Dogs like sticks. They will play with them and they will bring sticks home every single day if possible. But, why do dogs like sticks so much? Why will they bring them home and why do they enjoy keeping one next to them? These are all questions many if not all dog owners need to know. There are 8 reasons why and below we will answer all of them. Keep in mind that your pet will like sticks due to one, all or just one reason.
Every dog owner has, at one point or another, witnessed the quintessential image of a dog with a stick, an image that seems as timeless as the domestication of dogs themselves. But why do dogs like sticks, and where does this affection stem from? To understand this, we need to travel back in time to when dogs were wild and roamed the earth alongside their human companions.
Thousands of years ago, dogs weren’t the pampered pets we know today; they were wild creatures, reliant on their instincts for survival. The ancestors of today’s domestic dogs were hunters and gatherers. Sticks, bones, and other similar items were tools for survival, not play. They were used for a multitude of purposes, from aiding in the hunt to serving as a source of nutrition when food was scarce.
In this ancient context, a stick was more than a plaything—it was an object of utility. Dogs would use sticks to dig, hunt, and as a source of fiber and other nutrients they could glean from the wood. Chewing on sticks also aided in dental health, helping to keep the teeth clean and the jaws strong.
As dogs were domesticated, many of their natural behaviors were retained, including their affinity for sticks. Fetching, a game beloved by dogs of all breeds, can be traced back to the natural hunting and retrieving instincts of dogs. In essence, when a dog fetches a stick, it is echoing the behaviors of its wild ancestors, who would have retrieved prey for their pack or human companions.
So, the sight of a dog with a stick is not just a playful antic but a glimpse into the rich historical and evolutionary journey of dogs.
8 Reasons Dogs Like Sticks
1. Hunter/Forager Instinct
Dogs lived in the wild. They are successful hunters and they will kill and bring the prey back to the den. If you play with your pet with a stick and he loves it so much it is because he believes that the stick is the prey. If he brings it home, it will because the dog will always bring prey back to the den. A dog will always do this due to instinct. You don’t have to do anything about it. It is perfectly normal. Why do dogs like sticks? They consider them as prey or something they will hunt.
2. Sticks Are Toys
Dogs will consider and treat sticks as toys. As such they will play with them for hours or even days. A stick is hard to break or eat. In other words, it will serve your pet for days or even weeks. These are ideal toys. Your dog can fetch, chew and carry a stick all day long. In simple terms, sticks are toys and dogs do like toys. If he carries one back home from the park, it is simply because he wants to play with it back home.
3. Special Drive
Some dogs have extremely strong drive which forces them to keep something in their mouth all the time. This doesn’t apply to all dogs and it is very rare. If you can see your pet doing this all the time and he carries almost anything he can in the mouth, he has this drive. You will need to get him a lot of sticks and a lot of toys he can carry in the mouth. It makes him happy and you definitely want to make him happy.
4. Texture and Taste Are Both Appealing
Dogs feel a lot using their tongues only. This means that he can feel the soft, hard and all the rest of that stick. He will have a great time playing with it and he will enjoy doing that for hours.
The texture and the taste are appealing to your pet and he loves that. He has a powerful scent hence he can find a difference between different sticks made from different wood. Another, interesting fact is that one dog will have one stick of one texture and taste that is most appealing to that dog. You can even try different ones to see which one is the right one.
5. Nutritional Deficiency
If your dog needs some nutrient that is not present in the food he normally eats, he will need to find it somewhere. A stick is one of many options. Some experts claim that this is the reason why dogs eat weird things like feces, dirt, etc. If your dog will eat almost anything, including strange things, you need to take him to a vet. He can check his diet properly and determine if a supplement or a special nutrient is mandatory.
Most, a proper diet will make this impossible. However, there are still a lot of dogs out there that can need more nutrients of some kind and they need them as soon as possible.
6. It Looks Like A Bone
A stick will remind your dog of a bone. All dogs like bones. They like the flavor, the bone marrow inside and also the texture. Bones are extremely beneficial for dogs. He will think that a stick is a bone or at least look like one.
This can be enough to watch your pet playing with a stick for hours. An interesting fact is that a dog should do this if he must not chew a bone (due to a medical condition or something similar). Sticks are not healthy to chew but they are far from dangerous.
7. Due to Stress or Teething
There is a way that your dog loves sticks so much due to stress or teething. Basically when he chews a stick, he will de-stress. Yes, dogs can be under a lot of stress as well. There are countless reasons for that. Separation anxiety is just one of them. You will notice that he is doing this calmly and he focuses extremely on that. He will also do it all the time.
