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Why Do Dogs Like Sticks?

Geo-Sniffing

Canine Scented Scavenger Hunts

Why Do Dogs Like Sticks

Why Do Dogs Like Sticks? This question has puzzled pet owners and dog enthusiasts alike for generations. From the tiniest of Chihuahuas to the most majestic Great Danes, our canine companions seem to have an inexplicable fascination for these humble wooden branches. Dogs of all breeds and sizes often display an unwavering enthusiasm for sticks, whether it’s a well-weathered twig found during a leisurely stroll in the park or a freshly fallen tree limb in the backyard. But what drives this seemingly instinctual behavior, and why do dogs like sticks so much? In this exploration, we’ll delve into the intriguing world of canine behavior to uncover the reasons behind this age-old canine obsession.

Picture of how a dogs brain reacts to seeing a stick.

17 Reasons Why Do Dogs Like Sticks?

Dogs’ fondness for sticks is a widespread phenomenon, driven by various unique reasons. If your dog happens to be one of those who enjoy sticks, it’s likely due to one of these 17 distinct factors. However, it’s essential to recognize that playing with sticks is discouraged due to potential risks. To address your dog’s stick addiction effectively, it’s crucial to pinpoint the specific reason motivating their behavior. Only by doing so can you take the necessary steps to remedy the situation.

1. Smell

Dog have a much keener sense of smell than we do, so they like sticks. Sticks have all sorts of aromas, including the scent of other animals, rain, moss, and bacteria which can be attractive to dogs.

2. Taste

Eighty percent of taste is our smell. Since dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors, they can taste things we can not. The amount of receptors dogs have explained why they eat “disgusting things” like poop. To them, they are not disgusting. They can taste all the little things that we can not.

3. Texture

Sticks also have exciting textures. They are smooth and rough and sometimes have bark on them which can feel good to dogs.

4. Physical Activity

Dogs like to chew on sticks because it is a physical activity that uses up some of their energy. Dogs need to be active and want to soothe boredom. Playing with sticks relieves this pent-up energy.

5. They Are Fun

Playing helps dogs learn motor skills, practice valuable skills, and stimulate their minds.

6. Genes

Sticks are nature’s toys. Before the pet industry grew, the multibillion-dollar industry today, a dog was lucky to have a bone and one toy. So they had to make their own toys. Sticks are plentiful and easy to find, so they have always made good toys. In addition, people used to play fetch with sticks long before pet toys came about.

7. Brain Chemistry

While dogs are smart enough to know the difference between a stick and a bone, their brain chemistry does not. The size, texture, and weight of sticks are similar to a bone. However, a dog’s brain has developed release chemicals when they have a bone. These chemicals encourage more of the behavior. When dogs have sticks in their mouths, it release similar hormones as a bone. Therefore it is physically enjoyable for them to have it in their mouth.

8. Chewing Reduces Anxiety

Similar to brain chemistry, the act of chewing releases stress hormones. The act of chewing has a calming effect on the adrenal-pituitary axis in the brain. It triggers the release of endorphins. Chewing is a tool that the dog has at its disposal to ‘self-medicate’ for anxiety and stress.

9. Foraging Is Rewarding

There is a term called contra freeloading in animal behavior science. Scientists have heavily studied contra freeloading in zoo animals. Researchers found that animals choose to ‘find’ their food over ‘freeloading.’ This is why zoo animals get their food in puzzle tires or balls. Finding food in new places releases hormones to encourage the behavior. These hormones dissipate over time. In other words, a new location lights the brain up, and old ones do not. The brain manipulates animals to feel good when they find a new food source. Feeling good encourages them to find new food sources more often, ensuring survival.

10. Pressure Alleviates Pain

When your dog is testing or has sore gums, they may chew sticks. They are essentially adding pressure to their gums and teeth. The act of pressure-relieving pain is called Gate Theory. Gate Theory is the act of overpowering your brain neurons with good signals to outcompete bad signals. Gate theory is why you hold onto a stubbed toe. The touch sensation of you holding your toe overwhelms the pain neurons shooting into your brain. In other words, you are flooding the gate with positive signals, thus diluting the pain signals.

11. Nutritional Deficiencies

When animals lack nutrients, including vitamins, they crave food. Plants and moss grow on branches, so they have nutrients. Dogs will chew sticks to try to satisfy their cravings.

12. Attention Seeking Behavior

There are three reasons your dog uses a stick to get your attention.

