Pica: What To Do When Your Dog Eats Strange Things

If your dog has an appetite for inedible items like dirt, socks, or rocks, you’re probably concerned about the reason behind this abnormal behavior — and what it’s doing to Fido’s health.

As it turns out, the consumption of non-nutritious substances is a known disorder called pica. Pica has numerous causes ranging from underlying health conditions to behavioral issues requiring modification. At worst, pica can give your dog a serious intestinal blockage needing surgery.

Not only is this upsetting for you both, but you’ll also take a financial hit of about $3,000 per Healthy Paws Pet Insurance estimates. If your dog is experiencing strange cravings, visit your veterinarian to determine the root cause and the right treatment to protect his health — and your bank balance!

Address Health Issues

Your vet will run tests to determine if your dog has any underlying health issues driving him to eat non-food stuffs. It may be that his pica is due to a nutritional imbalance, iron deficiency, or digestive disorder that needs treating.

More serious causes of pica may include brain lesions, stomach tumors, or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Chances are your dog doesn’t have a serious physical illness, but it’s best to be on the safe side.





Photo by Caleb Carl on Unsplash

Improve Quality of Life

When dogs are bored or lonely, they tend to create their own forms of entertainment. If you think lack of stimulation is causing your dog’s pica, work on enriching his life. Give him plenty of attention, play with him regularly, and take him on long walks. It’s important for your dog to burn off excess energy, so he’s tired and content at home.

Use Verbal Cues

Teach your dog verbal cues to get him to break his behavioral habits. As soon as you see him eating something he shouldn’t, interrupt his behavior by making a noise like a kissy sound (which is more attention-grabbing than using his name). Tell him to “leave it” or “drop it” and lure him away with a treat. Recall is also an invaluable command, especially if he tends to eat things when you’re out on walks.

Lastly, keep objects out of your dog’s reach tidy laundry away, put trash straight in the bin, and keep cleaning products off-limits. You can also spray taste deterrents (like black pepper) on certain items. If you need to, muzzle him on walks.

Although it may take a while to resolve pica, it’s certainly possible with dedication and perseverance. If you’re giving your dog plenty of exercise and a balanced diet, pica should no longer be an issue. If, however, you find it continues despite your best efforts, go back to your vet for advice. It may be the case you need to constantly enforce the above preventative measures to keep your dog safe and prevent potential intestinal blockage.

Likewise, it’s important to determine if the issue is related to the need for behavior modification. Mark “Dogman” Castillero, founder and owner of Pro-Train Innovative Dog Training, specializes in behavior modification. He and his team can help stop an undesirable behavior and help dog owners commit to a program to refocus their dog.





Photo by Christopher Ayme on Unsplash

Crate Training Your Dog 101

Crate training is the first necessary step you should take after bringing home a dog or pup. The crate has to be portrayed as a home to the pet. To achieve this end, you have to create positive associations in the pup’s mind about the crate.

To successfully “crate-train” your pooch, you should follow these do’s and don’ts to masterfully hack the dog’s mind and create good memories.

The Do’s of Crate Training

Patience and Praise

To create positive experiences of the pooch in relevance to the crate, use positive reinforcement every time he obeys you. Give him treats in the beginning to walk inside the crate and continue to praise him whenever he walks inside the crate on his own. Even if it has become a routine, continue to appreciate the behavior. Some dog breeds take more time than others, but patience is the key here.

Comfortable Crate

Dogs usually feel anxious in unfamiliar surroundings. Place the crate in a comfortable place with the chew toys and treats in it. Try treat-dispensing toys or puzzles that can engage the pooch in your absence so that he may not feel aloof or cut off from the family when you are not home.

Plenty of Exercise

Exercise is a must to tone down the anxiety of pooch, so take him for walks or playtime before you put him to crate. Let the pooch exhaust his energies exploring the surroundings. Once he is tired and all drained, you may put him in the crate to relax and rest.

Gradually Increase Crate Time

Introduce your puppy to the crate at an early age, well before he turns one. Leave him in the crate for 20 minutes at first. Once the dog feels comfortable for that time period, then you can extend the time to 30 minutes. A gradual increase in time will keep you aware of their comfort. It will prevent him from developing separation anxiety.

Such slow crate training in your presence will create a trust in dogs that they will be let out. However, long hours of crating will increase their anxiety and fright due to change.

