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Canine Behavior/Eating plants


My min-pin destroys my hosta plants each summer. Why is he eating them and how can I get him to stop?

Dogs are omnivorous, which means that they eat both meat and plant material. Many dogs will choose to nibble on all sorts of plants occasionally. Most commonly we see them nibbling at grass. Sometimes dogs will do this to help settle their tummy and aid in digestions. Other times they'll really chomp down in an effort to induce vomiting if they're feeling unwell. But in general, dogs graze on plants as a normal part of their lives.

However, the Hosta plant falls into the liloid family (along with lilies and onions and garlic). this means that the Hosta plant is toxic and so we definitely want to do our best to prevent and discourage your dog from snacking on this plant.

It's mildly toxic and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and depression. But ingested regularly or in very large quantities could potentially cause greater harm.

It may simply come down to management - keeping your dog away from the area with the Hosta plant unless supervised so that you can redirect him any time he approaches it. It may be easier to just remove that plant and replace it with one that isn't toxic to dogs.

You can try to do some aversion training with him to help him believe the plant should be avoided. There's a product called SSScat, which is a canister of nontoxic air and topped with a motion sensor. You place it strategically and set it for both tone and spray. When the dog approaches, the tone will sound and a moment later, a burst of nontoxic air will spray. This usually works well to startle the dog away from the area. And after just a few approaches, the dog will usually choose to avoid the area. This works well if the spray is more startling than the pleasure of eating the plant is pleasurable. Below is a video of the SSScat keeping a bengal tiger from walking out an open gate at his zoo (there's a bird squawking in the background, but that's not part of the exercise with the tiger...

You can create more space by using a Scat Mat in the area which will cause a static shock to his paws if he steps on it. I always insist my clients put their hand on the mat to feel exactly what it feels like. If you're going to introduce a physical aversive, you should know what it feels like. Essentially, it's a strong static shock that doesn't cause any lasting damage, but definitely causes the reflex pulling away and a startle if you're not expecting it. Laying the mat out in front of his access to the plant can create a barrier for him to not cross. I like this idea less than the SSScat canister. Both these options are useful for correcting him when you can't be there to supervise.

You can spend some time working with him using positive reinforcement by letting him approach the area and then calling him away and rewarding him for coming back to you. Rewarding him for ignoring the Hosta plant altogether and choosing other activities. You could buy some known dog-safe plants (I believe cat grass - not catnip, but the grass you can buy for the cat to munch on) is safe for dogs as well) and plant that several feet away from the Hosta plant and then redirect and praise him for choosing the safe plant over the Hosta plant.

SSScat with a Tiger


Choose one or the other, not both. Whichever of these tools (if you choose to one at all) should be used until you've had a full 30 days without the dog making any effort to approach the plant. Then you can set the tool to TONE ONLY for another 30 days so if he decides to try, he'll still get that warning, which should prompt him to move away because it's already associated with the spray or static shock.

Good luck. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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