If your dog experiences teething, he will probably need a stick every now and then. This helps him with discomfort and makes things easier. Dogs will use a stick to get help with sore gums as well. Usually this affects younger dogs.
8. He Can Smell More Things Than You
Dogs have an extremely powerful sense of smell. A dog will smell all the separate ingredients in the meal. We can smell it as a whole only. Dogs will smell all kinds of things on and inside the stick. This can be interesting, appealing or tell something to your dog. For instance, if another dog played with that tick, your dog will know about it. This is just one of countless examples.
Managing the Behavior
While the sight of dogs playing with sticks may harken back to their wild ancestors and seem harmless, there are potential risks involved. Sticks can splinter, leading to injuries in the mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tract. As a pet owner, managing this ingrained behavior is essential to ensure the safety of your furry friend.
Understanding the potential hazards is the first step. Be aware that while sticks can serve as a natural and engaging toy, they can also pose a risk of splinters, choking, or infections if not properly monitored.
Alternative Chew Toys:
Consider providing your dog with safer alternatives to sticks. Numerous dog toys available in the market are designed to cater to your dog’s chewing instincts while ensuring their safety. These toys can also be instrumental in dental health, serving a dual purpose.
Training and Commands:
Teach your dog commands like “leave it” or “drop it.” These can be crucial in situations where they pick up sticks or other potentially harmful objects. Consistency in training will ensure that your dog adheres to your commands, prioritizing their safety.
Regularly check your yard for broken or sharp sticks, especially after a storm or high winds. Ensure that the play area is free of debris that could potentially harm your dog.
Regular check-ups can help detect and manage any injuries or infections early. If you notice your dog is particularly attracted to sticks, discussing this behavior with your vet can provide insights and tailored strategies to manage it.
Understanding the Instinct:
While mitigating the risks, understand that the attraction to sticks is a natural behavior for dogs. Balancing their instinctive needs with safety precautions ensures that they can express their natural behaviors in a secure environment.
Each dog is unique, and their attraction to sticks can vary. Some may be content with the occasional playful chew, while others may exhibit a stronger affinity. By understanding this behavior’s roots and implementing safety measures, pet owners can allow their dogs to engage in this instinctual activity safely. Balancing instinct with safety is key to ensuring a happy and healthy life for man’s best friend.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my dog obsessed with sticks?
Dogs may be attracted to sticks due to their natural instincts. The behavior can be traced back to their ancestors, who would chew on bones and carry objects in their mouths. The texture and size of sticks make them appealing, providing both physical and mental stimulation for dogs.
Can chewing sticks hurt my dog?
Yes, there can be risks associated with dogs chewing on sticks. They can splinter and injure the dog’s mouth, throat, or intestines. It’s essential to provide safer alternatives for chewing and play to minimize these risks.
How can I stop my dog from picking up and chewing sticks?
Training and commands such as “leave it” can be effective. Providing engaging and safe chew toys can also redirect their attention away from sticks. Regular yard maintenance to remove sticks and other debris is another preventive measure.
Is it normal for puppies to be attracted to sticks?
Yes, puppies often explore the world around them through their mouths, and sticks can be a part of that exploration. However, supervise playtime to ensure safety, as puppies can be particularly vulnerable to injuries from splinters or choking.
Can I train my dog to play fetch with sticks safely?
While dogs naturally enjoy playing fetch with sticks, consider using specially designed dog fetch toys to minimize the risk of injuries. If you choose to use sticks, opt for those that are well-rounded, smooth, and free of splinters.
How do I know if a stick has injured my dog?
Signs of injuries can include excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, bleeding from the mouth, or a decrease in appetite. If your dog shows any of these signs after playing with a stick, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Are there specific types of sticks or wood that are more dangerous for dogs?
Avoid sticks from trees that are toxic to dogs, such as black walnut, yew, or black cherry trees. Ensure any sticks they play with are not treated with chemicals, pesticides, or other potentially harmful substances.
The Final Word
Why do dogs like sticks so much? Your dog will like sticks due to one or multiple reasons from the list. It is possible that he will like sticks due to all reasons from the list but the odds are not very high. You will have to find a reason why your dog likes them so much. In most cases there is no need to react. This is perfectly normal and most dogs consider these as toys hence they are harmless. All you can do is to find more sticks for your dog. Luckily they are free.