  1. They Are Inviting You To Play
  2. They Need Social Interaction
  3. You Reinforced It Before with Praise, Play, Or Food.

13. Burring Behavior

Dogs bury food, chew bones, toys and prey. This behavior is essential for dogs’ wild ancestors to survive because it allows them to protect food while keeping it hidden and then return to eat it later.

14. Cleans Their Teeth

Chewing bones helps clean your dog’s teeth. The constant gnawing scrapes plaque off of teeth.

15. Resource Guarding

Your dog may identify sticks as a valuable resource. If so, they may carry sticks around to prevent other dogs from having them.

16. Pica Disease

Pica is an uncommon neurologic disorder characterized by the persistent chewing and ingestion of non-nutritional items that provide no physiologic benefit to the animal. The causes of pica are often challenging to pinpoint. Still, they can include gastrointestinal illness, anemia, liver disease, pancreatic disease, appetite-inducing diseases (such as diabetes), neurological disorders, nutritional deficiencies, prednisone usage, anxiety disorders, or a sick home environment. Pica might also be an indication of typical exploring behavior.

17. Humans Bred Them To Do It

All dogs have prey instincts. The level of their intuition is based on how humans bred them. Humans bred dogs to do jobs based on how strong their prey drive was. Prey’s drive consists of 8 significant behaviors. Search-Orient-Stalk-Chase-Bite-Kill-Dissect-Consume. Humans have bred dogs to stop at specific stops in this chain. For example, guard dogs are bred to search and orient but not chase. Herding dogs will search-orient-stalk-chase but not bite. Retrievers are bred to search-orient-stalk-chase-bite but not kill. Terriers do everything, including kill; they do not dissect and consume. But if you noticed, the search-orient is common in most dogs which is why most dogs like to find sticks. It may cause dogs to shake and throw the stick up in the air as if to “kill” it. Playing with sticks is more common in terrier and retrieval breeds since humans breed herding and guard dogs not to kill.

Why Do Dogs Chew On Sticks

Dogs chew on sticks for a variety of reasons, and their penchant for this behavior can be attributed to both instinctual and behavioral factors. While chewing on sticks is a common behavior, it’s important for pet owners to monitor it. Some sticks can splinter, leading to mouth injuries or digestive issues if ingested. To ensure your dog’s safety, provide them with safe and appropriate chew toys or treats, and consider redirecting their attention away from sticks when necessary. If the chewing behavior becomes excessive or problematic, consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer for guidance. Here are some common reasons why dogs chew on sticks:

1. Natural Instinct

Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs, and it helps keep their jaws strong and their teeth clean. In the wild, canines may gnaw on branches and twigs to keep their dental health in check.

2. Boredom

Dogs, like humans, can get bored. Chewing on a stick provides them with mental stimulation and a way to alleviate boredom, especially when they lack other sources of entertainment.

3. Exploration

Dogs use their mouths to explore their environment. When they encounter a new or interesting stick, they may chew on it to learn more about its texture, taste, and scent.

4. Anxiety Or Stress

Chewing can be a coping mechanism for dogs experiencing anxiety or stress. It provides them with a soothing and calming activity.

5. Teething

Puppies, in particular, may chew on sticks during the teething phase to alleviate the discomfort of new teeth coming in.

6. Hunger

If a dog is hungry or has a dietary deficiency, they might chew on sticks in an attempt to satisfy their hunger or get nutrients.

7. Attention Seeking

Dogs are social animals, and some may chew on sticks to get their owner’s attention or engage in interactive play.

8. Scent Marking

Dogs have scent glands in their mouths, and chewing on objects like sticks can serve as a way to mark their territory with their scent.

Can Dogs Chew On Sticks

While many pet owners often see their furry companions enjoying a playful romp with a stick, there are underlying dangers associated with this seemingly harmless activity. The question, “can dogs chew on sticks?” is commonly posed by concerned owners, and the answer is laden with cautionary tales. Sticks can splinter, leading to mouth injuries, pose a choking hazard, or even cause digestive obstructions. Additionally, certain trees can be toxic to canines, making it imperative for owners to be aware and cautious of their dog’s natural inclinations.

1. Splinters and Injuries

Sticks can splinter and break, leading to injuries in the mouth, gums, or even the digestive tract if swallowed.

2. Choking Hazard

A piece of the stick could break off and become lodged in the dog’s throat.

3. Digestive Obstruction

If a dog swallows large pieces of a stick, it could cause blockages in the intestines.