Time for Eliminating Before Crating Dog

Give the pooch proper time to eliminate before locking him up in the crate. If the pooch has eliminated in the prohibited area of the crate, then your housebreaking efforts have failed entirely. You will have to start all over again.

The Don’ts of Crate Training

Substitute for Supervision

Crates should never be used as substitutes for supervision. In other words, don’t consider crating the dog as a substitute for your lack of time for the pooch. If you have a busy lifestyle, it’s better to not consider bringing home a pet.

When you are home, spend time with the pooch to develop a close bonding and understand the needs and routine of your dog. Allow him to freely move around in your presence.

Crate Train for Punishment or Time Out

Using the crate as a punishment or timeout will create negative associations in the dog’s mind. The more you will push him inside, he will resist you. It may create a loophole in the relation of dog and the owner.

Let the dog freely explore the crate when it’s door is open. Let him enter it on his own accord.

Crate Space as Too Big or Too Small

Don’t use a crate that’s too big or small in size. A big crate will let your dog compartmentalize it into a bathroom as one end and retreat on the other end. On the other hand, a small crate may not allow the pooch to stretch or even stand up, which can be congested and uncomfortable for the dog.

The crate should be of a balanced size to allow some space for the dog to move around and play with the chew toys. Here are some of the creative dog pen ideas for dogs.

Force or Push the Dog Inside

Pushing or shoving the dog inside the crate before leaving home will create negative associations in the dog’s mind. He will consider it a punishment and will try to hide as soon as you reach for the car keys before leaving. It will create fears and anxiety in your dog, which are root causes of other behavioral issues.

Leave Bones with Chew Toys

Dogs can be given chew toys to nibble on during your absence, but bones should never be given for long time periods and without your supervision. If the bone is cooked, it is brittle enough to crack in the mouth and cause seizures. The chewing time of bone should be fixed and monitored to avoid your Fido choking on the bone after engulfing large pieces of it.



About the Contributor

James is a part-time dog-trainer and dog behavior consultant with years of experience in dog training and the man behind He is interested in finding out fun ways to handle dog behaviors, specifically, Labradors to help dog-owners enjoy their companions at all times.

Discover How These “Hero” Dogs Saved Lives 

There are approximately 390,000 service dogs across the United States. These dogs are trained to help save the lives of their owners as well as other people around them. Just like our local firefighters, law enforcement, and military members, these dogs are national heroes. They go through extensive training and practice to become the legends they are today, and with the right training, your dog can join the ranks. So, sit down with your pup and read about some inspirational dogs and the training that saved lives.

Roselle, the 9/11 Hero, and the Forward Command

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Michael Hingson, a blind computer sales manager, was sitting in his office on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower with his dog, Roselle at his side. At 8:46 am, he heard a loud booming sound that shook the building and created large eruptions of screams. Michael told Roselle the command “Forward” and Roselle immediately led Michael outside of his office and down the stairs. In the staircase, there was a woman who was screaming about how they wouldn’t make it, so Roselle nudged her and calmed her down. Together, the three of them made it out alive.

Roselle was an inspiration to everyone, and even became the “spokes-dog” for the Guide Dogs for the Blind organization. However, her training started with a simple command: Forward. To teach your dog this life-saving command, you will start by having him sit. Then, take a treat and place it in front of him while saying forward. This will get him to move towards the treat and in essence, complete the forward command. You can do this motion multiple times until your pup is able to move forward without you in front of him or her.

Shana, the Ice Queen

One cold winter night, Eve and Norman Fertig, founders of the Enchanted Forest Wildlife Sanctuary, went outside to check on the blustery weather. However, while outside, several trees fell, and they became trapped in an alley between two buildings. They couldn’t climb out and spent two and half hours huddled in the snow. Eventually, their dog, Shana came to the rescue and began digging her owners out of the snow. It took 2 hours for the dog to get them out, but she eventually cleared a tunnel about 20 feet long and saved the Fertigs.

