Have you ever seen a dog find a random stick and start carrying it around like it is its most prized possession in the world? Dogs are known to be very fond of searching and playing with sticks.
If you’re wondering why your dog is so crazy about sticks and whether this is something that you should be worried about, we’ve put together this guide to everything you need to know about dogs and why they like sticks.
Sticks and Bones
It is a commonly known fact that dogs absolutely love chewing on bones. The smell of bones is very appealing to dogs and as they chew on it, they also enjoy the texture and taste of the bone and the bone marrow inside.
When a dog gets a bone, it often likes to play with it, chew it and also save it as a possession. However, the enjoyment is highlighted more when the dog has found the bone on its own.
Sticks are vastly different from bones in terms of material, texture, smell and taste. However, they are shaped very similarly to bones and are also much more widely available.
Hence, sticks are often an enjoyable alternative to bones for dogs since they can find sticks much more regularly while playing or walking around in the garden or anywhere else.
Dogs are intelligent and curious beings who have always hunted and foraged for food in their natural surroundings.
Though your dog may be domesticated and might be getting its food already prepared by you, the deep-rooted instinct to find and hunt for its food remains.
When your dog is walking and sniffing around, it is being led by various smells to different natural objects that are fascinating for it. While being surrounded by its natural surroundings, when a dog finds a bone, it feels like it has foraged for food.
Similarly, sticks also arouse the evolutionary instinct for hunting prey in dogs as they start playing and chewing on them.
Many of these instincts might also be remnants of times when dogs were bred to hunt and bring back their prey for their masters as retrievers.
Foraging and hunting, even as play, greatly helps the mental and physical health of dogs as they are engaging their natural capacity for searching for and protecting something as a prize.
Often, after finding a stick, your dog might be proud about its find and come and show it to you. Showing approval for your dog’s find might help it enjoy its discovery even more and you will see how happy it will become.
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Smell and Feel
Sticks have a unique and attractive woody smell that will arouse your dog’s curiosity. Dogs can often sniff out the scent of sticks and find them due to their interest in that smell.
Often, sticks that your dog will find on the ground also carry the unique smell of that place. This makes sticks even more interesting for your dog and one of the reasons why dogs don’t get tired of collecting sticks from different locations.
Sticks from certain places might carry additional unique smells from their surroundings, such as from certain plants or animals.
Sticks also have a distinct texture that is crunchy but at the same time soft and easy to chew. The sticks provide enjoyment to dogs who chew on them and slowly break them up into smaller and smaller pieces.
When we encounter new and unexplored objects, we tend to rely on our senses of sight, smell and touch to understand what it is. However, dogs often like to explore new things by putting them in their mouth.
The texture of the object and how it feels in their mouth is a significant aspect of a dog learning about a new thing and hence when they smell a stick, they like to put it in their mouth to know more about it.
Relief from Tooth Problems
Many dogs, especially when they are young, experience discomfort and tingling in their jaws while their teeth are still growing. During this stage, they like to chew on things because it brings them relief from the discomfort of teething.
Similarly, many dogs may also be experiencing soreness and discomfort in their teeth and gums for a variety of reasons. Again, sticks are a great way for them to manage their pain self-sufficiently.
The texture of the sticks is perfect for this purpose as chewing them is not very hard on their teeth or gums.
Much like food cravings that we get, dogs might try to naturally compensate for nutrient deficiencies in their bodies by trying to eat different objects and organic materials.
Dogs can often be found trying to eat mud, leaves and other strange things from their natural surroundings to obtain additional nutrients that they are not getting from their diet. Hence they might want to eat sticks even more than usual.
One of the main reasons for their love for sticks is that most dogs are very playful creatures who love finding new and exciting toys to play with. Sticks are a great toy because they are found in nature and have a delightful shape, size, texture and smell.
It is very easy for dogs to keep chewing on the stick and seeing it break apart a little without breaking it completely. As a result, just one stick can make a toy that will immerse your dog in play for hours.
Dogs may often have a lot of pent-up energy or might be dealing with different forms of stress. Chewing is an activity that helps dogs release this energy and hence relieve their stress to a great degree.
Though this is not limited only to sticks, they do make for a great chew toy due to their softness and availability.
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Are Sticks Safe for Dogs?
Though all dogs love playing with sticks, unfortunately, this simple object can pose a number of risks to your dog’s health and safety. Dogs might be at risk of external and internal injuries while playing and chewing on sticks.
It is perfectly normal for dogs to play with sticks and with a little bit of supervision, such play is mostly safe. However, it is essential to be informed about the possible risks that sticks pose to dogs so that you can take an informed decision to ensure your dog’s safety.
Dogs often like to pick up a stick in their mouth and then run around with it energetically. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of potential for dangerous accidents to take place, especially if the stick is sharp.
If the dog bumps against something or falls down, the stick might pierce them in the face, mouth or eyes. This can cause serious injuries.
Further, if the dog falls on the stick with a high impact, the stick can impale the dog’s chest, leading to both external and internal injuries. The dog’s chest and internal organs like lungs, windpipe and heart might be seriously injured.
Often, if a dog has fitted a stick that is too large in its mouth, certain accidents can lead to the dangerous scenario of the dog’s jaw getting locked. This will require serious medical intervention.
Due to the soft texture of sticks, pieces of wood often tend to splinter off and break while the dog is chewing it. Though dogs are usually careful not to ingest these small fragments, they might sometimes skip their notice while playing.
Wood fragments and splinters can get stuck in a dog’s jaw in between teeth or in the gums. Sharp pieces can also hurt or puncture the roof of the dog’s mouth.
This can lead to a lot of pain and infection and possibly require surgical removal. In addition, dogs can often swallow or eat sticks and the fragments can lodge themselves in the dog’s food pipe, leading to severe issues that might require surgery.
Similarly, pieces of wood can keep breaking off from the stick and create tears and blockages in the dog’s digestive tract, including the stomach and the intestines.
Sharp fragments of the stick can lead to a host of other issues if ingested, such as damage to nerves and blood vessels. In addition, these fragments can cause internal bleeding in various organs and even lead to internal infections.
Other Health Risks
Dogs may often be interested in a smell and end up eating something that is not suited to their bodies. There are many trees that are toxic for your dog, including apple trees, pear trees, black cherry, red oak, black walnut and so on.
You may also find that your dog has ingested parts of a stick from a tree that it is allergic to. Ingesting toxins or allergens can lead to a range of bodily reactions such as nausea, an upset stomach, diarrhea and so on.
Some sticks may also be ridden with various pests and pathogens. For example, sticks might have fungus, bugs or dangerous bacteria.
Ingesting such a stick will also lead to internal reactions in your dog’s body that can be serious and might even lead to an infection.
Often splinters might cause infections inside the dog’s body long after the injury has been treated.
It is important to note that sticks are constantly splintering and breaking up into much smaller pieces inside the dog’s body, much after it has been ingested. This is because liquids inside the body make the stick softer and softer and keep breaking it down.
As a result, medical interventions can often be complicated and various small bits of the stick might not be detected or found inside the body. These might lead to increased complications as time goes on and might require treatment all over again.
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Sticks are a toy that most dogs deeply love because of their smell, texture and size.
Playing with sticks with no supervision can pose certain risks to the health and safety of dogs as the wood can cause external and internal injuries, infections, poisoning and allergic reactions.
However, with a little bit of supervision, there is no reason why your dog shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy its favorite toy safely!