4. Toxicity

Some trees can be toxic to dogs. For example, sticks from black walnut trees can be harmful if chewed on or ingested.

5. Pesticides or Chemicals

If the stick is from an area that has been treated with pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals, it could be harmful for a dog.

6. Infections

Decaying sticks can be a breeding ground for bacteria or fungi, which can cause infections if ingested or if they create wounds in the mouth.

Dog Eating Sticks: Which Breeds


Why do dogs carry sticks, and why are some particularly drawn to them? The act of dogs fetching or gnawing on sticks is a common sight in parks worldwide. While many breeds exhibit this behavior, certain ones like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Border Collies seem to have an innate fondness for these wooden playthings.

Why Do Dogs Eat Sticks

The behavior of a dog eating sticks has puzzled many pet owners, often leading to concerns about the potential health implications. “Why do dogs like sticks?” is a frequent question from this observation. While it’s not uncommon for dogs to be attracted to and even consume bits of wood, doing so can present risks such as splinters, blockages, or ingestion of toxic substances. Certain breeds, especially those with higher energy levels and a strong retrieving or chewing instinct, like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, may be more prone to this behavior. Understanding the motivations behind this habit and the breeds more inclined towards it can help owners provide safer alternatives and prevent potential health issues.

Due To Boredom

Many pet owners find themselves pondering, “Why do dogs like sticks?” when they witness their furry companions gnawing away. One significant reason is boredom, especially prevalent in certain high-energy breeds that require more mental and physical stimulation than they are receiving. Breeds such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Siberian Huskies often resort to behaviors like stick-chewing when their activity needs are not met. Recognizing the correlation between boredom and this behavior can help pet owners tailor exercises and enrichment activities to keep their pets both entertained and safe.

Border Collies

Border Collies are highly intelligent and active dogs. They have a strong herding instinct and often enjoy playing games like fetch. Sticks provide them with a way to engage in physical activity and use their problem-solving skills, making them a popular choice for play.

Shetland Sheepdogs

Similar to Border Collies, Shelties are herding dogs and tend to have a natural desire to chase and retrieve objects. Sticks can serve as a satisfying object to chase and bring back for a game of fetch, which fulfills their herding instincts.

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are known for their high energy levels and need for mental stimulation. Sticks can be both mentally and physically stimulating for them. They can engage in games of fetch or simply enjoy chewing on sticks to keep themselves occupied.

Australian Cattle Dog

These dogs are known for their herding abilities and high intelligence. Sticks can be seen as an extension of their herding work. They may enjoy carrying sticks around and herding them, which provides them with a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Corgis

Corgis are playful and active dogs with a herding background. Sticks can appeal to their instinct to chase and round up objects. They may also enjoy chewing on sticks as a way to satisfy their need for oral stimulation.

Dalmatians

Dalmatians are known for their boundless energy. Sticks can provide an outlet for their energy through activities like fetch. Additionally, their love for running and play can make stick-based games quite enjoyable.

Huskies

Huskies are bred for endurance and physical activity. Sticks can be part of their playtime, allowing them to channel their energy and keep active. Their natural love for exploration and adventure may lead them to carry sticks around during walks or hikes.

English Springer Spaniel

These dogs are known for their enthusiasm and agility. Human made sticks can be used in training and agility exercises, providing mental and physical stimulation. Their retrieving instinct also makes stick-fetching a fun game.

Poodle

Poodles are highly intelligent and trainable dogs. Sticks can be incorporated into training sessions or playtime, keeping them mentally engaged. Their playful nature may lead them to enjoy fetching sticks.

German Shepherd

German Shepherds are intelligent and have a strong work ethic. Sticks can be used in training exercises, helping them sharpen their skills and providing them with a sense of purpose. They may also enjoy the physical aspect of fetching sticks.

Belgian Milionis

These working dogs are highly intelligent and active, and they often enjoy engaging in games with sticks.

Due To Breed Instinct

“Why do dogs like sticks?” is a question many pet owners ask, especially when observing certain breeds’ fascination with them. For some dogs, particularly those with a strong prey drive like the Greyhound, Siberian Husky, and Belgian Malinois, the allure of sticks may be deeply rooted in their hunting instincts. These breeds historically chased or caught fast-moving prey, and the motion of a post being thrown or the act of pursuing it can mimic the movement of a potential target. Understanding this innate prey drive helps elucidate why sticks can be so captivating to these particular breeds.