If you’re stuck in a similar situation, it is important that your dog knows the command “dig”. You can do this by hiding one of Fido’s favorite treats or toys in the ground. You should lightly cover it so that the dog can still see his prize. Then, tell him to dig. Pair good behavior with treats and reward your dog when he completes the command. Eventually, with enough practice, you can start to bury the toy deeper. This isn’t just a great command for life-saving skills, but it’s also a fun game to play with your dog. You can hide his favorite items and see how long it takes for him to find them. Videotape them and upload them to Instagram, so that he can become a media sensation! NOTE: Typically, a common pet dog would not be taught how to Dig. Most that come to Pro-Train are taught how NOT TO DIG. But in an emergency situation, it’s a good thing to be so bonded with your dog, that he is willing to risk his life to dig you out of trouble.

Louie’s Panic Button and the Bark Command

One day, Judith Shaw, who suffers from glaucoma, blacked out on the floor. Lucky for her, Judith’s dog Louie was trained to save her life. Louie immediately pressed a panic button and started barking into the intercom. This button went directly to care services and an ambulance was immediately dispatched to save Judith. Louie saved his best friend’s life and was awarded an animal bravery award.

This trick is great for anyone that is prone to falling or living alone. You will need a panic button, or some sort of device that connects to medical services and you will need to train your dog to bark on command. To do this, find a treat or toy that gets your pup excited. You can also try ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door if the toys don’t work. Then, say “bark” or “speak” and get your dog to bark using the method that you chose. As soon as Fido speaks, you should reward him with a treat.

There are many dogs out there that have done heroic acts and saved lives. However, your dog is just as much of a hero as them. Train them well and one day, they could save your life.

Need a trainer for your specific disability or situation? Pro-Train has trained over 10,000 dogs. We can help! Email us for more information at


Support Animals: Tips for Individuals with Disabilities

Specially-Trained emotional support animals can make all the difference in the life of a disabled person.

For individuals who are living with a disability, having a pet can be a huge help. Some are specially-trained emotional support animals, while others are simply loving pets that provide comfort and company to those who need it most. Some pets can be trained to complete physical tasks that are too difficult for their human companions, such as opening doors or carrying shopping baskets.

Whatever your needs are, there’s sure to be a pet for you. It’s important to make sure your pet’s needs are met as well, however, by giving him lots of attention and care. This begins the moment you bring him home, meaning you’ll need a good plan for keeping him happy and healthy. Bonding time is especially important for support animals in order to keep a connection that will last a lifetime.

Here are a few of the best tips on how you and your support animal can take care of one another. Guest blogger Ashley Taylor of shares some great information here.



Maverick and his owner, who is deaf, have bonded well! Another Pro-Train Success Story.

Form the Bond

As soon as you bring your pet home, the bonding should begin. Clear your schedule as much as possible so you can play with your new pet and let him assimilate to his new home. Allow him to explore his surroundings and, if possible, only have immediate family there when he arrives. Keep things calm and conversational, and let him meet everyone at his own pace. This will set the tone for your relationship and will give him a sense of trust, which is imperative when it comes to support animals.

Stay Social

Pets can help you stay social and active, which is important for many individuals who are living with a disability. You might visit a local dog park for a walk after dinner, or join local events that include pets. Emotional support animals can be extremely beneficial when it comes to loneliness, but it’s helpful to get out and spend time with other people as well. Talk to your doctor about which exercises are best for your needs and which ones you should stay away from so that you and your pet will stay safe, especially during colder months or when the weather is inclement.

Just like a baby or toddler needs extra attention, so too do our pets upon arriving at our home. Make sure its safe your new Fur Baby.

Pet-Proof Your Home

Many animals will explore their new home eagerly, so it’s important to make sure each area is safe and free of trip-hazards, toxic plants or foods such as chocolate, and exposed wires or cords that might look like fun chew toys. Take a look at the outside of your home as well, especially if your pet will be spending a lot of time there. The yard should ideally be fenced in to keep him safe, and should be free of any rocks or small items that could damage his paws. For more tips on how to get started, click here.

Pro-Train has trained thousands of service and assistance dogs.

Proper Training

All new pets, like children, need a bit of guidance so they can understand the rules. Even those that have been specially trained as emotional support animals may need to learn how things will work in your home. Go over basic commands to ensure he knows how to sit, heel, and stay, and make sure your family members understand the rules as well. Keeping everyone on the same page will ensure that your pet doesn’t become confused.

If you need help with service dog training, Pro-Train is a top pick for people with disabilities. Founder and owner Mark Castillero has a phenomenal staff who he has mentored and trained. Whatever the disability, your dog will be trained with your specific needs to your specific situation. Lifetime guaranteed.


