Our four-legged friends love interacting with nature! While you may enjoy looking at the landscape and embracing a crisp breeze, your dog’s interests can be a bit more peculiar. Investigating leaves, chasing little animals, and, of course, playing with sticks top the list of dogs’ favorite things to do when outside.
So, why do dogs like sticks? The reasons are numerous, from their bone-like shape to their inviting natural aroma. A dog’s breed can even play a role in their affinity for picking up and transporting them. While letting your Cadet pick up or chew sticks is not the safest habit to indulge, here are some of the most likely explanations why dogs relish them.
Does your dog like to munch on natural chews at home? Sticks may resemble beef hide, bully sticks, or other familiar chews. While sticks aren’t nearly as flavorful or safe, your Cadet may be tempted to gnaw on them when they get an urge to chew during a dog hike or walk.
Sticks can be slimy, brittle, rough, or spongy. While these textures may seem off-putting to you, the tactile sensations they provide are heavenly to your furry sidekick. Dogs are natural-born explorers, and interacting with natural qualities like these offers a stimulating experience. Sticks can splinter, however, so look for other ways to let your dog engage with unique textures.
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell—and a reputation for loving all kinds of unusual scents! A stick that has been out in the elements could possess any number of intriguing natural odors, including the smell of any animals that had passed by or an innate earthy aroma.
For some dogs, picking up objects is in their genes! Retriever breeds, for example, were initially bred to return game back to hunters, according to American Kennel Club. This desire to carry continues on in modern dogs, which explains why picking up and traveling with objects like sticks remains a common urge.
Related: Why Do Dogs Like Bones and Other Natural Chews?
Can Dogs Eat Sticks Safely?
Dogs should not eat sticks, as they can cause a choking hazard or intestinal blockage. Plus, sticks from certain trees can be toxic to dogs—such as black cherry, yew, or black walnut trees—according to the ASPCA. Call your veterinarian if your dog consumes a stick for advice.
While letting your dog carry a stick won’t be nearly as dangerous as letting them eat one, they can still get a cut on their paw or in their mouth. As with most objects your dog encounters in nature, your best bet is to let them sniff and move on.
Best Alternatives to Sticks
No matter why your dog likes sticks, the best way to keep them from ingesting one is to provide a safer alternative. Here are some of the greatest, tastiest substitutes to offer.
Long-lasting dog chews: If your dog loves to chew, keep some of their favorite long-lasting rewards on hand! Natural varieties like beef sticks, bully sticks, and cow ears are just a few options that are sure to steal your Cadet’s attention. Take a short break the next time you’re taking a hike or long walk to satisfy your dog’s urge to chew.
Treats: If you’re out for a stroll and a stick catches your pup’s eye, grabbing a special dog treat is a quick and easy way to recapture their focus. While treats won’t occupy your dog as long as most natural chews, they are sure to pique their interest and keep them away from eating potentially dangerous objects.
Chew toys and play toys: Play toys make a great alternative to sticks for playing fetch, and they come in many fun shapes your dog is sure to love. You can also find stick-inspired chew toys to satisfy your dog’s chewing instincts, which offer the texture of real sticks without any mess or splintering. Be sure to choose chew toys that match your dog’s size and chew strength.
Look, Don’t Chew
The reasons why dogs like sticks may vary, but one thing is for certain: all dogs love to explore new objects! Keep an eye on your Cadet when they’re outside and be sure to steer them away from anything that might be dangerous to chew on.
Sticks are just one of many outdoor temptations for dogs. Learn which plants are toxic to dogs and which ones are safe!