Labrador Retriever

Labs are known for their love of retrieving objects, including sticks, and they thoroughly enjoy playing fetch.

Golden Retriever

Like Labs, Golden Retrievers are excellent retrievers and often relish fetching sticks.

Irish Setter

Irish Setters are active and playful dogs that often find stick-fetching games entertaining.

Vizsla

Vizslas are known for their high energy levels and love for retrieving, making sticks a suitable toy for them.

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russells were originally bred for fox hunting. They have a strong prey drive and boundless energy. Their natural hunting instincts might make them enthusiastic about chasing and retrieving sticks, as it simulates hunting behavior.

Beagles

Beagles are scent hounds with an exceptional sense of smell. They were bred for tracking and hunting small game, such as rabbits. Beagles’ curiosity and strong scenting abilities may lead them to investigate and play with sticks they come across during outdoor activities.

Bull Terriers

Bull Terriers were originally bred for bull-baiting, but they later became popular as companion animals. They are known for their strong jaws and tenacity, which might make them inclined to chew on sticks as a form of entertainment or exercise for their powerful mouths.

Pointer

Pointers were bred for bird hunting and have a strong pointing instinct, indicating the location of game birds. Their alertness and agility may make them interested in chasing and pointing at sticks or objects during play.

Irish Setters

Irish Setters were developed as hunting dogs, particularly for bird hunting. Their athleticism and love for retrieving make them enjoy fetch games with objects like sticks, as it allows them to use their natural hunting and retrieving instincts.

Weimaraner

Weimaraners were originally bred for hunting large game, such as boars and deer. They are known for their boundless energy and love for retrieving. Sticks can provide an outlet for their energy and simulate the act of retrieving.

Breeds That Don't Like Sticks

The question, “Why do dogs like sticks?”, often garners attention in the pet community, yet it’s essential to recognize that not all breeds share this interest. Some breeds, due to their physiology or inherent dispositions, may show little to no fascination with sticks. For instance, breeds with shorter snouts, such as Bulldogs or Pugs, might find it physically challenging to pick up and play with sticks. Additionally, breeds like the Shih Tzu or Maltese, which have historically been pampered lapdogs, might simply have different play preferences rooted in their breeding history.

Brachycephalic Breeds

Breeds with flat faces, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, may have difficulty picking up sticks due to their facial structure. This limitation can reduce their interest in stick-related play.

Toy Breeds

Smaller toy breeds, such as Chihuahuas and Maltese, may not have the same enthusiasm for sticks as larger breeds. They might prefer smaller, more manageable toys due to their size.

Sighthounds

Breeds like Greyhounds and Whippets are sighthounds known for their strong prey drive and love for chasing moving objects. They may not be as interested in stationary sticks as they are in running after fast-moving prey.

Bulldogs

Bulldogs, known for their more laid-back and gentle disposition, may not be as enthusiastic about play, including stick-related activities. They often prefer lounging and shorter walks.

Individual Variation

It’s important to note that, regardless of breed, individual dogs can have unique preferences and personalities. Some dogs may simply not show much interest in sticks while being more attracted to other types of toys or activities.

Puppies Like Sticks But They Grow Out Of It?

Many dog owners, at some point, find themselves pondering, “Why do dogs like sticks?”, especially when observing the keen interest of puppies. Young dogs often display a pronounced fascination with sticks, driven by their curiosity, teething needs, and playful nature. However, as puppies mature and develop other interests or are provided with alternative toys, many tend to outgrow this specific attraction. It’s a developmental phase that, while common in puppyhood, may diminish or evolve as the dog ages.mcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Puppy Stage (0-6 Months)

Likelihood of Enjoying Sticks: Many puppies, driven by their inherent curiosity, explore their surroundings and naturally gravitate towards various objects during their teething phase. Sticks become one of their favored chewables. But why do dogs chew on sticks? They often find them captivating and satisfying to gnaw on.

Adolescent Stage (6-18 Months)

Likelihood of Enjoying Sticks: Adolescents are often full of energy and may enjoy playing with sticks during outdoor activities. Their playfulness and curiosity can make sticks a fun and engaging toy.

Adult Stage (1-7 Years)

Likelihood of Enjoying Sticks: Many adult dogs continue to enjoy sticks as a form of play and exercise. Dogs in this stage may also be more skilled in fetch games and may have learned to retrieve sticks.

