How often you have taken your dog for a walk, and immediately when letting off the leash, your dog finds and brings a new trophy – stinky, mouldy, forest stick.
Why do dogs like sticks? Our dog, Capri loves to run and chase any type of ball, but when she finds an awesome stick she cannot resist. She will drop the ball and start running happily around with the stick in her teeth – better not try to take it from her!
Why do dogs like sticks?
Dogs live sticks because they like their spongy texture that is perfect for the dog’s teeth to sink in, but also because they like to forage a new treasure that looks like a bone plus there is a lot of fun to it.
5 Reasons dogs like sticks
Some reasons can be very intuitive but some may require more explanation so let’s list them below.
Sticks are similar to bones
Have you noticed that most sticks that are carried by your dog are less than 50 centimetres long? That’s not without a reason. Regardless of other reasons we list here, the sticks resemble the shape of long bones, and they attract dogs to grab and chew them.
Also, the dogs’ ancestry plays a big role in their carnivorous attraction in searching for sticks and trying to squeeze something out of them. Obviously, they will not get anything from the stick with the exception of some fun and trophy feeling.
You may think if you give your dog a nice toy that looks like a stick the dog will be happy and will not look for a natural stick. Nothing more wrong than that. Dogs will chew on a new toy at home, but when they are outside they would go and find a stick.
Taste and texture
There is a big difference in the structure between bones and sticks. We may say that in many cases sticks are even better than bones because they are soft, smell well, and most importantly, dogs can bite and sink their teeth into them without any problems.
The crunchy sound when they bite a stick and cut it into pieces must be appealing to most dogs.
Apart from that, depending on location, sticks can have different ‘flavours’ from fresh, green twigs to dry crunchy and crumbly sticks. Because dogs have an excellent sense of smell, they search and sniff for anything that attracts them, and it is very normal.
Dogs were grey wolves a long time ago. Now they are ‘domesticated wolves’, but they still possess hunting instinct that is difficult to ignore. Maybe it is suppressed significantly, but it definitely exists.
Looking for a stick or chasing it when you threw it, can be an imitation of a natural act of hunting for prey. It is a bloodless hunt, but some dogs would still tear apart the stick once caught in their teeth. It fulfils their natural hunting hunger deep inside.
There is a lot of familiarity with this answer to Why do dogs like tug of war? Read it here.
It is definitely fun for playful dogs to grab a stick and run around with it.
Some dogs search for a stick and once found, they bite or chew it. Other dogs love running and chasing the stick when humans throw them (instinct). Another dog would find it and bury it underground.
Capri, our border collie, often finds a stick, run around us and finally, she comes to us to show it. She must be very proud that she found a nice, smelly, crunchy stick! I often see she is ‘smiling’ wide open when she does that.
Teething or Sore Gums
Teething in puppies could be another reason dogs like to chew on sticks. By doing that they get some relief. In fact, any tooth issues or sore gums could be a reason for a dog to grab a stick and chew on it to get some comfort.
Chewing is a natural stress reliever for dogs.
Are sticks dangerous for dogs? – Things to remember
Sticks can be dangerous, as dogs are like children and they don’t know what is good and what is bad. They are likely to grab anything from the ground as long as it smells well. We always have to keep an eye on what our pets are doing.
Usually, dogs spit the stick pieces after biting it, but that is not the only concern you should have. It may happen, though, a dog swallows a piece of stick or even a smaller stick and this is could be a problem.
Below is a list of possible problems with stick chewing:
- Toxicity – some plants are toxic and biting and squeezing juice from it can be dangerous
- Infested sticks – if wood lays on the forest or park floor for too long, it is obvious that some parasites, fungus or other pathogens can develop on them, causing serious problems to your dog.
- Splinters – annoying for humans, but once punctured to your dog’s tongue, mouth or gum, it could be really painful for your canine.
- Punctures – coincidently, dogs may grab a stick at the wrong angle and puncture the top of the muzzle from the inside or deep down in their throat.
- Wood inhalation – while chewing and biting dogs can inhale wood particles that can obstruct or block their trachea that can lead to the chest or respiratory infection.
- Swallowed pieces – once swallowed down to the esophagus can cause irritation, bleeding or obstruction. If the swallowed piece is small enough it is usually defecated in the dog’s feces, but if the piece was bigger it may require exploratory surgery to remove it.
Why do dogs like sticks? – Summary
Should you worry when you see your dog playing with sticks? Probably not, as it is a funny, instinctive behaviour that most dogs like doing.
If you are in the park where you know the environment is not contaminated it is reasonably safe for your dog to have fun with sticks. Dogs have a good smell and if something smells odd they will not touch it.
Most injuries happen when there are too many dogs around, or children interfere with sticks trying to persuade a dog to chase it or trying to take the stick from the dog’s mouth by force.
Playing with sticks is one of the best joys in your dog’s life. Make sure to watch your pet all the time as sometimes you don’t know what they can find.
Otherwise, let your dog have some fun!
I hope this article explained in detail why do dogs like sticks and now you will be more comfortable seeing your dog chewing one.
Have you got any accidents with sticks? Please let us know and drop a comment below.
Brain Training for Dogs
Brain Training for Dogs was developed by CPDT-KA certified dog trainer Adrianne Farricelli. CPDT-KA stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed.
Adrienne lives in Arizona with her husband and two amazing Rottweilers and she is passionate about dogs. She was featured in USA Today and Every Dog magazine and also contributed to eHow and All Experts.
Her Brain Training for Dogs program helped thousands of struggling dog owners all over the world.