Who has never walked around a park and witnessed a dog running around with a big stick in its mouth?
In comparison to all those expensive gadgets and toys out there for dogs, there's nothing that can beat a good old stick.
After all, it's natural, crunchy, and easy for them to pick up with their mouth. Well, at least that's what we tend to think.
But have you ever really wondered, why do dogs like sticks?
Well, if the cogs weren't turning in your brain, we bet they are now.
Why do dogs carry sticks?
The truth is the reason does not just fall to one answer. There is an abundance of reasons out there. However, they all derive from one common theory: dogs love to pick up sticks because it's part of their animal instinct.
What we mean by this is dogs love to forage. After all, they descend from wolves, and their ancestors are hunters and spend lots of their time searching and hunting.
Therefore, when they can sniff out a stick from their search, they feel like they've found a reward.
They're an alternative to bones
Another theory is that sticks can often serve as a suitable alternative for a bone. A dog is clever enough to identify it's not a bone, but it may give them a similar level of satisfaction when out and about. What we mean by this is that your dog may love to pick up a stick as the bark serves as a good chew toy!
Sicks can satisfy their senses
If you ever see sticks lying about on the ground, no two are ever identical. The truth is if you have a dog, they might get excited about seeing the different shapes, sizes, and colors. That's not to mention the smell, taste, or texture of the stick. As soon as a dog smells something associated with the outdoors, it helps them become familiar with the local area.
They want to play
If you own a dog, you may have noticed that they can pick up a stick when they're walking. Sometimes dogs do this as a call for attention as they try to initiate a game of fetch. Typical signs of this is that your dog will drop the stick at your feet or wait for you to take it out of its mouth.
It eases the pain on their gums
Just like us humans, dogs can be prone to getting sore gums and teeth now and again. Your dog might be going through the teething stage or have gum disease and want to pick up a stick to relieve the pain.
The texture of sticks can help dogs, as the wood is tough and hard, allowing them to chew on it and distract them from the pain. There are even certain types of wood like willow trees, which helps them ease their pain.
Risks of chewing sticks
Sticks aren't always safe for your dog to chew or have in their mouth. Sometimes the texture of the wood could easily cut your dog's tongue or mouth. Similarly, if they were to swallow it, it could damage their internal organs. Plus, some sticks have mold or have toxic types of wood.
Watch out for red oak, black locust, black walnut, black cherry, yew, and red maple, as these are poisonous types of wood. If you find that your dog may have eaten this type of wood, then you should take it to a vet straight away.
There you have it; there are multiple answers to why do dogs like sticks. Mainly their desire to pick up a stick is because they were born to forage and locate things. Hence why sometimes they feel sticks can be like a prize to them.
Dogs also love sticks because it teases their senses, they love to play fetch with them, it reminds them of a bone, and sometimes it can relieve pain.
Do note that sticks aren't always safe to play with and can lead to injuries. Therefore be mindful of how much your dog plays with them and bring an alternative toy out with you on walks to minimize their risk of injury.
Alex Wrigley is a professional writer and blogger who loves travel, technology and dogs. She is originally from the UK but currently lives in Nepal with her three dogs: two pugs and a golden retriever.