Having a pet can make a world of difference for an individual with a disability, but it’s necessary to choose the right animal for your needs. Whether you’re a dog person or someone who loves cats, making sure you are compatible with your pet is essential. After that, it’s just a matter of loving and being loved.

Does Your Dog Do This…

Does your fur baby not know its role in your family?

Is Fido confused at who exactly is the Pack Leader in your home?

We consistently hear problems like:

-My dog doesn’t understand commands.

-My dog barks aggressively at other dogs on a walk.

-My dog has a hard time calming down.

-My dog is causing my family stress.

-My dog won’t heel.

-I can’t have guests over without my dog jumping on them.

-I just want my dog to listen to me.

-I want my dog to stop chewing things.

-My dog likes to dig.

-I have a new puppy and I don’t know where to start.


Dog Training requires Behavior Modification. Any unwanted behavior in your canine can be corrected with the proper training.

It takes work. It takes a commitment by you, The Pack Leader. It takes follow up by The Boss.

But how do I know where to start?

Why Professional Dog Training? Can’t I just do it myself?

Having a Professional Dog Trainer makes a world of difference.

And by professional, we mean, Experience, Success and Dedication.


Mark “Dogman” Castillero has trained over 10,000 dogs in his 40 year career. Mark is the owner and founder of Pro-Train Innovative Dog Training. His skilled team of professionals KNOW DOGS. Most of the canine owners that come to Pro-Train for help have been REFERRED by a previous client.

We have a 95% Success Rate!

Plus, we GUARANTEE the Training for the Lifetime of the Dog.

-This includes refresher training and discounted boarding for extended periods due to travel or other needs.

Personalized Training Can Make All the Difference.

Are You Ready to Hear…

-Wow, your dog is so well-behaved!

-How did you get your dog to be so well-trained?

-I wish my dog behaved as well as yours!

Then, call us today to set up an initial consultation at 760-749-0897.

We consistently OUTRANK our competition.

-Our facility is beautiful and relaxing and each canine, no matter the size, loves it.

-Our trainers bond quickly with your dog.

-Each of our trainers has been through the Pro-Train apprenticeship program and is fully equipped to handle all behavior issues.

-We rank high on YELP and receive High Ranks online with our clients.

-Once we have trained a client’s dog, we typically train their future fur babies as well.

-We are Passionate about what we do…and it shows!

Here’s What Others Are Saying About Us…

“I have a wonderful five year old Labrador that Dogman trained. Before he worked with her I was about to give her away. She had chewed furniture, chewed garden and pool hoses, chewed wiring under my RV she would bark for anything and the worst was I couldn’t walk her. She is not that dog anymore. Thanks so much!” 

“I have been a Pro-Train client since 2004. Mark is the world’s greatest guide dog trainer. He custom trained two beautiful Labs; Scooby and Captain to guide me from a motorized wheelchair after all of the non-profit guide dog training programs turned me away because I have severe cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair for mobility in addition to being nearly blind. His innovative training methods and excellent in-community handler instruction with a touch of good humor, enabled me to function confidently and successfully with my dogs in any situation. Pro-Train WORKS MIRACLES WITH DOGS AND PEOPLE!!!!!”

“EVERYONE [at Pro-Train] is so professional and they love what they do. As Dogman Mark says “There’s no such thing as a bad dog” They train and re-train all sorts of dogs and it is amazing to watch them work!”

“Mark and his team at Pro-Train are the greatest. My former wife and I have used Mark for years. She trained two therapy dogs on the foundation Mark laid and still has one (retired). The other died several years ago. We got the female I now have (Belgian Sheepdog/Belgian Malinois mix: Malinois coat, Sheepdog color) when she was about two out of a neglect/abuse situation. She was very insecure, over protective and at one point bit someone inside the house. After five weeks of “boot camp” with Mark, she was a completely renewed dog, living up to her name – Grace. Grace loves to spend time with the team. I travel several times a year and she hangs out for a refresher.”

What are you waiting for? Email us at to set up an evaluation of your beloved canine. We are straightforward and will tell you exactly what your family needs to have a well-behaved furry family member.


Page 3 of 1912345...10...Last »

Dog Trainer in San Diego: The Dog Man Can.