Why Do Dogs Like Sticks? Dog Behavior Explained

There are many similes one can use to compare dogs and sticks.

They are like 5 and 6, macaroni and cheese, bread and peanut butter, cake and its frosting…you get the point.

It is a common sight to see a dog with a stick in between their muzzles, strutting with pride, or owners using sticks to play fetch.

It has become normal that we don’t think much about it, but you won’t see a cat wagging its tail because of a stick.

So, why do dogs like sticks? What in sticks attract dogs so much they are willing to run to grab one?

We shall explore this dog behavior in a bid to understand it better.

You’ll also get tips on handling the behavior, possible dangers a dog might face with sticks, and what steps to take to prevent that.

Let’s dig in.

Dogs and Sticks: Understanding This Behavior in Canines

Because dogs don’t speak human languages, we can’t get one of them on a popular TV show and interview it to understand why they love sticks.

Our only best chance is by studying their behavior, the attraction towards sticks, and what it might mean to them.

Not all dog breeds are fond of sticks, though.

Some may give you a weary look if you dangle a piece of wood at their faces.

Others will act like they just won Who wants to be a millionaire? and would show signs of restlessness till you do something about it.

We see it in movies, at the park, or even in our pet parenting journey. 

In many cases, this behavior is harmless. That being said, let’s be sure there are no medical conditions linked to it.

Rule Out Medical Conditions

Turns out there is a medical condition that could be responsible for your dog’s love for sticks.

It is known as pica, though it doesn’t apply to every dog-love-stick situation. 

What does pica mean?

According to experts, it is “a condition in which dogs crave and eat non-food items.

Some dogs may only eat one type of object, while others will eat a wide variety of items.

Pica can endanger a dog’s health because what they swallow may be toxic, disrupt normal digestive process, or get lodged in their intestinal tract.” 

If you find your dog craving to eat socks, rocks, golf balls, and even sticks, you should ensure that it isn’t pica before you get too comfortable.

While it isn’t a fatal illness, it can make the dog chomp on an object that would be dangerous.

Pica can be caused by a hormonal imbalance and low nutrition. It is diagnosed by the behavior itself.

Why Do Dogs Like Sticks?

Dog Carrying Stick

Once we’re sure it isn’t pica your dog is struggling with, know that it is pawfectly normal for your dog to enjoy having sticks around.

Some of the reasons are:

  • Fetch: Dogs have come to associate sticks with a game of fetch, which ultimately translates to a fun time. Who doesn’t like fun?

    Pooches certainly do, and they’re eager for it, especially if they’ve nothing to do all day. 
  • Size: It is also convenient for dogs to hold sticks because of their little size, making them easier to carry and move around. 
  • Prize: Dogs like the concept of a prize, and carrying a stick does seem to them like catching prey or finding treasure. 

Why Do Dogs Fetch Sticks?

Dog Playing Fetch with Stick

Many dogs fetch by instinct, following some of their initial roles.

The Labrador Retriever, for instance, used to retrieve fish for fishermen.

Hunting dogs also see the game of fetch as an expedition. The object is prey and they are the predators. 

For others, fetch translates as fun and an opportunity to let out energy.

It is one popular physical activity dog owners love, so the dogs enjoy them too.

Balls and sticks are the objects often associated with fetch, and they have been used many times for dogs to make the mental connection.

Thus, once a human holds a stick, they think of fun. These are the probable reasons dogs fetch sticks.

Why Do Dogs Chew on Sticks?

Dog Lying on Grass Chewing Stick

Besides the medical condition we pointed out above, dogs use their mouths to explore the environment the way we do our hands.

Just as we feel objects to get accustomed to it, they use their mouths to ‘feel’ things. 

Chewing is also helpful to exercise a dog’s mouth. Owners are usually advised to get chew toys to help work the jaw muscles.

Another obvious reason why dogs chew sticks is that they enjoy them.

Chewing is a dog behavior that seems to be fun for them, and sticks might just be another ‘toy’ to play with.

Then, there are scents and aromas sticks have that we miss but dogs grasp because of their strong sense of smell.

They could also have a taste that dogs enjoy. 

Is It Safe for Dogs to Eat Sticks?

While it is normal for dogs to eat sticks, it may not always be the safest option.

According to the American Kennel Club, sticks can injure a dog and cause some damages, much like chewing on soft bones.

 Can Dogs Eat Pork Rib Bones (Raw or Cooked)?

Let us look into the possible dangers of dogs eating sticks.

Dangers of Dogs Eating Sticks

When dogs eat sticks, they tend to break them into splinters, especially when the stick is soft.

These splinters can stick in a dog’s gum, causing more pain than a splinter in a person’s finger. 

The broken splinters can also injure a dog’s throat and digestive system, making it more prone to infections of all kinds.

What’s more, sticks are known to sometimes block a dog’s throat, effectively choking it. 

In addition, some sticks are poisonous when they come from toxic woods like cherry trees and yew.

These sticks could also have fungi or bacteria that would make your dog sick. 

Steps to Stop Your Dogs from Eating Sticks (Pro Tips)

It is safe for a dog to play with sticks, but not to chew on them.

If you discover your pooch chomping on a stick, here are ways to stop it:

  • Use its favorite toy to distract it
  • Provide a safer chewing alternative like a ball
  • Take the stick away from it
  • Use strong wood to play fetch

Related Questions

Why do dogs like to carry sticks?

Sticks are light and easy to carry, so dogs seem to find them convenient to hold in their mouth. It may also be a prize to them. 

Is it OK for dogs to chew on sticks?

Dogs love to chew many things, including sticks.

That said, chewing sticks have some disadvantages to a dog and may cause some injuries. They shouldn’t chew sticks.

Why does my dog like sticks more than toys?

Dogs like the smell of sticks and the taste of it. They also see sticks as an opportunity to play because sticks are readily available for their owners to throw.

For these reasons, some dogs like sticks even more than their toys.

Why is my dog obsessed with sticks?

Dogs are crazy about sticks for many reasons, the most compelling one being that it is fun.

Bottom Line

It is a normal doggy behavior for your pooch to be fascinated by sticks, and you might have contributed to that by throwing a stick around and asking it to fetch.

Though not universal to every dog breed, this isn’t a trait that may disappear anytime soon.

It can be an advantage as it provides dog owners an opportunity to have fun with their dogs. 

We shouldn’t ignore the downsides, though, particularly when a dog eats a stick.

Consult your vet to be sure it isn’t pica, and prevent your dog from putting itself in harm’s way.

These would help keep your furry friend safe and healthy.

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Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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