dog is trying to chew the hair that is still attached to your head, it is fair to say that they’re probably looking for you to notice!
Furthermore, if you have previously reacted to them eating hair – even if that reaction was negative and disciplinarian – that teaches your dog that if they eat hair, that gets attention.
Even if that attention is negative, that doesn’t matter to your pup: any attention is still nonetheless attention.
The best way to curb these attention-seeking behaviours is by not reacting at all when your dog starts chomping on your locks, no matter how disruptive it may be!
If you couple this with giving them positive attention when they stop chewing hair, this will tell them eating hair gets them nowhere, and that there are other, more positive ways of getting your attention.
If you don’t tend to respond much when they eat human hair, and you can rule out other factors such as pica and adolescent development, another explanation for their penchant for human hair is quite simply boredom.
Boredom can cause dogs to pick up unfavourable habits in order to pass the time, and eating human hair is one of the most common ones.
If your dog is bored, it can be assumed that this is for one of two reasons: lack of exercise, or lack of stimulation. In the case of the former, this means that your dog has a lot of pent-up physical energy that they are unable to expel because they don’t go on enough walks.
Meanwhile, in the case of the latter, this means that your dog might not be getting enough exercise for the mind. This happens when your dog hasn’t got enough toys or doesn’t get enough playtime to exercise the mind.
By dealing with the underlying problem of your dog’s boredom – whether that be through more exercise or more playtime – their unfortunate hair-eating habit will hopefully lessen as a result.
How do I get my dog to stop eating hair?
Aside from the chew toys and some of the tips already mentioned, here are some ways you can get your dog to stop chewing and eating human hair.
- Provide plenty of chew toys.
- Alleviate their boredom and stress.
- Clean hair up off the floor.
- Put hair brushes out of reach.
What happens if a dog eats human hair?
Usually, human hair should usually be able to pass through your dog’s digestive system without any further complications.
However, if your dog ends up swallowing a lot of hair, it may end up becoming a hairball and leading to gastrointestinal issues by causing a blockage in your intestines.
Your dog might also experience health issues as a result of consuming hair if the hair they eat is coated in hair products that might be considered toxic for animals.
If you suspect this has happened, you should take your dog to the vets immediately, as it could lead to serious, sudden health problems.
Handy Hint: If you see a strand of human hair coming out of your dog’s backside, don’t pull on it. Let it pass through by itself, as pulling it could cause internal damage if it’s coiled around an internal organ.
So, whilst eating the odd piece of hair may not necessarily harm your dog, it is clear that consuming huge clumps of human hair that are also coated in various hair products can lead to serious health implications – and you won’t often know until you find the human hair in their dog poop.
However, as we have seen, it is also important to look at the underlying cause for your dog eating human hair to prevent it happening again in the future.
If you have any doubt, it is good to visit a vet or dog behaviourist.
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