Senior Stage (7+ Years)

Likelihood of Enjoying Sticks: As dogs age, their preferences may change, and they might become less interested in sticks. Senior dogs may have dental issues or physical limitations that make chewing on sticks less enjoyable. However, some seniors may still have a fondness for familiar playtime activities, including playing with sticks.

Dogs Prey Behavior: Sear, Orient, Stalk, Chase, Bite, Kill, Dissect and Consume

13 Reasons Why Your Dog Shouldn't Eat Sticks?

You should not allow your dog to play with sticks. There are alternatives available. The risk outweighs the benefits at this point. Here are the following issues that can arise out of playing with sticks

1. Foreign Object Obstruction

When a dog swallows a stick or stick fragments, they can cause gastrointestinal obstructions. This can lead to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, it may require surgical intervention to remove the blockage.

2. Injury To Gum, Tongue & Esophagus

Chewing on sticks can result in painful injuries to a dog’s gums, tongue, and esophagus, which can lead to discomfort, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing in severe cases.

3. Impalement

Dogs who play with sticks run the risk of accidentally impaling themselves, especially if they are running or jumping while holding a stick in their mouth. This can result in severe injuries.

4. Broken Teeth

Chewing on hard objects like sticks can accelerate dental wear and tear, leading to dental problems such as cracked or fractured teeth. This can result in pain and difficulties eating.

5. Toxicity

Some types of wood, such as Red Oak, Black Locust, Black Walnut, Yew, Black Cherry, and Red Maple, can be toxic to dogs when ingested. Toxic wood ingestion can lead to symptoms ranging from mild gastrointestinal upset to severe poisoning.

6. Allergies

Dogs may be allergic to certain substances found on sticks or in the environment where they are playing. Allergic reactions can manifest as skin irritation, itching, swelling, and respiratory problems.

7. Parasite Infection

Dogs that come into contact with contaminated sticks or soil may be exposed to parasites like Coccidia, Roundworms, and Whipworms, which can lead to intestinal infections and health issues.

8. Fungus Infection

Certain fungal infections like Blastomycosis, Cryptococcus, and Aspergillosis can be contracted from fungal spores present on sticks or in the surrounding environment, leading to severe respiratory or systemic illnesses.

9. Bacterial Infection

Dogs may contract bacterial infections like Actinomycosis and Nocardiosis from contaminated sticks or soil, resulting in various health issues that require medical treatment.

10. Locking Jaw Open

In rare cases, dogs chewing on sticks can get the stick lodged in their mouth in a way that it causes their jaw to become locked open, necessitating immediate veterinary intervention.

11. Choking Hazard

Sticks can break into sharp pieces or splinters when chewed on, posing a significant choking hazard. These splinters can become lodged in a dog’s throat, potentially leading to respiratory distress or even suffocation.

12. Internal Injuries

If stick fragments or splinters make their way through the digestive system, they can cause internal injuries. These injuries may include perforations or lacerations of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, or other organs.

13. Costly Vet Bills

Treating the health issues resulting from eating sticks can be expensive, especially if surgery or other medical interventions are required. Preventing stick ingestion can save dog owners from significant veterinary expenses.

Don't let your dog have sticks because they are harmful

What To Do If Your Dog Loves Sticks?

The curiosity of “Why do dogs like sticks?” is a familiar pondering for many dog owners, especially when faced with a canine who seems particularly enamored with these natural playthings. If your dog is one such stick enthusiast, there are several proactive steps you can take. Providing safe and dog-friendly chew toys can offer a safer alternative to your dog chewing on a stick. Structured playtime and training can redirect their attention from sticks to more suitable activities. By understanding their attraction to sticks, owners can implement measures to ensure their pet’s safety and enjoyment.

1. Supervise Play

Always supervise your dog when playing with sticks, especially if your dog is strongly attracted to them. This allows you to intervene if your dog starts chewing on or attempting to swallow a stick fragment. Be ready to redirect their attention to safer toys or activities.

2. Provide Safer Alternatives

Instead of sticks, offer your dog safe and appropriate toys for chewing and fetching. Toys like rubber or nylon chew toys and soft, non-toxic balls can be appealing alternatives that satisfy your dog’s desire to chew and play.

3. Teach Your Dog To "Drop It"

Training your dog to “drop it” on command is a valuable skill that can be a lifesaver in situations where your dog has picked up a potentially dangerous object like a stick. To teach this command:

  • Start with a desirable toy or treat in your hand.
  • Let your dog take the object in their mouth.
  • Show them the treat or another preferred toy, and say “drop it” while offering the reward.
  • When your dog releases the object, immediately praise and reward them.
  • Practice this command regularly, gradually using less enticing items until your dog reliably drops items on command, including sticks.

