We have all heard the phrase that dogs are man’s best friend, but what about their own closest confidant? Some may argue that it could be the orange tennis ball under the sofa, the mangled toy they’ve had since puppyhood, or even a stick in the woods.
Have you ever been able to watch a dog interact with a stick? They become fixated, sometimes even turning into a large, furry kid!
But, what is it about a stick that gets dogs so excited? We will explore all of the potential possibilities in order to solve the stem of this question.
Why Do Dogs Like Sticks?
There are lots of reasons behind why dogs could enjoy a stick they find out and about. The most notorious motivators include catering to natural instincts, adding a new toy, stimulating different senses, and trying to compensate for deficiencies in their diet. Also, sticks can serve as a cure for aching teeth and gums.
We’ll touch on each of these categories in full to better understand why dogs are drawn to sticks.
1. Sticks evoke Natural Instincts
Whether you own a mellow lap dog or a hardworking farm dog, all breeds descend from the gray wolf. Their wild counterparts are known as foragers, taking every opportunity to get a little extra food.
enough, sticks are often the targets of young wolf pups who are learning how to hunt.
Although dogs do not need to forage and hunt, that prey drive is still there. This explains why they are sensitive to squirrels and birds that they might see on a daily basis.
A stick offers something that Fido can catch and take a hold of. It allows them to click back into that instinctual mindset shared between the domesticated dog and the gray wolf.
The act of chewing and snapping sticks is also something that meets their needs on a primitive level since that is what the wolf would do to a prey species in the wild.
We know that the breaking of a twig may not appear as triumphant, but your dog still receives those endorphins.
2. The Cheapest Toy
Have you ever heard of owners buying their pet a fancy toy, only for the animal to prefer the box instead? Perhaps you’ve gone through this frustration. Well, nature has a cheaper option!
You may not believe us when we say that a dog can have quite the fun time with a stick, but it’s true!
When we look at a stick, we see the remnants of a tree that have fallen down, but dogs compare it to something else. One of the reasons why branches are so engaging is their similarity to the shape and size of a bone.
They also make a similar crunching sound that dogs would find in chewing on such an object. Sure, our canine friends know that this isn’t the same thing, but the experience is pretty close!
3. Texture, Taste, and Scent
We mentioned that the satisfactory crunch that sticks offer might contribute to why dogs like sticks, but what about other aspects? Why are sticks so appealing on a physical level?
This may not sound all that appealing to us, but a stick has several different scents and flavors to them. Think about where they’re found. Sticks are scattered along the ground among leaf litter where various animals trek over them. This creates a hoard of scents that would stimulate your dog’s nose.
The texture of the stick itself is also something to consider. Sticks do come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Your dog is able to tell the different between crunchy birch stems versus the softer branch of a fern, and develops their own preference!
4. Deficiency Solver
Diet can play a big role in what your dog decides to consume. This includes sticks. Animals have been known to eat all sorts of unusual things in order to compensate for nutritional deficiencies.
This oftentimes involves fecal matter, rocks, and even dirt. Being readily available, sticks are on that list as well.
Branches are also adorned with all sorts of questionable organic material. There’s dirt, excrement from other animals, flora in the form of leaves, and wood.
All of these could trick your dog into thinking that they are supplying themselves with nutrients that their diet lacks.
Usually, it is somewhat easy to tell the difference between a dog wanting to have fun with a stick versus solving a deficiency. Excessive chewing to the point where they fixate on a branch can allude to this problem.
5. Cure for Aching Teeth and Gums
Mouth problems generally lead to a greater desire to chew on things. You commonly see this behavior in teething babies and puppies, but the same can also happen with adult dogs.
If there is an area that is troublesome, the individual will try to rub something solid against it, which could be a stick.
The act of chewing has also been known to be a stress reliever, even if there isn’t any physical ailment going on in the mouth. Using their teeth in such a fashion triggers the body to release endorphins.
When you see your dog chomping on a stick, it can hint at a potential medical issue, or one that is simply more psychological.
Dogs Like Sticks, but are they safe for your dog?
We’ve discussed why dogs are drawn to sticks, and the reasons why they’ll go out of their way to find the perfect fallen branch, but is this safe? Just because something is fun doesn’t make it beneficial.
The simple answer to this question is that no, sticks are potentially harmful when in the clutches of a canine.
All of that chewing and grinding of a dog’s teeth against a branch can cause it to break off into little bits and pieces. These might become lodged in your dog’s throat. If your dog were to get a hold of too many sticks, you may have to take them to the vet for surgery.
Sticks can also have a toxic component as well, depending on the environment. Both of these reasons make pet owners slightly hesitant when it comes to allowing their dog to find sticks while out on a walk.
Dogs and Sticks: Why?
Dogs like sticks for a multiple reasons. They bring out those primal tendencies, offer a fun toy to chew on and carry, and can have several scents and smells that provide extra stimulation.
We do not suggest encouraging your dog to partake in chewing on a stick as they can break off into small splinters, sometimes becoming lodged in your dog’s throat.
There are plenty of safe options that your dog can use to relieve anxiety while catering to those natural instincts!
Frequently Asked Questions about dogs and sticks
Why do dogs like bones?
There are quite a few similarities between why dogs like sticks and bones. It rids them of boredom and tension, can give them additional protein, and is simply fun for them to chew on!
Why do dogs like to carry sticks?
It may sound simple, but carrying objects caters to a dog’s need for a job. They like having something to do! Depending on the breed, retrieving can also be a fun activity. There’s a reason why dogs enjoy the game of fetch so much!
Can eating sticks make your dog sick?
Enough wood in your dog’s system could lead to infections or cuts along the intestinal lining and throat. Anything toxic found on the branch can also lead to illnesses that require a trip to the vet clinic.