Have you ever wondered what dogs think of when they see a stick? I have always been puzzled by that, because of all the chew toys that I have bought and, unfortunately, have been ripped apart by my Shih Tzu, Oyo, (who thinks he is the size of a Great Dane), he just seems so fixated with the bamboo stick that he found under our bed- and that made me curious about why dogs like sticks.
According to recent studies about dog behavior, there are numerous reasons why dogs like sticks. Your pet might be so attached to a stick because of their instincts; because it satisfies their desire to chew; because of tool use behavior; a stick may offer them a unique scent and flavor; they might be excited about it because it’s their first time to see one.
Whatever that reason is, stick around and read this article because now is probably the time to take a break from ordering and buying chew toys that you have purchased and start stashing sticks you find in your backyard. We will give you our answers on why dogs like sticks.
It runs in their blood
Dogs are the first documented species to have been domesticated, and because of this, their physical and behavioral traits have changed immensely.
These changes have been seen in over 350 dog breeds worldwide, but habits like herding, hunting, pointing, tracking, and retrieving still run in their blood. This has been considered as a strong genetic component, which stayed with them until now.
In relation to this, them seeing a stick triggers their retrieving instinct, which makes it too hard to resist the temptation of picking the stick up and proudly bringing it everywhere.
It satisfies your dog’s desire to chew
Dogs, especially puppies, resort to chewing on objects to relieve the irritation, soreness, and discomfort that they feel during the eruption of their adult teeth.
This is also the reason why we tend to buy a lot of chew toys for them to use. Now, bringing them outside allows them to automatically assume that everything can be a chew toy!
Sadly, this behavior can be quite problematic and destructive when brought to adulthood.
It is an example of tool use behavior
Tool use behavior is defined by Shumaker et. al as the use of environmental objects- both unattached or manipulable attached in order for an organism to be more efficient.
This helped a lot of animals to survive as tool use behavior enabled us to develop complex foraging techniques.
In the case of dogs, the stick acts as a tool for them clean their teeth and gums, scratch an itch that they are unable to reach with their paws and even use it to expel a foreign object that has been stuck in between the folds of their palate.
So the next time you see a dog wagging its tail over a stick, they are not happy about this new toy, they might be happy about the tool that they can use to scratch their palate.
It offers new taste and scents
A dog’s sense of smell is approximately one million times stronger than humans; and this means that a simple stick to use can be a crazy concoction of wood, sage, bergamot, and vanilla to them.
Although a dog’s mouth is wired to seek out meat, and it is rare that a random stick at the park would taste like one, it’s possible that its scent is what makes a stick so exciting for a dog.
It’s new to them
If your dog stays more time at home than outside, it’s no surprise that they would be fascinated by a stick. After all, they do not usually see this in their crate or within their playpen. They would probably think, “Oh, this is a weird-looking bone”, and start munching on it.
Your dog just like sticks
Sometimes, things in life are hard to explain, but more often than not, there are no definite reasons up to why this happens.
Perhaps they see sticks as a toy, or sometimes they turn it into a scavenging hunt, and sometimes, they just like sticks. There’s no reason to it- they just like sticks.
Why do dogs like to carry sticks home from walks?
Since most dogs are natural hunter-gatherers, it is actually an instinct for them to carry a stick while walking, and even bring it home.
The reason behind this is that for them, a stick can be a substitute for a bone or prey that they were able to catch while they were out. Think of it as a trophy that they flaunt to others.
Some dogs even go as far as resource guarding a stick, showing signs of aggression over their ‘most valuable possession’.
However, if you observe this in your dog, it is best to train him or hire a dog behaviorist to fix this right away as this may lead to a more violent outcome in the future.
Dogs’ fascination with sticks is something that we may not understand, but if sticks make our pooches happy, I think it’s just right to be happy with it as much as they do.
As long as they are safe and happy, you are doing a great job as their fur parent.
Is it OK for dogs to eat sticks?
Scientifically speaking, sticks are not safe for your dog to play with. Biting them might injure the tissues in the oral cavity or worse, they might accidentally ingest chips of wood that could tear the tissues in their esophagus or intestines.
A cousin of mine actually had a first-hand experience of this when her Pitbull Shelby accidentally swallowed a portion of a barbecue stick that splintered the poor dog’s throat.
The stick was successfully removed surgically, but that your dog might not be as lucky as Shelby so best beware.
These sticks can also be a carrier of diseases and bacteria which could be spread in your home.
Sticks from azaleas, red oak, apple, black locust, maple, and pear also contain toxins that could upset your dog’s stomach.
So, if your dog is eyeing a stick that is outside your backyard, better yank it away from its mouth.
Should I worry about my dog eating sticks?
Playing with sticks is a completely harmless activity and this can be enjoyed by both you and your dog, however, this isn’t the same as dogs eating sticks.
If you see that your dog is headed towards a stick, always grab it before him and check if there are any sharp objects that could hurt its gums.
Now if your dog’s breed is half Shih Tzu and half The Flash- like how I feel my dog is sometimes, offer his favorite treat or toy or distract him in the best way possible so he’d let go of the stick gently- then inspect its mouth and the stick and check if it is safe for you to give it back to him.
What are the things to look out for?
If your dog is an avid fan of sticks, you should look out for these types of trees:
- Black Cherry
Chewing on the sticks from these plants can be very poisonous to dogs as they contain toxins that could give them diarrhea and difficulty in breathing.
The difficult part of this is when you don’t know what these trees look like; so you can never really identify them.
Now, the rule of thumb in case of ingestion of the bark or sticks of these trees, since it is a hard object, take them to the vet immediately to avoid any further damages inside their gut.
Do not try to induce vomiting in your dog as this can only worsen the problem.
What to do when your dog is choking on a stick?
Dog owners know that when you try to take away a stick or anything from a dog’s mouth- they will just aggressively chew on it and even swallow it as fast as they can.
The problem with this is that once they try to swallow it, they can either get splinters or worse, they can choke on it.
Hopefully, you will not have to deal with this, but in case that your dog does choke on a stick, here is what you can do:
One of the first signs that your dog is likely choking on the stick is when it starts to cough, their gums and tongue starts to turn blue, paw at its mouth, and salivate.
When you see these signs, it is advised to lay your dog on the side and do a quick and forceful thrust on the widest part of its chest using the palm of your hand.
This will hopefully expel the object and then you will have to retrieve it with your hand by sweeping a finger into your dog’s mouth.
For larger dogs, on the other hand, you should kneel behind them, lift them up, locate the end of their sternum or the breast bone, make a fist and place it on the end of the sternum, then do five consecutive up and forward thrust to help them expel the object.
Whether you were or you weren’t able to successfully helped your dog clear his airway, rush your dog to the vet immediately so that they can physically assess the condition of your pet.
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