Teaching “drop it” helps ensure you can quickly and safely retrieve any sticks or other objects your dog may pick up during outdoor activities, reducing the risk of them ingesting or choking on harmful items.

4. Teach Your Dog to "Leave It"

The “leave it” command instructs your dog to immediately stop showing interest in and move away from an object. This can be crucial for preventing them from picking up sticks or other harmful items. Here’s how to train this command:

  • Start with a treat in one hand and show it to your dog.
  • Allow your dog to see and smell the treat.
  • Close your hand into a fist, hiding the treat, and say “leave it.”
  • If your dog tries to get the treat from your closed hand, wait until they stop and move away even slightly.
  • The moment your dog pulls away or loses interest in the treat, praise them and offer a different treat from your other hand as a reward.
  • Practice this command regularly, gradually using items other than treats that your dog might be tempted to pick up, such as sticks.

Teaching “leave it” can be a valuable tool for redirecting your dog’s attention away from potentially harmful objects during walks or playtime, helping to keep them safe and preventing ingestion of dangerous items.

5. Clean Up Your Yard

Regularly inspect and clean your yard to remove sticks, branches, and other potential hazards that may attract your dog’s attention. Yard maintenance not only helps keep your dog safe but also prevents them from finding and playing with sticks or other unsafe objects in the first place.

Prune overhanging branches and pick up fallen sticks or debris.

Check your yard for any potential toxic plants or substances that may be harmful to your dog.

Ensure your outdoor space is a safe and secure place for your dog to play without the risk of ingesting dangerous objects.

A well-maintained yard creates a safer environment for your dog and reduces the chances of them encountering sticks or other items that could pose a risk to their health.

6. Ignore Attention-Seeking Behavior

Sometimes, a dog may play with sticks or engage in attention-seeking behavior to get your attention. If you suspect this is the case, it’s important not to reinforce the behavior with attention, as this can unintentionally encourage it. Instead:

  • Refrain from reacting or giving any attention when your dog starts playing with sticks to seek your focus.
  • Wait for your dog to lose interest in the sticks or engage in a different activity.
  • Once your dog redirects their attention to something else, calmly and positively reward them with praise, affection, or a treat.

By ignoring attention-seeking behavior related to stick play and rewarding positive behaviors, you can help discourage your dog from using sticks as a way to seek your attention, ultimately promoting safer and healthier playtime habits.

How to manage a stick addict dog

What Not To Do If Your Dog Likes Sticks?

For countless dog owners, the sight of their beloved pet chasing after or gnawing on a stick is all too familiar. While this behavior might seem harmless or even endearing, there are several actions one should avoid if confronted with such scenarios. In delving into the question, “Why do dogs like sticks?”, it’s essential to recognize the potential hazards associated with this natural inclination. One should not encourage or reinforce stick-chewing, especially if the dog tends to swallow fragments. It’s also crucial to avoid providing sticks from trees that might be toxic to canines or have been treated with chemicals. Instead of punishing the behavior, offering safe alternatives and gentle redirection can be more beneficial and effective.

1. Punish Them

Punishing or yelling at your dog can have negative consequences and should be avoided when managing their behavior, especially regarding sticks:

2. Teach Drop It The Wrong Way

Teaching the “drop it” command without an exchange can be less effective and may lead to negative behavior outcomes. Use the exchange method when teaching your dog to “drop it.” 

3. Chase Them

Chasing your dog while they have a stick in their mouth may excite or startle them. In their excitement, they might accidentally swallow the stick, leading to choking or gastrointestinal issues.

4. Use Sticks As Toys

Refrain from using sticks as toys during games of fetch or tug-of-war. Instead, use safe, designated dog toys that are designed for such activities. Sticks can splinter or break and cause injuries to both you and your dog.

5. Let Them Chew

Avoid allowing your dog to chew on sticks, especially if they are prone to destructive chewing behavior. Chewing on sticks can lead to dental injuries, broken teeth, and the ingestion of splinters, which can pose serious health risks. Encourage your dog to play with sticks in a more controlled and gentle manner, focusing on fetching and retrieving rather than destructive chewing. Providing alternative safe chew toys can help redirect their chewing instincts in a safer way.

