Can Dogs Chew on Sticks?

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Introduction

If there's anything we know for sure about dogs, it's that they love a good stick. Chasing them, finding them hunting them down, or chewing them dogs just love sticks. You hate to deny your dog anything they love so much, but it does beg the question - is it safe for your dog to chew on sticks? We know your pup loves to play with them but does chewing on sticks cause them any serious harm?

The short answer: kind of. If your dog is mostly chewing and isn't eating the stick, that can be okay, but it also depends on what kind of wood that your dog is chowing down on. It's true that chewing on a stick can be a good thing - it can alleviate your dog's tooth pain (if they have any), keep them from chewing on other things (furniture, for example), and can be a great toy. 

However, ingesting too much wood, especially the wrong kind of wood, can cause terrible things like obstruction, infection, irritation, bleeding, and more. So, while it's likely not going to be the end of the world if your dog gets to work on a stick or two, we suggest trying to train them to leave sticks be and only chew on appropriate toys. 

There are, however, situations where your dog might have eaten too much wood or where sticks can cause harm. It's important that you keep an eye on your dog and stay aware! 

Signs Your Dog's Stick Obsession is Hurting Them

It's hard to keep your dog away from things they love so much, but as we said before, eating sticks can result in some serious harm to your pooch. There are certain ways to tell if your dog is suffering from stick-related issues, and it's likely they're giving you all the signs you need to be aware of it. 

For example, if your dog is vomiting, having trouble with bowel movements, or has general stomach issues, it's possible that the type of sticks they've been chewing are toxic - black cherry, yew, and walnut trees are all toxic to dogs, so make sure your pooch is not getting near any of these. 

Additionally, if your dog's mouth is bleeding,  his teeth hurt, or he's refusing food, it's likely he has splinters stuck in his gums or mouth from his stick-chewing habits. He also might have swallowed splinters, damaging his digestive tract or his throat. 

If your dog is coughing, choking, having a hard time swallowing, doesn't want to eat or drink, or anything like that, the stick-chewing might be the culprit. If your dog is having digestive issues or constipation, it's also possible the wood he swallowed has caused intestinal blockages, too.

Body Language

Body cues your dog may give you if sticks are causing them trouble:
  • Pacing
  • Weakness
  • Raspy panting
  • Lack of focus
  • Dropped Ears
  • Lips pushed forward
  • Ears back

Other Signs

There's certainly more to look out for when it comes to doggy-stick issues, like these signs:
  • Bleeding
  • Unable to Swallow
  • Puss in Mouth
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Unusual Bowel Patterns
  • No Interest in Drinking or Eating
  • Choking
  • Lack of Appetite

The History of Dogs and Sticks

There are plenty of reasons that your dog chews on sticks. For one, you have a curious pup, we're sure. Dogs are well-known for exploring and putting all kinds of things in their mouths, and sticks are nature's chew toy. In your dog's eyes, they're the perfect, chewy solution. 

Additionally, a lot of puppies will chew because they have tooth pain. Chewing alleviates this pain, and if sticks are available, you better believe they'll bite on 'em.

 More than that, dogs are foragers. It's in their nature to run around, explore, and gather things that make sense to their lifestyle. If your dog is hungry or looking for something to bite, a stick is as good a substitute as anything, and he certainly can't tell the difference between a tasty stick and an appropriate chew toy you gifted him!

The Science Behind Dogs Chewing Sticks

Dog's chew because it's natural for them - chewing is a normal, instinctual behavior. But, what's the science behind dogs chewing and what's their attraction to wood all about? 

When it comes down to it, dogs chew because it's just something they do. To put it in a way humans can understand, chewing for a dog is a way to explore something. For us, if we're curious about something, we feel it with our fingers and observe it with our eyes. Dogs, instead, will chew and discover with their mouths. 

Just like people, dogs are nosy. They're curious, and they want to know what's going on. Chewing is a way for them to investigate in their own, doggy way. Dogs will also chew because their nervous, or because they like the taste or odor of the things they're chewing. 

How to Train your Dog to Stop Chewing Sticks

As we've stated, sticks can be harmful. Stopping your dog from chewing and eating sticks can be tough, but with patience and positive reinforcement, you'll have your pup free of the stick-chewing habit in no time. 

First, you'll want to replace the stick with a toy. Every time you see your pup about to chomp down, grab their favorite toy and hand it over instead. Then, reward them for playing with the toy instead of the stick. 

More than that, you'll have to train yourself to be aware of ways to stop the stick issue. You'll need to dog-proof the yard as often as possible - including removing the sticks and the foliage from your yard. Do this especially if you have trees that are toxic to your dog. 

Also, always be prepared. If you're looking to play with your dog in the yard, bring their fetch toys. Don't just settle for a harmful stick, bring the fun with you!

How to React if Your Dog Can't Stop Chewing Sticks

  • Clear the yard of sticks.
  • Talk to your dog-tor about better ways to alleviate tooth pain.
  • Teach him "drop it".
  • Replace his sticks with toys.
  • Bring toys when you play.
  • Train him that sticks are bad, with a stern "no".