Why Does My Dog Chew Sticks?

*Chomp* 🌳

Dog chewing a stick

You could have a yard full of tennis balls and squeaky toys, but your dog always seems to beeline for the nearest stick.

You might find yourself wondering what the appeal is — especially since sticks are sure to taste nasty.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, medical director at Behavior Vets in New York City, who shed some light on the subject. She also explained why, even though your dog loves them, they aren’t exactly the safest chew toy for your pup.

Why dogs chew sticks

Let’s be real. Your dog will chew pretty much anything.

But when it comes to sticks, he really loves all the senses they set off.

“Dogs like to chew sticks because it’s kind of fun,” Dr. Tu told The Dodo. “There are usually a lot of smells and scents on the sticks.”

According to Dr. Tu, taking in all the scents on those sticks is like social media for dogs.

“It’s great for dogs to sniff and get all the olfactory and sensory associations outside. That’s like their Facebook,” she said. “That’s great for their emotional health.”

Risks with chewing sticks

Even though your dog really loves it, chewing sticks could actually be harmful.

“The thing with chewing sticks is that they could actually hurt themselves, especially with a stick that is really splintery or sharp,” Dr. Tu said.

Your pup could get these sharp shards stuck in his gum, or even swallow some pieces while he’s chomping down.

“Depending on how big the splinter is, it could just pass,” Dr. Tu explained. “If the dog were to chew and actually ingest enough of this, it could cause a foreign body issue. It could get impacted in their stomachs or intestines.”

Running with a stick in his mouth is also pretty dangerous for your dog, since it could lead to accidental impalement.

“If your dog is carrying a stick and running, I would definitely discourage that because that could cause a lot of injury,” Dr. Tu said.

How to keep your dog safe while playing with sticks

According to Dr. Tu, if your dog is really chowing down on a stick you should try to redirect him to something that’s a bit safer for him to chew.

“Carry a chew toy that they usually like that is made for chewing, that doesn’t have those shards or have the potential for splintering off, and let them chew on that,” she explained.

Your dog’s training could also come in handy when redirecting him.

“Sometimes that just isn’t available when you’re out on walks, so you may want to just redirect them, and really train your dog to have a good ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’ cue, and then exchange for a treat and redirect them to some other activity,” Dr. Tu said.

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