6. Do Not Take It From Them With Out A Exchange

Dogs can become possessive of objects they hold in their mouths, including sticks. Here’s why you should avoid removing a stick without offering an exchange:

Alternatives For Dogs Who Like Sticks

For many pet parents, seeing their dog playing with or attempting to munch on a stick can lead to the pressing question: “Can dogs eat sticks?” While sticks present various risks for our canine friends, numerous alternatives can safely satisfy a dog’s urge to chew and play. A range of options exist, from durable rubber toys designed for rigorous chewers to edible dental chews that promote oral health. Understanding the dangers of sticks and being informed about safer substitutes ensures a healthier and happier playtime for our furry companions.

Yard Alternatives

As many homeowners witness their dogs frolicking in the yard and gravitating toward sticks, they often wonder, “Can dogs chew on sticks safely?” While the appeal of sticks is undeniable for many canines, their potential risks can’t be overlooked. Fortunately, there are several alternatives one can introduce into the yard to divert their attention. From sturdy outdoor toys to interactive play equipment, providing safer options can keep our pets entertained without the dangers of chewing on sticks.

1. Bones & Chew Toys

You need to give your dog alternatives that are pet safe. Bones and chew toys can fill this gap. While risks are minimized with bones and chew toys, they are not risk-free. Even antlers cause teeth to break. Some toys can be swallowed and cause obstructions. However, it is unlikely a toy will impale your dog, and a bone will have fungus on them. However, old bones can harbor bacteria. So make sure to buy new bones every year.

2. Training & Dog Sports

The objective of this activity is to eliminate boredom and loneliness. Sticks fill a basic need for physical, mental, and social activity. Training and dog sports can provide all three.

3. Massage To Relieve Physical and Mental Pain

If your dog is teething or is having anxiety, you can use the act of touch to relieve pain. Earlier I talked about how touch overpowers the nervous system with good signals—this is why chewing has a calming effect. You can massage your dog’s muscles to achieve the same result.

4. Snuffle Matts And Food Puzzles

If your dog finds sticks to satisfy his foraging behavior, you can hack into his brain by giving meals through different mediums. This includes snuffling mats, food puzzles, and slow feeders. Make sure to rotate your methods every month or two so that the brain continues to light up.

5. Tug Toys

Tug toys made of sturdy materials like rubber or rope can be used for interactive games of tug-of-war.

6. Yard Toys

Having specific toys for the yard helps prevent yard boredom. I usually use plastic products as rope tends to get soggy. I specifically use the wobble ball. I have even used this to teach drop it. My dogs know not to bring outside toys inside.

7. Rubber or Nylon Chew Toys

Durable rubber or nylon chew toys are designed to withstand the rigors of chewing and are much safer than sticks. Look for toys with various textures and shapes to keep your dog engaged.

8. Rope Toys

Rope toys are excellent for games of tug-of-war and chewing. They can help improve your dog’s dental health by reducing plaque and tartar buildup.

9. Interactive Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys challenge your dog mentally and keep them engaged. They dispense treats as your dog plays with them, providing mental stimulation and rewards.

10. Fetch Toys

Invest in toys specifically designed for fetching, such as rubber balls, frisbees, or flying discs. These toys are safer for both you and your dog during games of fetch compared to sticks.

11. Squeaky Toys

Dogs often enjoy toys that make noise, like squeaky toys. These toys can provide entertainment and mental stimulation.

12. Plush Toys

Soft plush toys can be comforting for some dogs. Look for sturdy plush toys designed for dogs to prevent them from being easily torn apar

13. Kong Toys

Kong toys are made of tough rubber and can be filled with treats or peanut butter to provide your dog with a challenging and rewarding activity.

14. Balls and Ball Launchers

Tennis balls or rubber balls are excellent for games of fetch. Ball launchers can help you throw the ball farther, providing your dog with a fun exercise session.

15. Bite-Resistant Toys

Look for toys labeled as “bite-resistant” or “indestructible” if your dog is particularly strong chewer. These toys are designed to withstand aggressive chewing.

16. Scented or Flavored Toys

Some toys come with added scents or flavors to entice your dog’s interest and make playtime more enjoyable.

17. Water Toys

If your dog enjoys water play, consider water-friendly toys like floating balls or retrieval toys designed for use in pools or at the beach.

Why Do Dogs Carry Sticks

Why do dogs carry sticks? The answer traces back to their wild ancestry. In the wild, canines would frequently carry prey in their mouths. Although domesticated dogs have evolved past the need to hunt for sustenance, the intrinsic desire to hold something in their jaws remains potent. This instinct, coupled with the stick’s ability to simulate the feeling of carrying prey, explains the affinity many dogs have for collecting and transporting sticks.

1. Prey Drive

Why do dogs carry sticks? The answer traces back to their wild ancestry. In the wild, canines would frequently carry prey in their mouths. Although domesticated dogs have evolved past the need to hunt for sustenance, the intrinsic desire to hold something in their jaws remains potent. This instinct, coupled with the stick’s ability to simulate the feeling of carrying prey, explains the affinity many dogs have for collecting and transporting sticks.

2. Teething

Puppies, in particular, experience discomfort when they are teething. Chewing and carrying sticks can help alleviate some of this discomfort.

3. Play

Dogs are playful creatures, and sticks can be a source of entertainment. They might carry them around as a toy or to initiate a game of fetch or tug-of-war.

4. Territorial Behavioral

When a dog finds something valuable, it might carry it around to protect it from other animals or to hide it for later use.

5. Attention Seeking

Dogs quickly learn what behaviors get them attention from their human companions. If carrying stick results in praise, awareness, or playtime, the dog may be more likely to repeat the behavior.

6. Natural Chew Toy

Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. They might carry a stick to a comfortable spot to settle down and chew on, helping keep their teeth clean and giving them something to focus on.

7. Anxiety Or Comfort

Some dogs might find comfort in carrying objects, including sticks, especially if they are anxious or in unfamiliar settings.

8. They Resemble Bones

One unique perspective is that dogs carrying sticks taps into their ancestral memory of carrying bones. Before domestication, wild canines, like wolves, would often carry away bones from a kill site to chew on in a safer location or to bury for later consumption. Sticks, in shape and size, can be reminiscent of bones. When a dog carries a stick, it may unconsciously echo this ancient behavior of its wild ancestors.

Walking Alternatives For Dogs Who Like To Carry Sticks

Many people let their dogs hold sticks in their mouths on walks because it prevents reacting to the neighborhood dog. However, my favorite alternative to a stick is the leash. There is little risk of a foreign object, bacteria, or impalement. In addition, if the dog drops it, you still have it in your hand—no need to stop and pick it up again.

1. Leash

Leash pulling is not as bad as people think. People don’t want their dog chewing the leash because “they want to be the one walking the dog.” However, the dog is either playing or relieving the stress caused by the owner pulling. Both are reasonable. So I harness this. I teach my dog how to play tug with his leash correctly. The dog only grabs it when I give the command, and he releases it immediately when I say Drop It. My dogs have a reliable drop because I taught him how to play tug. The best part is I do not have to bring treats on the walk. The reward is playing tug. My dog does not mouth the leash unless given the command, and it prevents leash reactivity because I engage in the game anytime I see a dog

2. News Paper

Some owners have their dogs carry the ad newspaper every day. However, this is usually bulky, and very few dogs will do it. Those who do drop it a hundred times make it not worth it for owners.

3. Squeaky Toy

These toys are great for dogs, but the noise might set off a neighborhood dog which could cause reactivity with your dog. In addition, there is a risk of your dog dropping it every few feet, which becomes annoying for owners.

4. Ball

Frisbees have similar benefits to squeaky toys, but they do not squeak, making them better for preventing other dogs from reacting to you. However, there is the risk of picking it up every block.

5. Frisbee

Frisbees have similar benefits to squeaky toys, but they do not squeak, making them better for preventing other dogs from reacting to you. However, there is the risk of picking it up every block.

6. Socks

Dogs love socks because they are soft and smell like their owner. It also tells them a lot about your health and where you have been. It also soothes loneliness & separation anxiety because the smell gives them familiarity. While a sock does solve many of the issues associated why chewing sticks, it is still possible they could swallow the sock and have a foreign object obstruction.

7. Non-Squeaky Toy

A non-squeaky toy is similar to a Frisbee or a ball. It does not have the danger of a stick nor attracts the attention of other dogs. However, it tends to get dropped a lot. Those dogs who do drop it a hundred times make it not worth it for owners.

Its Best To Avoid Letting Your Dog Play Or Carry Sticks

Dogs often carry sticks due to their instincts and attraction to them, but it’s advisable to steer clear of letting them play with sticks due to their potential hazards. Numerous safer alternatives exist to keep our canine companions entertained and satisfied without using sticks, which should not be used for entertainment, pain relief, or dietary purposes.

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